The Liberal Democrats are favourites to win the Tiverton and Honiton by-election triggered by the resignation of ‘Porn MP’ Neil Parish, bookmakers have said.
Sir Ed Davey’s party is 1/3 with StarSports and Ladbrokes to win the by-election triggered by Parish’s resignation after admitting that he watched porn twice in the House of Commons yesterday.
This puts the party as red hot favourites ahead of the Conservatives who are being priced at 13/8 and 9/4 by the bookmakers.
Parish, who has been the MP for Tiverton and Honiton since 2010, confirmed that he will resign as an MP yesterday after admitting to twice watching pornography in Parliament.
Parish has a majority of over 24,000 in the constituency which has solely elected Conservatives since it was formed in 1997.
Sir Ed Davey’s party is 1/3 with StarSports and Ladbrokes to win the Tiverton and Honiton by-election triggered by Neil Parish’s resignation
The Lib Dems will start from their third-place finish in the 2019 General Election but the scale of the task will likely not deter the party from throwing resources in a hope of another gain.
The party successfully saw a swing of over 23,000 in North Shropshire after Tory Owen Patterson resigned amid a sleaze row.
Parish said in an interview with BBC South West that he recognised the ‘furore’ and ‘damage’ he was causing his family and his constituency in Devon before deciding ‘it just wasn’t worth carrying on’.
Sir Ed has been touting the potential for the party to eat into the swathe of Conservative strongholds in the south of England nicknamed the ‘blue wall’ after their victories – having literally knocked down a wall of blue bricks after Sarah Green’s win in Chesham and Amersham last year.
A StarSport spokesperson said: ‘Punters are more than are of the Lib Dem by-election machine and they’ve opened up as 1/3 favourites with Star Sports to win the upcoming by-election despite coming nowhere close in 2019.
Much has changed since however, whilst a majority of more than 24,000 would appear to be huge mountain to climb, the Liberal Democrats have already overturned two large majorities in the past two years.
Sir Ed has been touting the potential for the party to eat into the ‘blue wall’ Tory heartlands in the south since the Liberal Democrats victory in Chesham and Amersham last year
There are many similarities here with North Shropshire, where Owen Paterson resigned after a major scandal, and with thoughts already turning to a big campaign in Devon, they’re our favourites with the Tories 13/8 to defend Neil Parish’s son to be vacant seat.
Ed Davey told Sky News Ridge on Sunday: It’s right that he’s gone so there will be a by-election in Tiverton and Honiton and I believe the Liberal Democrats can be the real challengers in that.
‘We have a real legacy of success across the south-west, we’ve shown in the North Shropshire by-election where we were third in the previous general election but we beat the Conservatives.
‘If you look at our local election results, I was proud of what we achieved in May last year and of course there were those two historic by-election victories in true-blue Buckinghamshire, in Chesham and Amersham where no one expected the Liberal Democrats to beat the Conservatives but we did.
‘If we want to get Boris Johnson out of Downing Street, which the Liberal Democrats really want to do, only the Liberal Democrats can beat the Conservatives in many, many seats and we have to be part of that ejection of the Conservatives
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats leaders (pictured) have denied claims of a pact
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: ‘Right now we are completely focused on the local elections.
‘But the Lib Dems have already shown we can take rural seats off the Conservatives.
‘People across the West Country have a strong tradition of voting Liberal Democrat as the main opposition to the Conservatives.
‘As we saw in North Shropshire, there is a real backlash against Boris Johnson from rural communities who are fed up of being taken for granted.
‘Liberal Democrats have a real plan with this bold tax cut, a VAT tax cut worth £600 on average to families across the country, I think people are looking to us now as an opposition to the Tories in many of their heartland seats.’
The move comes after the Lib Dems were last night accused of stitching up Boris Johnson by forging a secret pact with the Labour to sway Thursday’s local election results – and prompting the Tories to remove Boris as Prime Minister.
Tory chairman Oliver Dowden claimed Sir Keir Starmer was standing down candidates ‘in swathes of the country’ where Lib Dem support is strong to avoid splitting the anti-Tory vote. And he alleges Sir Ed Davey’s party has returned the favour where Labour is dominant elsewhere.
In a letter to the Labour leader, which he posted on his Twitter account, Mr Dowden claimed that Sir Keir planned to ‘deny the voters a proper democratic choice’ on Thursday.
His comments sparked a political storm, with both Opposition parties denying his accusations.
Sir Ed Davey told Ridge on Sky News: ‘Listen, there is no pact now, there is not going to be a pact in the future.
