Honiton's long history as true blue heartland - is that set to change on June 23?

A letter from Honiton's first Conservative MP to its people

A letter from Honiton's first Conservative MP to its people - Credit: Honiton Museum

Terry Darrant, archivist at Honiton Museum, writes for the Herald.

A cheque is presented to Min Rennolds of Honiton Memory Café

Terry Darrant, archivist at Honiton Museum - Credit: Martin Long

In recent times the political pendulum appears to be swinging to an era of unprecedented political change. It started with the repainting, to a shade of Tory blue, the numerous ‘red wall’ seats of Northern England in the 2019 General Election.

More recently though, in the shadow of partygate, the country witnessed the seventh greatest ever shift of voter allegiance when the Liberal Democrats not only ‘pulled the rug out from’ but literally stamped the ‘Liberty Bird’ onto the North Shropshire mat that Owen Pattison once stood on.

This previously taken for-granted Tory safe seat has shaken the foundations of virtually every other, with the real likelihood, that the on-going revelations of boozy lockdown parties in Number 10, along with the cost of living crisis, could see many complacent Conservative MPs soon on the dole queue.

The Honiton & Tiverton by-election of June 23 will probably be another moment that could rip up the history books for the Conservative Party.

The former seat of the disgraced porn and tractor loving MP Neil Parish is now up for grabs and other party candidates are now circling, like vultures above this former tory stronghold.

Like North Shropshire Honiton is, or was, easily one of the country’s safest Tory seats. Despite several historic reclassifications of the Parliamentary Boundaries the town has returned a sole Conservative MP to Parliament every year since 1885 (as with Tiverton), and has an unbroken Tory representation going all the way back to 1830; the very dawn of the party’s origins.

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However, this blue line can be traced even further to 1818 when the very first Tory MP, Peregrine Cust (1791-1873), was elected.

Coincidentally, and perhaps ironically, this gentleman was in fact the Uncle and Great Uncle to two Conservative MPs who represented North Shropshire, Charles Cust (1813-1875) and Adelbert Brownlow-Cust (1844-1921) respectively.

Merged with the Parliamentary Borough of Tiverton in 1997 Honiton itself has strong historic, and now modern, parallels with that of its West Midlands counterpart. Formerly a Rotten Borough (a corrupt constituency where the vote could easily be bought) could Honiton’s seat now be another unsticking for non-stick Boris?

On June 23 we’ll discover whether Liberal’s, Richard Foord, or Labour’s, Liz Pole, can tempt the electorate from the blue camp and overthrow Mr Parish’s 2019 majority of 24,239!