Boris Johnson has suffered a disastrous defeat in the Tiverton and Honiton byelection after the Liberal Democrats overturned a Tory majority of more than 24,000 to win the seat.
The Liberal Democrats won 22,537 votes, with Tories second on 16,393.
The spectacular loss of the Devon constituency, held by the Tories since it was created 25 years ago, will be seen as a sign of Johnson’s diminishing electoral appeal after Partygate and as the cost of living crisis escalates.
Losing Tiverton and Honiton will be a particular worry to Tory MPs, not only because of the size of the lost majority but also because it is another rural, Brexit-minded Tory stronghold that has shifted to the Lib Dems.
The Lib Dems took North Shropshire, overturning a Tory majority of nearly 23,000 in December after the former MP, Owen Paterson, quit over a lobbying scandal.
The Tiverton and Honiton byelection was also called in the aftermath of a scandal, when Neil Parish resigned after watching pornography in the Commons.
As voters went to the polls, the Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, said voters were “fed up with Boris Johnson’s lies and neglect”. “Farmers have been sold out by foreign trade deals, people are struggling to access GPs and dentists, and local roads and schools have been left to crumble,” he said.
“Families are facing soaring petrol bills and food prices and this government’s only answer is to hammer them with constant tax rises.”
The new Tiverton and Honiton MP is Richard Foord, a former army officer and prominent local community volunteer.