“Disgruntled Tories may stay at home in East Devon, giving Independent candidate Claire Wright a chance”

Tory parachuted-in candidate described as “straight from Tory central casting” – love it!

“Independent candidate Claire Wright is gaining ground on the Conservatives:

Fake news, the ripping down of posters, an independent candidate with a chance of winning, and a new Conservative candidate helicoptered in from central casting.

The sleepy coastal constituency of East Devon is not at all used to such excitement at election time. This, according to pretty much any expert you choose to listen to, is the only seat in the UK where the independent has a realistic chance of winning a seat in Westminster.

That independent candidate is Claire Wright, currently a local councillor and a lifelong resident of the constituency.

The i politics newsletter cut through the noise

“I am going to win. I can feel it here,” she says raising her hand to her chest.

Her confidence is not entirely misplaced. It is clear that Ms Wright is the only candidate in East Devon that can beat the Conservatives for the first time in 156 years.

Boris Johnson visited an East Devon farm shop in an attempt to give the Conservative candidate a boost.

The Tories are clearly concerned at the momentum building for Ms Wright. So much so that Boris Johnson popped up in a local farm shop to support his candidate on Thursday. The same day Ms Wright gained her own celebrity endorsement from Hugh Grant.

Mr Johnson showed up to extol the virtues of Simon Jupp, who has left his role as an adviser to Dominic Raab in the Treasury in an attempt to retain the constituency for the Conservatives following the retirement of Hugo Swire, who bequeathed him a majority of just over 8,000 to defend.

Third time lucky?

While such a buffer would usually suffice, Ms Wright believes her third attempt at the seat is going to send Jupp back to London with his tail between his legs.

Since her first effort in 2015, Ms Wright has all but wiped out support for the Liberal Democrats, and, after the 2017 election, slashed the Tory majority by a third.

“There’s three key things that are different this time around,” says Ms Wright. “First, the funding has been much easier this time around. We’re not quite at our expenses limit of £16,000, but we’re not far off.

“Second, we’re finding far more people know who I am in this campaign, and, third, more and more of them realise that voting for me as an independent candidate is not a wasted vote. They know what I stand for and they know I can win this.”

During her decade in district and county politics Ms Wright has been a vociferous campaigner for local NHS services, environmental matters and education. Indeed, if you put her manifesto pledges next to those of the Liberal Democrats, then you would be hard pushed to notice much difference.

A ‘final’ Brexit referendum

However, one area where she does move away from the Lib Dems is on Brexit. She advocates a second, and final, referendum on this most divisive of issues.

“In that second referendum, I will campaign to remain,” she says. “Clearly, my opponent is pro-Brexit and there’s a distinct difference in our positions on this and so many other incredibly important issues facing people today. I want to boost our local services, while the government has cut funding to them. I want to keep the smaller hospitals like the one we have here in Exmouth open. The Conservative cuts means they could be forced to close. I want to make huge changes in the way we tackle the climate emergency immediately. The Conservatives don’t.”

While the 54 per cent of voters in the East Devon district opted in favour of Brexit, the Parliamentary constituency map extends a little further to the west and into the suburbs of remain voting Exeter. This means the split between leavers and remainers is almost straight down the middle in the Parliamentary seat.

After an hour talking in the Exmouth ice cream parlour owned by her enthusiastic campaign manager Tony Badcott, she drives up to the Brixington area of this beach-loving community to knock on some doors, trying to convince more voters of her ability to represent them in the Commons.

In previous campaigns Ms Wright had not focused her efforts on such areas because they were considered staunch Tory. However, there does appear to be something of a shift. As she walks from door to door, there are two clear themes. Either people are voting for her, or those that did vote Conservative last time remain undecided. The undecideds are in the clear majority, with several Brexiteers suggesting they will not bother voting.

“I voted for Brexit and for the Tories, but they didn’t get Brexit done,” said one animated voter. “I’m not going to bother voting for any of them. They all just lie, and lie and lie.”

