Tory by-election candidate won’t say how she would have voted in Johnson ballot


2022-06-08 16:51:50


The Conservative candidate in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election has refused to say how she would have voted in Monday night’s confidence ballot on Boris Johnson had she been an MP, labelling the question “irrelevant”.

Helen Hurford said she now backed the prime minister but, asked on Tuesday, if she would have voted to keep Mr Johnson in post, she declined to answer.

“I’m not in Westminster,” she said. “I don’t have a vote. Thank you for asking. That would make me sound very important, but it’s irrelevant. It’s happened. He’s here.”

The exchange came as the former headteacher battles to retain the rural Devon seat for the Conservatives after former MP Neil Parish resigned following an admission that he had twice watched pornography in the House of Commons.

While on paper, the seat should be safely blue – the party has held the constituency since its creation in 1997 and won a 23,000 majority three years ago – the Lib Dems have been made favourites amid continuing anger with Mr Johnson over partygate.

Speaking to Radio Exe, Ms Hurford said she had “welcomed” the confidence vote in which 211 Tory MPs voted to keep Mr Johnson as leader compared to 148 who wanted him out.

But she said it was now time to “close” the issue.

“There’s been a democratic vote, he has had a third mandate now, let’s move forward,” she said. “He’s done a brilliant job with Russia’s war against Ukraine. Putin hates him as prime minister because of how he’s delivering.

“He has supported us over the pandemic. My business [ a beauty business in Hiniton] would not be here without the grants. I know loads of my friends who were supported with the furlough. They would not still have their homes if it hadn’t been for that.”

Her refusal to clarify if she would have supported Mr Johnson comes after The Independent revealed that Tory strategists had spent much time agonising over how the candidate should answer questions about partygate – in which the prime minister presided over a culture of illegal lockdown parties in Downing Street.

So imperfect was every response they workshopped that they decided to simply stop Ms Hurford doing almost any media appearances to prevent her from being scrutinised about the issue.

Richard Foord, the Lib Dem candidate, said the Conservatives had taken the area “for granted for decades” and the party’s current infighting would mean further neglect.

He said: “Local people are crying out for help but Boris Johnson simply isn’t listening. He’s more focused on trying to cling to power that helping struggling families.”

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