Voters in Tiverton and Honiton are set to go to the polls today to elect an MP to replace Conservative Neil Parish.
The vote, which is due to take place on the same day as the Wakefield by-election, could be a decisive moment in Boris Johnson’s premiership, as it comes following the Partygate scandal and amid a cost of living crisis.
Why was the by-election called?
Mr Parish announced his intention to resign from Parliament on 30 April, following a highly publicised scandal prompted by allegations that an at-first unnamed Conservative MP had been seen watching pornography in the House of Commons.
The allegations first came to light on 25 April, following a meeting between a group of female Conservative MPs and Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip.
Over the next few days, a number of MPs gave interviews with the media calling for the still-unnamed MP to come forward, while Mr Parish himself told GB News that the MP should be “dealt with seriously”.
A few days later the Conservative whip was withdrawn from Mr Parish and in a high-profile interview with BBC news he admitted watching porn twice; first accidentally and later deliberately.
Mr Parish said he had been looking at a website about tractors and had accidentally ended up on “another website with a very similar name,” which the MP said he “watched for a bit”.
He said: "My crime – biggest crime – is that on another occasion I went in a second time.... that was sitting waiting to vote."
When is the by-election?
Who are the candidates?
Here is a full list of the candidates in the by-election:
- Heritage: Jordan Donoghue-Morgan
- Reform UK: Andy Foan
- Liberal Democrats: Richard Foord
- Conservative: Helen Hurford
- Labour: Liz Pole
- For Britain: Frankie Rufolo
- UKIP: Ben Walker
- Green: Gill Westcott
Following a selection process which produced an all-female shortlist, Helen Hurford was selected as the Conservative candidate in the by-election.
Ms Hurford is a former headteacher who live in the area, and is expected to stress her local credentials as a candidate.
There have been reports that Mr Parish is considering running as an independent candidate, although he has yet to confirm this.
The Labour party has selected software entrepreneur Liz Poole as their candidate.
Ms Poole stood as Labour’s candidate in the constituency at the 2019 general election, when Labour came second with a respectable vote-share, albeit reduced from a high point in 2017.
Emboldened by recent by-election wins and a strong showing at the local elections, the Liberal Democrats have selected Richard Foord, a veteran who currently works in a university, to be their candidate.
Who is likely to win the by-election?
The Tiverton and Honiton constituency was created in 1997, and since then has never elected anything other than a Conservative MP, while the area itself has voted Conservative since the 1920s.
A primarily rural constituency in Devon, Tiverton and Honiton is a Conservative safe-seat with a current majority of more than 40%.
However, Tiverton and Honiton is arguably a safer seat than either of the two which the Conservatives have lost, with a different voter-profile.
Labour came second here in 2019 and 2017, with the Liberal Democrats trailing in third in both elections.
There had been speculation that Labour could ‘stand aside’ to allow the Liberal Democrats a better chance at winning the by-election, as the recent local election results suggest they may be best positioned to do so.
The constituency voted to leave the European Union, and recorded one of the highest UKIP votes in the 2015 general election.
However, prior to this, the Liberal Democrats had reliably been the second party in Tiverton and Honiton.
This was the result of the general election vote in Tiverton and Honiton in 2019:
- Conservative: 60.2% / 35,893
- Labour: 19.5% / 11,654
- Liberal Democrats: 14.8% / 8,807
- Green: 3.8% / 2,291
- UKIP: 1.6% / 968
- Majority 40.7% / 24,239