‘The Liberal Democrats are actually fighting Labour in many areas, in Hull, in Sunderland, in Sheffield, in Haringey, in Southwark and I can tell you many other places where there is a real fight and these council numbers are I think a bit of a detraction.
The Labour leader suggested the Conservatives are trying to distract from the cost-of-living crisis by making the accusation that the two opposition parties are standing aside for each other in certain local election contests
Sir Keir Starmer echoed Davey’s sentiments in his own appearance on Ridge.
The Labour leader suggested the Conservatives are trying to distract from the cost-of-living crisis by making the accusation that the two opposition parties are standing aside for each other in certain local election contests.
Critics of Mr Dowden highlighted the 2019 General Election where Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party stood down in 317 Tory-held seats to avoid splitting the Leave vote and allowing Labour to win the election.
They accused the former Culture Secretary of hypocrisy ahead of local elections in over 200 English local authorities on Thursday.
Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden (pictured) has said that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are denying voters ‘a proper democratic choice’ in local elections by standing down in areas to improve their chances of beating the Tories
Tory strategists fear a drubbing in this week’s polls, which come in the wake of months of damaging ‘Partygate’ headlines over alleged lockdown breaches at No 10.
Many of Mr Johnson’s enemies in the party have said that they are waiting until after the elections – and the conclusion of the Partygate investigations – before deciding whether to push for a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson.
Mr Johnson is also reeling from the fall-out from yesterday’s resignation of Tory MP Neil Parish, who admitted he watched pornography twice in Parliament.
Mr Parish, who has represented Tiverton and Honiton in Devon since 2010, said the first incident had been a ‘moment of madness’ after stumbling on the X-rated images by accident while searching for tractors online but landing on ‘another website that had a very similar name’.
Mr Parish, who was suspended by the Conservative Party on Friday over the allegations, had been under pressure to resign from senior party figures who feared that the case would further damage Tory chances in the elections.
Neil Parish has resigned from his position as MP for Tiverton and Honiton after he admitted watching porn in the House of Commons
A survey by former Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, published in today’s Mail on Sunday, has found that when voters are asked to choose between a Conservative Government headed by Mr Johnson and a Labour Government headed by Sir Keir, the Labour leader is backed by 57 per cent to Mr Johnson’s 43 per cent.
However, the research also concludes that Mr Johnson’s political future could be ensured by the absence of an obvious Tory successor and Sir Keir’s failure to make sufficient impact.
Tory losses in Thursday’s local elections would be compounded if Labour has indeed formed a secret ‘Rainbow Alliance’ with the Liberal Democrats to maximise their local advantages.
In his letter to Sir Keir, Mr Dowden said: ‘I note that in the South West, you are standing candidates in 61 per cent of seats compared to 97 per cent in 2018. And in the South East there is a similar pattern with Labour standing candidates in 88 per cent of seats compared to 99 per cent in 2018.
‘In the North of England it appears that the Liberal Democrats are returning the favour. In the North East they are standing in just 56 per cent of seats, down from 78 per cent four years ago. Labour are, however, standing in 99 per cent of seats in the area. These shifts are far too substantial to be a mere coincidence… It now appears that your plans to deny the voters a proper democratic choice are coming to fruition.’
Mr Dowden asks Sir Keir to explain ‘when Labour and the Liberal Democrats agreed to this pact’, whether ‘party members and MPs in the affected regions [were] consulted about the pact’ and finally: ‘Why have you attempted to conceal this from the voters?’
Mr Dowden stepped in after campaigners in the North East reported that ‘Labour are pushing hard up here, but the Lib Dems are nowhere’, while in the South West ‘Labour have completely vanished’. An official said: ‘It was pretty obvious what was going on – Labour and the Lib Dems had done some sort of deal’.
Neil Parish claimed the first time that he viewed the material – he had intended to look at tractors
Last night, a Labour spokesperson said: ‘We are in the business of winning elections with Labour candidates driven by Labour values.’ A party source added: ‘There will be no deals and no pacts. Labour only wins power when we squeeze other progressive parties and win over Tories.’
A Liberal Democrat source said: ‘From porn to Partygate, the Tories have had a disastrous local elections campaign, so it’s no surprise they’ve resorted to making things up. The Lib Dems are one seat away from taking Labour-controlled Hull and are fighting a full slate in places like Newcastle, Gateshead and Manchester.
‘This is a concocted story by a party that is desperate to distract from their terrible record on the cost of living, crime and local health services.’