While this is clearly a vote Ms Wright cannot count on, it is an indication of what could be the determining factor in East Devon. The more disgruntled, Brexit-backing Conservative voters stay at home on polling day, the greater her odds of winning will be.

Such a victory would be an extraordinary event, as it would be the first ever victory for an independent candidate that has faced competition from all the main parties. There’s no Remain pact here. The Lib Dems and Green Party candidates are currently refusing to give Ms Wright her blessing, despite the fact that their votes could prove crucial in preventing what they do not want most – a Conservative victory.

A new ‘local newspaper’ appears

During the afternoon’s canvassing a member of Ms Wright’s small army of committed volunteers gets in touch with her, after receiving the first, and probably only, edition of East Devon Future through her letterbox. Only on close inspection, and with the help of some magnification for many, does it become clear this ‘local paper’ is nothing of the kind. It is funded, in fact, by the Conservative and Unionist Party.

“It’s fake news,” says Ms Wright. “It’s a clear attempt to deceive voters.”

Conservative central office has posted this newspaper through voters’ letterboxes.

Just an hour or so later, as darkness begins to fall on her campaigning in Brixington, Ms Wright also learns that one of her large campaign boards had been ripped down by “two men dressed in black”. Things are certainly ramping up with only 12 days of campaigning left.

As for Ms Wright’s Conservative opponent, he appears to have realised tide on the River Exe could be turning against him. At Thursday’s hustings at Exmouth Community College, Mr Jupp could not apologise enough for what the Conservatives have delivered, or, for many in the audience, failed to deliver in a raft of areas such as the NHS, education and the environment.

“I am sorry for that,” he began several answers with, hoping the voters would now trust him to make things better.

Ms Wright says: “It was a surprise to hear him lament the ‘scandal that food banks exist’, that the NHS had been ‘neglected’ and to declare that ‘funding has been far too low for far too long’ in our schools.

“His admission that the Conservatives had been ‘not too friendly toward teachers in the past’ will come as no surprise to the watching teachers at Exmouth Community college. They had to write a begging letter to parents when there was not enough money to buy simple materials.”

While no one i spoke to, other than Ms Wright herself, could say she will win for sure, the pressure is certainly on Mr Jupp to deliver for the current occupant of No.10.

When one member of that hustings audience interrupted him to highlight “the devastation Tory austerity cuts had caused” cracks in the Conservative candidate’s composure began to show.

“Don’t heckle,” Mr Jupp snapped back at the voter. “It’s quite rude.”

You get the feeling there’s a lot more heckling left in this race yet.”

https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/general-election-2019-disgruntled-conservative-party-voting-east-devon-claire-wright-1328557

Lib Dems Swinson – brightest bright blue Tory

REMEMBER: a vote for East Devon Lib Dems is a vote for the parachuted-in Tory – only Claire Wright can win against him.

“Jo Swinson has apologised for voting to cut benefits while serving in government with the Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrat leader told the BBC’s Andrew Neil her party had been wrong to back the so-called bedroom tax in the coalition government and “we should have stopped it”.

Although some cuts were needed when her party came into office in 2010, she suggested austerity had gone too far.
Her party was committed to spend more on welfare and childcare, she added.

During the 30-minute interview, to be broadcast on BBC One at 19.30 GMT, Ms Swinson was repeatedly challenged on her party’s record in government between 2010 and 2015 and her personal backing for cuts to benefits and Sure Start children’s centres.

She acknowledged she had voted nine times for the bedroom tax, the controversial policy which saw working-age families in council or housing association homes docked housing benefit if they were deemed to have more bedrooms than they needed. …

… Pressed by Mr Neil on whether the almost 10 years of austerity was a “necessary evil or terrible mistake”, she replied: “Clearly too much was cut, clearly not enough was raised from taxation.

“And certainly the investment should have kicked in earlier in terms of more borrowing for capital investment. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50660212

“‘Hello there!’ Hilarious moment Boris caught ‘lasciviously’ flirting with Turkish reporter”

No, Daily Express – sycophantic supporters of Boris Johnson and Conservatives- it ISN’T hilarious – it’s mysogenistic, patronising and insulting and demeaning to women.

