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"All to play for" new Honiton & Sidmouth seat

Tuesday, 19 December 2023 08:32

By local democracy reporter, Will Goddard

Simon Jupp and Richard Foord (Image: Parliament photos)

MP says 'every vote will count'

It’s “all to play for” in the newly formed Honiton and Sidmouth seat at the next general election, according to Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord. 

The current MP for Tiverton and Honiton believes people are fed up with the current Conservative government, and that he has a real prospect of winning. 

A former British Army major, the 45-year-old was voted in during a by-election in 2022 following the resignation of former Tory MP Neil Parish after he watched pornography in the House of Commons. 

Mr Foord, who is married with three children and lives in Uffculme, will go head-to-head with East Devon Tory MP Simon Jupp in the contest for the new  constituency. 

Large parts of the new seat is formed from the current East Devon and Tiverton and Honiton constituencies, which up until last year’s by-election win   by Mr Foord for the Lib Dems, have always been Conservative. His majority is 6,144.

Simon Jupp margin in the general election in 2019 was only marginally higher at 6,708. The runner-up with over 40 per cent of the vote was independent Claire Wright, who is backing Mr Foord. 

Richard Foord MP said: “I think the fact that she came very close when the Conservatives nationally did so well in the 2019 general election… indicates that this part of the constituency, Sidmouth, Ottery, West Hill should not be taken for granted by the Conservatives. 

“The feedback that I’ve been getting on the doorstep is very much that even long-term Conservative voters are at this time, in these circumstances, frustrated with this Conservative government and looking for an alternative.” 

Asked whether he thought he only won by a protest vote, as is often the case with by-elections, he said: “If we’re presenting it that by-elections are somehow different, I would say these are not usual times and the government’s polling has not improved since the by-election in June last year. 

“The popularity of Rishi Sunak as prime minister has hit lows that Boris Johnson didn’t quite reach. 

“I would definitely say it’s very much all to play for and it will come down to potentially every last vote. 

“I grew up here in the westcountry. I came of political age at a time when the Liberal Democrats controlled most constituencies here.  

“When I was first able to vote in 1997, and at the subsequent election in 2001, you could walk from Truro to Bristol on Lib Dem-held territory.” 

If elected, Mr Foord says he will tackle healthcare problems, seek to boost the local economy, and put pressure on water companies to reduce sewage spills. 

He said: “I do feel that if we begin to lose community hospitals like the one in Seaton, it could be the thin end of the wedge for community hospitals more broadly.  

“Sidmouth has a community hospital, Ottery has a community hospital. I think we really need to protect these things because what I’m hearing on doorsteps is people want to be able to have access to healthcare close to home.  

“Linked to that, we have NHS dental services that are collapsing. NHS dentistry is something I care very deeply about. I also know that it’s something my constituents care very deeply about. 

“We need to have a local economy that enables businesses to thrive. This is where local politics meets national politics, because businesses cannot thrive if there isn’t a stable business environment for them to work in.  

“I’m hearing myself from businesses, large and small, that they want to get back to a time when politics was predictable.  They don’t like the uncertainty that our politics has brought us in recent years. And that… has had the effect of places closing up, shops shutting up, pubs shutting up. Hospitality is big business in this part of the world. 

“We know that sewage dumping is rife here on the Jurassic Coast and on the broader East Devon coast.  I think we need to take the responsibility for water quality monitoring away from the water companies, because it has been found that some of them have not been revealing all of the data that they should to the regulator, the Environment Agency.  

“The Liberal Democrats have been very strong in this area. We want to see water companies run as public benefit companies.  

“We want to see people with environmental concerns… community representatives with environmental concerns on the board of these companies, so that they’re not run purely to extract profit.” 

A general election is expected to be called next year, and must be held by the end of January 2025. 

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