Tiverton and Honiton could be in line for a Lib Dem MP, after the Devon constituency was vacated by Neil Parish. Parish’s penchant for watching porn in Parliament has meant the Tories could lose their majority of 24,000 in the by-election next month.

The Lib Dems smell blood. They started campaigning even before an election date was set, intent upon replicating their impressive victories in North Shropshire and Chesham and Amersham last year. Both constituencies swung from blue to yellow.

The Lib Dems are looking to cement themselves as the protest party against the Tories, at least in the south. Lib Dem leader Ed Davey called his party “an anti-Tory campaigning machine.” 

The Conservatives, fearing they may be in for a significant defeat despite a whopping majority, have reportedly told their candidate, Helen Hurford, not to speak to the press so that she doesn’t have to answer questions about Partygate.

Hurford, by all accounts, is actually quite popular in the consistency, owing to her current role as the deputy mayor of Honiton, and the fact that she is a local. But this might not be enough for the embattled Tories – it has been suggested that Hurford is little more than an “electoral sacrifice.”

Many constituents have become disaffected with the Conservatives, and not only because of the mass of scandals emanating from Westminster. They feel that Tiverton and Honiton has received little investment, with the same promises remaining unfulfilled year after year. The buoyant Lib Dems released figures today showing the constituency has the worst ambulance waiting times in Devon.

Hurford’s local charm is also a string that the Lib Dem candidate, Richard Foord, has to his bow. Foord, an ex-army major who served for ten years, in both Iraq and the Balkans, was born in the West Country, and lives in the constituency. Foord has promised voters that he will act on the cost-of-living crisis and ambulance waiting times – saying that the Tories are “taking rural communities in Devon for granted.”

After years in the political wilderness, the Lib Dems are on the march. Next month’s by-election will be a test of just how worried the Tories should be.