My latest column in today’s Midweek Herald.
I imagine that most readers are simply exasperated that Boris Johnson, despite being so comprehensively disgraced, has still not gone. He has lost the confidence of the public in Devon and across the country, but he continues to cling to power. Finally, his MPs managed to hold a vote of no confidence and many of them voted against him. But it seems that still the majority will back him come what may.
The spinelessness of East Devon’s Conservatives
It is sadly no surprise to find that our local Conservative representatives appear to be among these. Simon Jupp, the MP for the East Devon constituency, had said he was waiting for the Sue Gray report to make up his mind. Well the Metropolitan Police issued Johnson with a fixed penalty, Gray issued a damning report, and still Mr Jupp had nothing to say. We must assume he’s one of the MPs who backed Johnson but was too ashamed of it to let his constituents know. Maybe Johnson promised to make him a junior minister for paper clips next time round?
What is it with the East Devon Conservatives? Having produced over the last decade one councillor, Graham Brown, who was caught offering to fix planning for large sums of money, an Alderman, John Humphreys, who was convicted of appalling rapes, and now an MP, Neil Parish, who had to resign for watching porn in the House of Commons, the rest of them just seem to be particularly spineless.
Certainly their by-election candidate in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency, Helen Hurford, is in no hurry to break the rule. Still silent on virtually all the issues of the day, Ms Hurford sat out the Johnson confidence vote and waited until the prime minister had won before making a comment, to the effect that she gave him her support. If voters are misguided enough to return her to Parliament on June 23rd, don’t expect her to be outspoken about East Devon’s interests – or anything else.
A captive of the party machine
We only have to look at Ms Hurford’s campaign literature to see that this very inexperienced politician – she only recently became a town councillor – has already become captive to her party machine. How else to explain that she put out a leaflet addressed to the voters of ‘Tiverton, Honiton and the surrounding villages’, seemingly unaware that Seaton, Axminster and Cullompton are substantial towns? The leaflet was clearly written by some advertising person from London, but why didn’t the candidate put them right?
More serious was the leaflet on yellow paper which contained a collection of smears and distortions about the Liberal Democrats. The leaflet had Ms Hurford’s name in tiny print at the bottom but no indication at all that it was produced by the Conservatives. This leaflet has now attracted national notoriety – why didn’t the candidate veto it?
Most concerning of all to me was that she used Seaton’s community hospital for a photo opportunity, claiming that there are hundreds of new nurses ‘in our area’. This is the hospital that lost its beds and was almost demolished for housing development because of her government’s policies and the refusal of Devon Conservative councillors to block the closures. Given the national shortage of beds, the hospital ward could be put back to use – but the shortage of nurses is so chronic that it probably couldn’t be staffed as things stand.
Support Richard Foord on the 23rd
This is my last column before the by-election, in which we have the chance to end decades of being taken for granted by complacent Conservative MPs. Richard Foord, the Liberal Democrat candidate, has been on the doorsteps in Seaton and Axminster and is running an honest – and vocal – campaign. I will not be going as far as my East Devon Alliance colleague, Paul Arnott, and actually joining the Liberal Democrats. I intend to remain independent of any national party. But I urge all my readers to support Mr Foord on the 23rd.