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‘I’d have backed Boris Johnson in confidence vote’


The Conservative candidate for Tiverton and Honiton has revealed she would have backed Boris Johnson in his confidence vote earlier this week had she already been an MP.

In her first interview with the national media since the by-election campaign began, Helen Hurford told i: “If I was an MP at that time, I would have voted in favour of Boris because we need a leader that makes the big calls. He’s made the right decisions on those big calls.”

However, the former headteacher turned beauty salon owner added that she was “not impressed” with the parties at Downing Street during lockdown.

“Lots of things happened for lots of us during the lockdowns,” she added. “Some major things happened in my family during those lockdowns. So, when the pictures of Partygate came out, I wasn’t impressed in the slightest.

“But time has moved on. The country has moved on and, actually, with everything that’s going on – Russia’s war with Ukraine, the global cost of living crisis – we need a leader that is prepared to make big calls, because we’ve got lots of difficult decisions coming our way. I think he is he’s the man for that job.”

However, her first firm endorsement of the Prime Minister may mean she risks losing votes from lifelong Tory voters in the constituency who have vowed not to support the party again while Mr Johnson remains at the helm.

Barry Tretherway of Tiverton is switching from Conservatives to the Lib Dems: “I liked Boris and what he stood for at the last election, but he’s let us down with all the lies.” (Photo: David Parsley)

Ms Hurford conceded the by-election would be close despite the current 24,239 Conservative majority left behind by the disgraced former Tory MP Neil Parish, adding that the turnout and the prospect of many voters staying home did concern her.

“I honestly think it’s about whether people actually go out and vote,” she said. “We know by-elections have a much smaller turnout than usual. I think it will be close. I wouldn’t like to call it obviously. I’d like to say that I’m going to win, but I’ve never been a bold and brash person like that. But from the messages that I’m getting on the doorstep, I think it will be close, but I do think it will be Conservative.”

Ms Hurford’s six-point plan for the constituency includes investing in local business, helping people with the cost-of-living crisis, tackling crime, putting more money into local schools, protecting the income of farmers, and supporting the NHS.

However, the Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord claimed the Conservative Party has had years to build a new school in Tiverton, a relief road around Cullompton, re-open train stations and guarantee local NHS services would remain open and be improved.

“They’ve made these promises over and over again, but haven’t delivered on any of them,” said Mr Foord. “So, why should the voters of Tiverton and Honiton believe them this time?”

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Ms Hurford stressed there have been “global issues” to deal with and that the improvements across local services would happen if she became the constituency’s MP.

“We’ve had Brexit, so we’ve had to deal with that vote in that time,” she said. “We are moving on there, and we are in a far more powerful position than we’ve ever been before as the United Kingdom.

“We had a global pandemic, and I would have lost my house and my business had it not been for the decisions that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister took during that. I know the cost of living is another massive challenge, but that’s global, not just for us.

“What we’re trying to deliver, and what I will be pushing for, will be the relief road for Cullompton, definitely. That’s ready to be signed off if I am the MP. That’s one of the first things that I will do.”

The Prime Minister met with Ms Hurford away from voters on Friday, just after she had met with Chancellor Rishi Sunak at local broadband firm. Despite putting a video of her and Mr Sunak on her campaign website and social media channels, she is yet to put anything about her meeting with the Prime Minister online.

Asked if she felt the Prime Minister was a liability to her campaign given Partygate and the ongoing probe into whether he misled Parliament, she said: “He’s the leader of our country, so he would be an asset.

She also said her picture with the Prime Minister would go on her website and social media channels.

“Yeah, it will go on,” she said. “Perhaps Rishi may have felt that he would have been overshadowed.”

Conservative party candidate Helen Hurford has been accused of negative campaigning after sending a flyer in Lib Dem colours to the voters of Tiverton and Honiton (Photo: Supplied)

A yellow Conservative campaign leaflet has also been criticised for masquerading as Lib Dem literature. The “thinking of voting Liberal Democrat?” leaflet alleges her main opponent in the by-election wanted to re-join the European Union, was soft on border control and crime, and wanted to put up energy taxes.

Mr Foord, who denies those claims, said: “There’s no need for us to push out attack literature of this sort. Actually, I found some of it quite amusing.

“What I’ve found is that once people are put straight on the fact that it’s produced by the Conservative Party, they feel that it’s actually quite consistent with the sort of deception that’s going on at the top of government.”

But Ms Hurford alleged it was actually the Lib Dems who were on the attack during the campaign.

“I don’t think the Liberal Democrats are going to say my leaflets are brilliant,” she said.

“What I will say is that their literature is all negative. It’s all Boris bashing. What about Helen Hurford? Boris isn’t going to represent Tiverton and Honiton. Helen Hurford is going to represent to Tiverton and Honiton.

“Helen Hurford has a six-point plan to deliver for Tiverton and Honiton and she will fight with all the gusto and passion that she has to make sure she delivers for Tiverton and Honiton. So, they can carry on saying what they like because they won’t be the ones I’m representing.”

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