Tiverton and Honiton by-election: Tories fail to show up, and Lib Dems mount final push on polling day

The sign above the Liberal Democrat by-election headquarters in Honiton reads “A unique emporium of miscellany”.

“Quite appropriate for us I think”, says Rhiannon one of the party’s campaign team.

It’s 5.04am, and Rhiannon has already sent dozens of volunteers to deliver a “Good Morning” election day leaflet to 30,000 homes.

Eleanor and Hermione are two such volunteers and they are raring to go along with many others. Even at this ungodly hour there is a steady stream of Lib Dem activists arriving to pick up their leaflets before heading off to put them through thousands of letterboxes before 9am. They will then begin knocking on those doors to get as many people as they can to go and vote, “preferably for us”, say another volunteer, Jack.

The atmosphere is positive.

“We have a chance,” says Rhiannon. “We believe we can do it, but we do need to work hard and get as many people out as we can. I’m an optimist, I always think we can win.”

tiverton and honiton by-election: tories fail to show up, and lib dems mount final push on polling day
© Provided by The i Despite an email plea to Tory activists to join a ‘dawn raid’ on by-election day, none showed up at the party’s Honiton office at 5am (Photo: David Parsley)

Before I arrived at the Lib Dem base, slap bang in the middle of Honiton’s main street, I had already been to the Conservative’s base in the town, which is not so prominent or accessible, being tucked away around the back of a nearby industrial estate.

On Tuesday the local Tory chair Gillian Evans emailed local members pleading for volunteers to launch their own “Dawn Raid” from its Honiton and Tiverton basecamps at 5am.

That plea fell on deaf ears. There is not a soul to be seen at the Tories’ Honiton office. There’s are thousands of leaflets and dozens of unused boards and stakes to stick them on, but there’s no one around to deliver any of it.

tiverton and honiton by-election: tories fail to show up, and lib dems mount final push on polling day
© Provided by The i Richard Foord is attempting to overcome a daunting 24,239 majority in Tiverton and Honiton (Photo: David Parsley)

Maybe the Conservatives are relaxed, with the belief they are about to cruise to victory. After all they’ve got a massive 24,239 majority to rely on, and they may believe that even the mid-term by-election bandits can’t overcome that.

Or maybe they are resigned to a humiliating loss. We won’t know until the early hours of Friday morning.

If the Tories are confident enough to not bother showing up to distribute leaflets on this lovely summer morning in Devon, their confidence is misplaced.

tiverton and honiton by-election: tories fail to show up, and lib dems mount final push on polling day
© Provided by The i Opinion | Boris Johnson may think he’s Henry VIII, but his own MPs are tiring of his power grabs

While this race between Conservative candidate Helen Hurford and the Liberal Democrats’ Richard Foord is too close to call, there is a chance that we may witness history within the next 24 hours.

If the Lib Dems take this seat, it will be the largest majority even overturned at a by-election, beating the previous record when Labour unseated the Tories in Liverpool Wavertree in the mid-term poll of 1935. It will be a political earthquake, with the aftershocks felt 200 miles away in Downing Street

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