The Conservative candidate in Tiverton and Honiton has blamed the media for stopping the general public from “moving on” from Partygate and twice declined to say that Boris Johnson was sincere.
In an interview with the Guardian, Helen Hurford acknowledged the celebration confronted a really tight battle to retain the beforehand ultra-safe seat and criticised what she known as the media’s “persistent regurgitating of Partygate”. Asked if she believed Boris Johnson was essentially sincere, Hurford twice refused to say.
Hurford, a former headteacher and a Honiton city councillor who now runs a magnificence coaching enterprise, is defending a 24,000-plus majority gained in 2019 by the MP Neil Parish, who resigned in April after admitting he had watched pornography on his telephone within the Commons chamber.
But the byelection on 23 June, which comes on the identical day the Tories defend one other seat in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is broadly seen as an ultra-close race between Hurford and the Liberal Democrat candidate, Richard Foord.
Internal polling by the Lib Dems of these meaning to vote on the day of the byelection, launched on Wednesday, put the Conservatives on 46% and the Lib Dems on 44%.
“I think it’s going to be very tight, and we can’t take anything for granted whatsoever,” Hurford stated. “It could come down to very small numbers.”
Asked why a seat that has been Conservative-held in its varied geographical variations for properly over a century was now below risk, Hurford stated points raised by voters included the price of residing and “what happened with Neil Parish”.
She added: “And thirdly, the media’s persistent regurgitating of Partygate – even though there has been a line drawn in the sand, and there has been a report, it is constantly in the news, and people aren’t allowed to move on from it.”
“So, of course, that’s impacting. That is what I’m hearing on doorsteps as well – people are sick and tired of seeing it. They are sick and tired of hearing it. They want to talk about what’s important.”
Asked if this meant the media had been partially in charge for the Tories’ struggles within the seat, Hurford stated: “It’s not necessarily the media’s fault, but I think it’s time to stop. There needs to be a change of narrative about what is important.”
Hurford stated she did perceive voters’ worries about belief because of the Downing Street events, including: “All I can say is that the byelection is to pick a representative for Tiverton and Honiton, your next MP. As a former headteacher I am very trustworthy. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. This is what is important – the person who is going to be representing you in Westminster.”
Asked if Johnson was equally reliable, she declined to reply instantly, saying: “I will be giving my loyalty to somebody who has been given a third mandate by the party. This has happened. We need to move on.”
Questioned a second time if Johnson was essentially sincere, she replied: “I think Boris thinks that he is an honest person. How I conduct myself is how I conduct myself, and I think you are trying to catch me out here.”
Asked, lastly, if she was comfy going right into a parliamentary celebration led by Johnson, she replied: “I’m comfortable representing Tiverton and Honiton as their MP with the Conservatives, with a prime minister who has once again, for the third time, been shown support by the majority of the party. That is what I will be going for. Everything else has happened. I’m looking forwards to the future.
“I don’t want to play party politics. I don’t want to be drawn into things that have happened. I want to be talking about what I can deliver for Tiverton and Honiton.”