Tiverton and Honiton by-election – time to send Johnson an unequivocal message: the party’s over

Tiverton” by John D Fielding is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

If you have read our ‘About Us’ page, you will know that we are not affiliated to, supporters of, or the organ of, any political party.

“Our political values are progressive and internationalist. We are party-blind but policy-focused and pro electoral reform. We believe in a kinder world that puts people before profit, that values cooperation and inclusiveness, and that looks after our planet. We aim to be part of a new ethical, pro-reform and empathetic media that serves the public not the powerful or any particular party.”

But we are, of course, political. We are opposed to the Johnson government, to Johnson’s Conservatives. It is an important distinction. We are opposed to their policies on immigration, asylum seekers, the right to protest, access to justice, the Northern Ireland Protocol, the environment, privatisation of the NHS etc. You know what we mean if you read our articles regularly.

We are, frankly, frightened by the numerous assaults on democracy, truth and the rule of law. We are horrified by the rise in the power of the executive at the expense of an allegedly sovereign parliament. We are seriously concerned that Johnson will be able to continue to move the UK towards an elective dictatorship.

We feel that Johnson and his government must be stopped.

The result of the Tiverton and Honiton by-election will not, of course, set our ugly political world to rights, but it will have an impact. That impact could be positive. It could also be negative if it goes the Conservatives’ way.

We are of the opinion that every possible effort must be made to ensure that the Conservative candidate, who has given her support to Johnson, a proven liar and law-breaker, does not win this seat. The polls have made it clear that the majority of people in the UK think Johnson should resign. The key argument used to secure support for Johnson was the potential withdrawal of financial backing from 23 of the party’s largest donors.

That’s a shocker, isn’t it? Forget what the country needs, the Conservative big money donors dictate Johnson must stay. What are they after? How do you think policy will be fashioned if it is to meet the agenda of a very few, very wealthy entities and individuals?

You can shrug and say that it was ever thus, and maybe it was … but that’s no reason not to take a stand and try to change things for the better.

The by-election tactical vote:

Obviously we run into the thorny issue of which candidate is most likely to beat the Conservative. It is true that Labour came second in 2019, but the bookies, the pundits and the favourable wind from the council elections in neighbouring Somerset suggest that it is the LibDem who is set to garner the votes from old school, decent Conservatives who feel disgusted and betrayed by Johnson. It is also clear from the Conservative election leaflets that they regard the LibDems as the main threat. They’ve even gone so far as to produce a leaflet in LibDem yellow in a clear attempt to deceive the casual reader.

Meanwhile, in Wakefield, it seems more than likely that Labour will reclaim the seat.

In an interview in The Independent, Exeter’s Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw said:

“What some Labour members and activists don’t always appreciate is that a lot of Conservative voters, if they want to give the government a kicking will vote Liberal Democrat but they wouldn’t vote Labour…

“So if we have a joint purpose of wanting to send the prime minister a message and ultimately defeat this government in a general election then I think there are very good prospects of a Lib Dem victory there.”

The result in Tiverton and Honiton will be important, not just for the evidence of dissatisfaction with Johnson, but for rebuilding hope and empowering the electorate. We desperately, urgently, need electoral reform in the UK and we will never ever get it under this government or, indeed, any Conservative government, unless the pressures to split overwhelm their understandable and cynical preference for first past the post.

It will be a tragedy for democracy if the Conservative is elected on a minority vote when it is clear that there is a majority for ‘anything but Tory’. There is no overt electoral pact in either Wakefield or Tiverton and Honiton but we understand there has been a tacit agreement not to campaign too aggressively on the other’s ‘patch’.

Unfortunately, there are no polls specifically on Tiverton and Honiton and we feel it would be a mistake merely to extrapolate from the national data, so we have had to take a view. That view is that if anyone is going to topple the Tory, it is the LibDems and their candidate, Richard Foord.

This will not sit well with some of our readers and we understand their discomfort, but we are asking that everyone lays aside their tribal loyalties for the greater good. Once this government is removed and the campaign for electoral reform is won, we will all be free to vote for the candidate we feel best represents our views and values.

For now, we all need to keep our eyes on the prize. We won’t get near that prize if tribalism, fatalism or passivity mean that the Conservative wins by default because of division.

Neil Parish had a large, seemingly unassailable majority but, as by-elections in Shropshire and Chesham and Amersham showed, when people have genuinely had enough they want to send a strong message to that effect. And yes, it does require the smaller parties to lend their vote, but this is preferable to splitting the vote on such a symbolic occasion.

If, as a Labour voter, it really sticks in your craw to vote LibDem, you can of course swap your vote – SwapMyVote.uk makes it easy to do. You can help ensure your party secures the win in Wakefield whilst helping to prevent yet another win for Johnson’s Conservatives in Tiverton and Honiton.

If Johnson was cockily defiant following the vote of no confidence, imagine what he will be like after a win here. It does not bear thinking about. Let’s make sure Johnson doesn’t get that undeserved endorsement.