Local elections: Sir Ed Davey on 'very positive' Lib Dem results
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The Conservative Party faces yet another ‘Blue Wall’ by-election challenge from the Liberal Democrats after Neil Parish resigned as the MP for Tiverton & Honiton for watching pornography in the House of Commons in April. Boris Johnson retained the Brexit-backing safe seat during his landslide 2019 General Election victory with a thumping majority of 24,239. Despite finishing in a distant third-place, Sir Ed Davey remains bullish about the Liberal Democrats’ prospects.
Sir Ed Davey said: “The momentum is with the Liberal Democrats as we enter the final week of the campaign.
“People across Devon are sick of having a liar and law breaker as a Prime Minister, seeing their health services driven into the ground and farming communities neglected.
“On every visit I’ve heard loud and clear that people are ready for change.
“This election is a choice between Boris Johnson’s candidate and a committed, passionate and hard-working local champion in Richard Foord.
“The future of our country is hanging in the balance.
“This week Devon’s towns and villages can get rid of Boris Johnson once and for all.”
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Mr Johnson’s political capital took a tumble late last year when partygate hit the headlines.
The Prime Minister has since been issued with a fixed penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police for attending a lockdown-breaking birthday bash when Covid-curbing restrictions were in place and even saw off 148 Tory rebels earlier this month in a confidence vote.
However, an emboldened Sir Ed Davey will also be buoyed by findings from an internal opinion poll released yesterday which put his party neck-and-neck with the Conservatives on 45 percent.
Speaking about the internal poll, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We are now level pegging with the Conservatives and it comes down to these final days.
“Voters are fed up with being taken for granted by the Conservatives and are rallying behind the Liberal Democrats.
“We are the only party that can beat Boris Johnson’s candidate.
“We’re fighting hard for every vote and to bring real change to Devon.”
Sir Ed Davey, who replaced Jo Swinson after the Liberal Democrats failed to land a blow in the 2019 election, has enjoyed previous success in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’.
The Kingston & Surbiton MP and ex-Environment Secretary won in true blue Chesham & Amersham and North Shropshire in 2021.
The Liberal Democrats also made significant inroads in recent local election contests across England, including in nearby Somerset.
However, while the South West was once a bedrock of English liberalism, the party has seen its number of MPs drop from 16 in 2005 to just one in 2019.
But internal polling shared with Express.co.uk has suggested the Liberal Democrats could mount a comeback resulting from a sense of neglect in rural England.
A Savanta ComRes survey found 43 percent of rural Conservative voters think Mr Johnson’s party has taken rural communities for granted.
Among all adults living in rural communities the number rises to 49 percent.
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Many agricultural communities have even voiced concerns about the UK’s post-Brexit trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, which the National Farmers’ Union fears could undermine the market with cheaper and lower quality products.
North East Hampshire MP and Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena, who voted to leave the EU in 2016, claimed farmers need not be concerned.
Speaking to Express.co.uk last month, Mr Jayawardena said: “I genuinely do not believe that British farmers need to fear.
“In fact, I see it as a huge opportunity for British farmers, not just for the opportunity to sell quality British beef, British lamb to Australia but as a gateway to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which of course we are in the ascension process to join.”
However, farmers are also worried about the Direct Payments system being replaced by an Environmental Land Management Scheme in 2027.
The swing away from the Tory Party could also help explain why Tiverton’s Conservative candidate Helen Hurford was jeered at a hustings held last week.
Despite a far from warm reception, Tory activists remain optimistic about retaining the rural Devon seat.
A Tory activist told Express.co.uk: “I was pleasantly surprised by the response.
“Whilst it’s clearly going to be much closer than last time, I think there are reasons to be optimistic and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Tories retain the seat despite all the noise from the Liberal Democrats.”
While the Prime Minister has shied away from campaigning full throttle in Devon, Tory MPs have descended on Tiverton & Honiton as polling day nears.
Express.co.uk has also approached CCHQ for comment.
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