But then, you wouldn’t understand that.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1212981/boris-johnson-nato-summit-press-conference-turkish-reporter-video

Budleigh Salterton primary school pleads for volunteers after massive funding cuts

A plea has been made for volunteers to come forward to help children at Budleigh Salterton’s cash-strapped primary school.

The lack of government funding for schools has intensified the need for members of the Budleigh community to help at St Peter’s.

According to National Education Union website schoolcuts.org.uk

St Peter’s, in Moor Lane, faces a £70,000 shortfall in its budget next year – equating to £243 per pupil.

Classroom assistants, language support, swimming helpers and pupil mentors are among the roles the school, which already has a band of 25 volunteers, is looking to fill.

Headteacher Steve Hitchcock said the financial pressure on the school means volunteering at the school is even more important.

He said: “We are lucky – we do have quite a big army of volunteers already.

“We are looking for people who can help out in school, particularly with younger children and help them 
with their learning and play.

“We are asking if anyone else in our community would be able to offer a bit of their time each week to help us grow and nurture the pupils at our school.

“Volunteering is definitely something we were doing anyway, but the need has become bigger in the last three or four years.

“Each year, we have lost teaching staff and have not been able to replace them so we rely on volunteers more and more.”

As well as the volunteers who help out at school, members of the PTA have given up their time to raise funds for St Peter’s.

Mr Hitchcock said that without them, the school’s new on-site library would not have been possible.

The school has also asked for financial contributions from parents to help keep the school afloat.

Anyone interested in volunteering will be subject to background checks and Mr Hitchcock said a love of working with children is vital.

He said: “I have done job descriptions to give people an idea of the range of things we are looking for them to do.”

Visit the school website or pop in to the office for more information on how to become a school volunteer.

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/budleigh-primary-school-volunteer-plea-1-6406166

“Land values funding row set to throw Axminster masterplan and relief road plans into chaos”

As reported by Owl a week ago:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/11/29/axminster-master-plan-back-to-the-drawing-board-but-dont-upset-the-developers/

“A row over land values is set to scupper a masterplan that would see more than 800 new homes and the long-awaited relief road for Axminster built.

The Axminster North East Urban Extension masterplan for 850 homes was adopted in January, and also includes employment land, open spaces and community facilities.

It also included the £16.7m north-south relief road that aims to end the severe congestion, pollution and HGVs having to travel on the existing road that runs through the centre of the town.

East Devon District Council had successfully bid for a £10m Homes England Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) grant that would be used to help fund the delivery of the crucial new relief road, only for the government agency to change their mind and turn the grant into a loan. …

Outlining the situation in his report, Mr Freeman says that the land owners have been contacted but are unwilling to reduce their expectations.

The Crown Estate who own their land outright advised that the value attributed to their land is fixed by what they actually paid and cannot therefore be renegotiated, he said, adding the land owners whose land is optioned to Persimmon Homes were not willing to entertain this option, stating that if they could not realise their expected values they would simply continue to farm the land and await a more attractive offer in the future. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/land-values-funding-row-set-3608294

“Boris Johnson shuts down press conference after question on NHS in a trade deal”

“Boris Johnson abruptly shut down a press conference after being asked if he had spoken to Donald Trump about ruling the NHS out of a future US/UK trade deal.

Asked by the Independent if he had made it “crystal clear” to Donald Trump that “neither the NHS or pharmaceuticals” should be part of future trade negotiations, the PM threw a bit of a huff and said he wouldn’t answer any more questions.

It comes after the Mirror revealed plans from predatory US health firms who believe the British market will be easier to crack after Brexit .

Mr Johnson seemed to be trying to strike a different tone from Trump – who just minutes earlier cancelled his post conference press conference.

But the PM’s open approach changed when he was quizzed about the row around NHS drug prices.

A visibly riled Mr Johnson brought questions to a juddering halt.

He began blustering:”I think everybody by now has rumbled all this for the nonsense that it is.

“I think I might wind up this press conference now because I think we’re starting to scrape the barrel.” “

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson-shuts-down-press-21024829