“Devon County Councillor Claire Wright could hold the fate of the country in her hands, bookmakers Ladbrokes are suggesting.
The Independent councillor for the Otter Valley ward has twice stood for election to Parliament and on both occasions came second behind the Conservatives.
But following Sir Hugo Swire announcing last week that he will be stepping down from his role as the MP for East Devon at the next election, Cllr Wright has declared that she will once again be standing. She is now the favourite to take over from Sir Hugo.
Flavible Politics, making projections based on a ComRes poll from September 12 have her winning the East Devon seat in their latest election predictions.
New Statesman political correspondent Patrick Maguire, had also said that apart from North Down, East Devon is just about the only seat in the UK that could plausibly be won by an independent.
Ladbrokes have set the odds on who will have the most seats after the next election at 10/11 for both a coalition of the Conservatives, DUP and the Brexit Party and a coalition of the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and the Social Democratic and Labour Party, any elected Independents could determine who the next Prime Minister is.
Posting on Twitter, Ladbrokes said: “It looks like Jason Zadrozny and Claire Wright will get to choose who the next PM is.”
Cllr Jadrozny is the leader of Ashfield District Council, currently run by the Ashfield Independents.
Cllr Wright said on Twitter that she could handle the pressure and that if there is an election soon, she hopes to be East Devon’s MP.
She said: “Over the last three years the Conservatives have been focusing on two things. One to save the party from Nigel Farage and to do that they have basically turned the party into the Brexit Party. Secondly, they have been focusing on cutting public services.
“I see the damage that those austerity policies have done in my ward every single week. Party politics does seem to be broken. The two main parties are irretrievably split. The Conservatives in particular seem to be intent on self-destruction and I think Hugo Swire’s resignation is very much part of that.
“East Devon residents deserve someone who is not going to be tied to the party whip, who is not going to be chasing a ministerial career, but someone who is going to have one agenda only, and that is to put their views and needs above everything else.
“If there is an election in the next few weeks, I hope that I can be that MP.”
She said that the announcement that Mr Swire would not stand in the next election was a shock, but that she has been preparing with her team for a year and that they have recently ramped up their preparations.
Predicting a November election she said: “This will be my third election and my team and I are ready to build on the two previous elections.
“The momentum in 2017 and the excitement and energy was incredible – it felt then that I could win, and now we are that much further on.
“I was a serious threat. Brian May backed me before the last election as one of his ‘common decency’ election candidates.
“I think East Devon will be close whoever the Conservatives put forward. This is the Tory heartland. East Devon has been Conservative for 150 years. That’s what I’m up against. It’s a huge challenge.
“This will be my third general election and my manifesto will be based on a survey I carried out at the beginning of this year. Hundreds and hundreds of people filled out the survey and I feel confident I know the issues that people are concerned about in East Devon.
“The Conservatives have just been disastrous for the country – they have gone from one crisis to the next. It’s been like watching a slow car crash – and in the last few weeks it’s turned into absolute meltdown.
“The whole Tory agenda is simply about saving their own skin. The rhetoric seems to be about how they can out-Brexit the Brexit party and turn themselves into the new Brexit party.
“The things they should have been focusing on are public services and the environment. Devon County Council has lost £100m from its budget and all the people in Devon have lost out on services as a result of those cuts.”
Announcing his decision to stand down, Hugo Swire, who has been the MP for the area since 2001, said: “At a meeting earlier of the Executive if the East Devon Conservative Association I announced that I would not be standing for re-election as the Member of Parliament.
“It was my original intention to stand down in 2022, when the next general election was scheduled to be held.”
He continued: “I served in a number of different roles in opposition, including in the shadow cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. In Government I was first appointed as Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office and then Minister of State in the Foreign Commonwealth Office.
“Whilst I was honoured to have been appointed to these roles, my greatest privilege has been to serve my constituents, regardless of their political allegiance, I am truly grateful for consistently returning me at elections and will continue to serve them to the best of my ability until an election is called.”
Reaffirming his support to Mr Johnson, he added: “We live in challenging political times, but I remain convinced that to bring the country back together we need to deliver on Brexit and I shall continue to support the Prime Minster and the Government in their endeavours.”
Bruce de Saram, chairman of East Devon Conservatives, said: “East Devon Conservatives would like to thank Hugo for his outstanding work as our MP since 2001 and also his service as a Northern Ireland and Foreign Office Minister, where he developed a passion for the Commonwealth among his many other interests.
“Hugo rose to the challenge of being our MP, winning five general elections. He has continually challenged injustice with great passion and been very visible in the constituency, standing up for local residents.
“We are very sorry to say goodbye to him and wish him well for the future.
“We will now begin a process to select a candidate to build on Hugo’s excellent work.”