Two women and two men have thrown their names into the hat to battle it out to become the next MP for Tiverton and Honiton.
The Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Reform UK parties have announced details of the candidates vying to take over the seat of disgraced Conservative Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish, who recently resigned after admitting he watched porn in the House of Commons.
Voters in the constituency will go to the polls next month, on Thursday, June 23, to elect their new Member of Parliament, writes Ollie Heptinstall.
Businesswoman Liz Pole has again been named as Labour’s candidate in Tiverton and Honiton, ahead of the forthcoming by-election.
Ms Pole, chair of the local Labour party, also stood at the last election in 2019 – finishing second and some 24,000 votes behind Mr Parish.
Describing her nomination as an ‘honour’, she said: “Times are much tougher than they should be for hardworking people across our constituency. We are in a cost-of-living crisis, and in Tiverton and Honiton, real wages will fall by £1,100 this year on average because of spiralling inflation.
“It’s time we sent a clear message to Boris Johnson that enough is enough, because Tiverton and Honiton, and the country deserve so much better.”
The Liberal Democrats revealed their candidate was ex-army major Richard Foord.
The Lib Dems see themselves as the main challengers to the Tories but will need to overturn a majority of more than 24,000 votes secured by Mr Parish at the general election in 2019.
Mr Foord was joined by party leader Sir Ed Davey in Honiton to announce his candidacy, following a walk along the town’s High Street. They visited an independent butcher and an ice cream shop before a photo opportunity with local activists.
After serving in the army for a decade, reaching the rank of major and receiving three campaign medals for service in Iraq and the Balkans, Mr Foord moved to Mid Devon in 2010 where he now lives in Uffculme with his wife and children.
Mr Foord said at the campaign launch that voters’ concerns are ‘largely around the cost of living’.
He said: “We’re seeing the price of things like bread and pasta going through the roof. Inflation is at a 40-year high at nine per cent, and as Liberal Democrats we would immediately bring in a VAT cut of 2.5 per cent, which would put £600 back into the pockets of constituents here.”
Mr Foord said he will also campaign for farmers, acknowledging Mr Parish had been a ‘spokesperson for agriculture’.
He said issues, such as the rising price of red diesel – a fuel taxed at a lower rate, and generally used in agricultural machinery – means the election was an ‘opportunity for us to send a message to the Boris Johnson-led government that there is a perfect storm for farmers’.
At the campaign launch, leader Mr Davey accused the Tories of ‘taking people in this constituency for granted for far too long’.
He said: “The Government have actually really taken rural communities for granted across the country.
“We saw that in North Shropshire and Liberal Democrats are determined that we will be the voice of rural communities like here in Tiverton and Honiton.”
Mr Davey said he did not know if the Devon seat would turn orange: “We’re already finding that people, even life-long Conservatives, feel it’s time for a change here in this area,” he said.
He added: “If we can get Richard elected, the people of this area will have a strong local champion raising their concerns in parliament and speaking up for them. Not someone who just does what Boris Johnson and the Tory whips do.
“We want an independent voice to champion the people of Tiverton and Honiton.”
Former head teacher Helen Hurford will be representing the Conservatives.
Ms Hurford says her campaign will ‘focus on delivering on people’s priorities for the area including improving transport links, supporting farmers and businesses’.
She said: “As someone who was born and bred here, I am thrilled to be selected as the Conservative candidate for Tiverton and Honiton.
“I understand what it is like to live and work here and the issues people want addressing across the constituency.
“But most of all, people here want an MP to get on with the job and deliver on their priorities. And like them, I want this constituency to thrive and take all the opportunities we have here.”
Reform UK, formerly known as the Brexit Party, will also be contesting the election. They have named Andy Foan as their candidate.
The party recently Tweeted “Andy was born near Tiverton, serving in the Royal Navy and RAF before becoming a pilot and flying instructor. He is standing to tackle the cost of living and to restore trust in politics.”
We are pleased to announce Andy Foan as our candidate in the Tiverton & Honiton By-Election!
Andy was born near Tiverton, serving in the Royal Navy and RAF before becoming a pilot & flying instructor. He is standing to tackle the cost of living & to restore trust in politics. pic.twitter.com/OngYVZY4sP
— Reform UK (@reformparty_uk) May 17, 2022
There is speculation that Mr Parish could also stand as an independent. He recently told the BBC he has yet to decide whether to run, saying: “I’m still taking soundings and haven’t made my mind up yet either way.”
The Conservatives are defending a majority of more than 24,000 votes secured in 2019.
Nominations close on Wednesday, May 25.