Claire Wright: the one to watch, the one to vote for

“… Claire, who lives in Ottery St Mary, is currently an Ottery St Mary town councillor and is the Devon County Councillor for the Otter Valley ward. She did represent Ottery St Mary on East Devon District Council from May 2011 to 2015, when she stood down.

She says that she has been a campaigner from the start – her first campaign letter was written when she was just nine when she wrote to the Brazilian Embassy demanding that they stopped killing dolphins for the eyeballs.

She made a foray into public relations and started working for the NHS in 2000. She said: “I set up campaigns on stopping smoking, coughs and sneezes spread diseases (in case pandemic flu arrived in the UK) and while working at Devon County Council in 2007, I established a campaign to improve adults’ perceptions of young people – called ‘Don’t Judge Us Before You Know Us!’.”

She took a step into the world of politics in 2009 when there was ‘the threat’ of a Tesco store coming to Ottery St Mary. It mobilised her to join the Sustainable Ottery’s campaign against it and it was from there that she joined Ottery St Mary Town Council.

As a councillor, she battled to get funding for West Hill’s very first play park and helped to improve the broadband service in the area.

In May 2011, she stood for election to East Devon District Council, and managed to oust long-standing conservative leader of the council, Sara Randall Johnson in the process – her first political giant-killing.

She said: “As an EDDC councillor I focused on two main themes – encouraging more transparency and openness – and trying to save the district from a very real threat of over-development.”

In May 2013, she was elected to Devon County Council where she is a member of the health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee, and she retained her seat in May 2017 with a massive majority.

In May 2015, she stood in the parliamentary elections in East Devon, running against foreign office minister, Hugo Swire.

She came second with 13,140 votes and a 24 per cent share, polling the most votes of any Independent in the country since 2001, when Independent, Dr Richard Taylor won Wyre Forest.

Now, in 2017, she is standing again, and her ‘people power’ army have hit the streets.

She only stood after she managed to secure an “army” of helpers and a crowdfunding appeal raised over £12,000 in just four weeks: with 75 per cent of donations being in small amounts of £50 or under.

One of Claire’s team said: “Claire stood up to Hugo in 2015, and despite a brilliant campaign got knocked back down. Instead of accepting defeat, she used that experience as a platform from which to fight even harder for the people of East Devon. If you’d asked me when I moved down here in 1995 that my vote could make a difference in this safe rural Tory seat, I would have laughed.”

But now the team are quietly confident that the support they’re feeling on the streets will be translated into a massive vote this Thursday.

“One of my team was stopped in the street by a man waving my manifesto who wanted more information: he will be voting for me. Young people voting for the first time, older people who are worried about the dementia tax, doctors, teachers, mothers with young children, students, the unemployed, a whole range of professions, all are uniting in a shared desire for a passionate, caring, hardworking MP for East Devon.

“A Sidmouth woman marrying an Exmouth man took time out from her wedding day on Saturday to have her photo taken with one of my boards. All her family are voting for me this time’.”

Joshua and Jamie Anderson (aged 21 and 19 respectively) are from Exton on the river Exe. They said: “We would prefer to vote for our own parties, but having read Claire Wright’s manifesto, we are happy to put our preferences aside and vote for her. For too long, the Tories have treated East Devon as a safe seat and Mr Swire has been neglecting us – and getting away with it. Whatever party you belong to, we need to rally now behind Claire Wright, our only hope in East Devon.”

West Hill resident and Claire’s team member Lisa Simpson said: “I’ve been a Labour supporter since I was old enough to vote and never contemplated supporting another party, nor indeed tactical voting, but I was won over, not only by a realistic opportunity to unseat a Conservative MP but by Claire’s integrity and work ethic.”

Claire added: “There are disenchanted Conservatives, angry that their man, Hugo Swire, did not bother to attend hustings, showing their support. The local Green party is backing me all the way.

“But more importantly, people who’ve never voted before, young voters, people who abstained last time, are realising they can be part of a quiet revolution right here in Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth. We’re demonstrating a new way of doing politics that responds to local people and seeks consensus rather than confrontation.”

Claire has been endorsed by tactical voting sites Best for Britain and Tactical 2017 and even Booker prize-winning writer Hilary Mantel has endorsed her campaign, saying ‘she is local, energetic and knowledgeable… Claire Wright is the candidate who will speak up for Devon East.'”