Tiverton by-election loss could topple Boris Johnson, says Lib Dem candidate

A former soldier keen to eliminate Boris Johnson from the political battlefield has said losing a crunch by-election could topple the prime minister.

Ex-Army Major Richard Foord, 44, has his tanks lined up firmly on the Tory lawn for the fight sparked by the resignation of tractor porn MP Neil Parish.

Lib Dem Mr Foord, who has served with the Adjutant General’s Corps in Iraq and the Balkans, disputes the vote in Tiverton and Honiton – one of two polls on June 23 Tory insiders fear the one skewered by Partygate Prime Ministership could plunge the prime minister into greater danger if he survives that long.

The father of three is trying to oust the Conservative majority of 24,239 in the safe ‘Blue Wall’ seat in Devon.

Combined with an expected Labor win at Wakefield, West Yorks, the triumph would put pressure on Tory rebels to demand a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson – potentially forcing him out of 10th place.

Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord speaks to the Mirror’s Ben Glaze



Dozens of MPs have written to the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, demanding a vote of confidence.

As soon as 54 letters have been received, a competition must be triggered. The threshold could be crossed next week.

Speaking exclusively to the Mirror, Mr Foord said: “Johnson’s government is now on the brink, with a no-confidence vote appearing on the horizon.

“A lot of conservative opinion will emerge against Johnson if we can get a win here at Tiverton and Honiton.”

He added: “If the 54 letters aren’t there by June 23, then we’re pretty sure they will be there on June 24 if we can get the win here.

“There’s definitely an awareness that he’s in a very precarious position.

“It’s a pretty rare opportunity that we have – there are 650 constituencies and only two have by-elections on June 23.

“We are privileged to speak for the country and we can really make a tremendous impact.”

The vote was sparked when Mr Parish quit after admitting to having watched porn in the House of Commons twice.

Tory Neil Parish resigned after admitting to watching porn in the House of Commons


Tom Wren (SWNS)

The first time he claimed he was looking for tractors on the internet when he came across dirt.

Mr Foord said voters do appreciate the speed with which Mr Parish accepted that his career was over.

“There’s a sort of grudging respect for the fact that Parish was quick to resign – that’s in contrast to the Prime Minister holding onto his fingertips and refusing to do the decent thing and resign,” Mr Foord said.

“The strong feeling that the Prime Minister is a liar absolutely influences voting intent here.

“There is a lot of disappointment – some people who supported the government and Johnson himself in 2019 feel very disappointed in the Prime Minister personally.”

Mr Foord, who was educated at Sandhurst, compared today’s politics to the mid-1990s when John Major’s ailing government was hampered by depravity, adding: “More than depravity, it’s about integrity and honesty.

“I hear far less from individual MPs on my doorstep who have been accused of dirt or who have had to resign.

“I hear a lot more about the Prime Minister and the lack of integrity he has shown in lying to Parliament and trying to cover up his wrongdoing.”

Mr Foord’s mother died of cancer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rules meant the family couldn’t help his father look after them in their final days at home – while parties were taking place in Downing Street.

Boris Johnson raises a glass during a lockdown, leaving drinks at Downing Street


(Getty Images)

“That was six weeks before the ‘Abba’ party in October 2020,” Mr Foord said.

“The revelation that it was very much a rule for us and a rule for them really comes through quite strongly.”

He wanted to win the seat “out of a public service ethos”.

“I have served in the army for over 10 years and now I would really like to serve people here in Devon,” he said.

“There are so many parallels between service in the Bundeswehr and service as a member of parliament – the way in which you can look after and support others with their concerns and challenges is something both professions have in common.”

Some candidates are shocked by the rough and tumble of politics, especially in high-profile by-elections.

But for Mr. Foord, the campaign will be nothing compared to serving during the 2007-08 uprising in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city.

“It was pretty gnarly, we got bombed a lot,” he admitted.

“People will think of that time through the lens when they see the coffins land at Wootton Bassett.

“Being on the other end and seeing those coffins go out was a sobering experience.”

Tiverton by-election candidate for the Liberal Democrats Richard Foord pictured during his time in the army

Tiverton by-election candidate for the Liberal Democrats Richard Foord pictured during his time in the army

During Operation Telic, he recognized the importance of leadership – a virtue he says the prime minister lacks.

“For me, leadership is about showing courage and that could consist of telling people what they don’t want to hear – telling your friends and colleagues who are having a party while the rest of the country is in lockdown, that their behavior is out of line and they shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

“I think Johnson is quite a cowardly person who likes to be around people who admire and like him.

“I’ve learned through my own experience to observe good leaders – they seek respect, they don’t necessarily seek to be liked.”

The Lib Dems used to call the Southwest their heartland. But they haven’t had an MP south or west of Bath since their 2015 election disaster.

Mr Foord hopes winning his seat will spark a regional revival.

Locals believe the Government’s “leveling-up” agenda has focused on the new Red Wall Tories’ constituencies in the North and Midlands – leaving behind loyal voters who have repeatedly sent Blue MPs to Westminster , he said.

“Devon was taken for granted by Conservatives,” he said.

“While the Johnson Government is trying to enlist support in other regions of England, the Johnson Government is inclined to assume areas like Tiverton and Honiton will continue to bring back a Conservative MP.

“People are willing to choose differently, it’s time for a change and they will no longer take it for granted.”

He stressed: “We have a mountain to climb to defeat the Conservatives, but what I’m hearing is that Liberal Democrat support is gaining momentum.

“With sheer hard work, dedication and commitment to the cause, it can be done, but it will take a lot more work.”

Enough anger at Boris Johnson to overthrow a huge Tory majority

By Ben Glaze

Even if Boris Johnson survives as prime minister until June 23, the double whammy of the day’s by-election could drive another nail in the prime minister’s political coffin.

Losing the West Yorkshire seat of Wakefield – a brick in Labour’s Red Wall which the Tories demolished in December 2019 – would be bad enough.

But the Liberal Democrats triumphing in this southwestern citadel of Tiverton and Honiton would be a disaster for Johnson.

The constituency has been conservative since its inception a quarter century ago.

The party is defending a majority of 24,239 in what the Lib Dems have dubbed the Tory heartland the ‘Blue Wall’.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey


(Getty Images)

Securing the seat would be a monumental triumph for Sir Ed Davey’s party and – assuming Johnson is still Tory leader by then – would spark a new wave of letter-writing from concerned Conservative MPs fearing for their future and a vote of confidence demand for the Prime Minister.

You will understandably think that if Johnson can lose Tiverton and Honiton – albeit in a high-profile by-election where Lib Dem activists excel at importing activists from hundreds of miles away – they will focus on ultra-local issues and often say it all to win – he can lose anywhere.

And yet. The majority the Tories have here is huge – bigger even than the 22,949 advantage the Lib Dems overcame in North Shropshire last December in a vote sparked by Owen Paterson’s resignation.

It’s a big task. But there is enough anger at Johnson, worries about the cost of living crisis and the resources pumped by the Lib Dems to seriously endanger Conservatives in this West Country stronghold.

The Prime Minister has read classics at Oxford – he will know more than anyone that his fate may be decided in this Devonian slice of central England.

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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/election-loss-tiverton-could-topple-27131798 Tiverton by-election loss could topple Boris Johnson, says Lib Dem candidate

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