Brexit: Ed Davey is grilled on Lib Dems’ stance on EU future
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While the Liberal Democrats’ win in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election had been predicted, it still came as a surprise to many. Richard Foord managed to overturn Helen Hurford’s mammoth 24,000-majority — the biggest-ever majority overturned in a by-election. He won by 6,144 votes — with an overall total of more than 22,000 — meaning the constituency saw a swing of almost 30 percent, a largely unprecedented feat in modern British politics.
Speaking after the results came in, the former Army major said it sent a “loud and clear message,” and that it was “time for Boris to go”.
The thought of the Lib Dems swooping in and taking what has been a Tory seat since inception was unthinkable just years ago.
But the changing political climate, paired with growing public disapproval of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the opinion polls, has flipped that belief on its head.
Just as the Labour Party had its so-called ‘Red Wall’ before the 2019 general election saw it decimated, the Tories have their ‘Blue Wall’: seats across almost the entirety of southern England.
But that could quickly be changing, according to Sir Vince Cable, former leader of the Lib Dems.
He told Express.co.uk that the trend witnessed in Tiverton and Honiton is something which will continue as the Lib Dems ramp up their efforts to target 40 or so seats, many of which are in the Blue Wall.
When asked what was next for the party, Sir Vince said: “As far as we’re concerned [the win] will reinforce the current strategy of concentrating on 40 target seats, almost all of them Conservative-facing.
“I think a lot more effort and resources will go into buttressing that to ensure that when the next General Election comes we win as many as possible.
“I think what’s happening now is that there’s a real momentum [for us].
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“We’re seeing good results, and I think crucially, what’s happened in Tiverton and Honiton, large numbers of Labour and Green voters are very happy to vote for us.
“We’d lost a lot of that after the coalition years, but they’re now happy to vote for us on a tactical basis.
“It’s a continuing trend and could well be a critical factor coming to the General Election.”
Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dems’ current leader, has claimed that the Tories face a monumental challenge ahead in holding on to their traditional seats.
Some of the constituencies his party has its eyes on include Cheltenham which has a Tory majority of 981, Wimbledon, a majority of 628 and Winchester, a majority of 985.
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According to the i, among those on the party’s target list include the seats of ministers Maria Caulfield in Lewes, East Sussex, and Paul Scully in Sutton and Cheam, as is Jeremy Hunt — a possible challenger to Mr Johnson — in South West Surrey.
Tiverton and Honiton is the third Blue Wall seat to have been taken by the Lib Dems in a by-election in the last year.
It followed on from the party swooping in and winning Chesham and Amersham in North Shropshire.
After the Tiverton and Honiton win, Sir Ed said: “It is too early to put a number on it but we certainly intend to get rid of a lot of Conservative MPs.”
He then told Tory MPs: “If you continue to allow Boris Johnson to drift along with no plan for our country – the Liberal Democrats will come after you, seat by seat.”
Mr Johnson was in Rwanda when the results came in, and said he took “responsibility for the electoral performance of the Government”.
However, when asked if he would now leave his post, something that politicians across the board are calling for, he said he would push on and vowed to “listen” to voters.
Added to the defeat was the resignation of Tory party co-chair Oliver Dowden, a longtime ally of Mr Johnson.
He said he and fellow Tory supporters were “distressed and disappointed by recent events,” and that someone “must take responsibility” for the party’s poor performance.
Mr Johnson laid part of the blame for the loss on the cost of living crisis, saying it was the most important thing for voters, and that it is “true that in mid-term governments post-war lose by-elections”.
He added: “It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results, they’ve been, I think, a reflection of a lot of things, but we’ve got to recognise voters are going through a tough time at the moment.
“I think as a Government I’ve got to listen to what people are saying – in particular to the difficulties people are facing over the cost of living, which I think for most people is the number one issue.
“We’re now facing pressures on the cost of living, we’re seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs – that’s hitting people. We’ve got to recognise there is more we’ve got to do and we certainly will, we will keep going addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch.”
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