Council leader slams former MP over hospital bed closures, following release of wife’s revealing memoir

The leader of East Devon District Council, Paul Arnott, has offered a scathing criticism of former MP Hugo Swire, following the publication of his wife’s explosive memoir.

Francesca Evans 

East Devon District Council leader Paul Arnott (left) has criticised former MP Hugo Swire following the release of his wife's memoir (pictured inset)

East Devon District Council leader Paul Arnott (left) has criticised former MP Hugo Swire following the release of his wife’s memoir (pictured inset)

Lady Sasha Swire’s ‘Diary of an MP’s Wife: Inside and Outside Power’ has been described in the national press as “jaw-dropping” and “indiscreet” as she lays bare the secrets of her high-powered Conservative friends, including former Prime Minister David Cameron.

But it is matters much closer to home that led Councillor Arnott to describe the book as a “political obituary for a truly dreadful MP” this week.

Councillor Arnott, leader of the Independent East Devon Alliance, made the comments during a virtual meeting of Colyton Parish Council – on which he also serves – while giving his regular update on district council matters.

He said discussing the book was “probably not appropriate for a formal meeting” but described it as a “hell of a read”.

“I suppose the principal interest is in what was in fact our former MP, before the boundary was changed several years back, Hugo Swire, referring to his own local councillors and faithful party supporters as ‘toilet seats’,” he commented.

Councillor Arnott went on to say that the book had made it “absolutely clear” that Sir Hugo – who served as MP for East Devon from 2001 to 2019 – had “meddled” in the controversial closure of local hospital beds.

He said: “The really serious side of it is that it’s absolutely clear when, against all evidence Seaton Hospital lost its inpatient beds to benefit Sidmouth – even though that wasn’t the recommendation to come out of the committee concerned – it’s absolutely clear from this book that he had meddled, as we had suspected, in that entire matter and he did a bit of grandstanding at Ottery St Mary Hospital essentially to spite Claire Wright.”

Devon county councillor Claire Wright stood against Sir Hugo as an Independent candidate in 2015 and 2017, and against his successor Simon Jupp in 2019.

In her book, Lady Swire said her husband launched a campaign to save Ottery hospital in a deliberate attempt to anger Cllr Wright, as she had been campaigning on the issue for several years.

Councillor Arnott concluded: “I think this is as good as a political obituary for a truly dreadful MP, who won’t be missed by me.”

Sir Hugo told Nub News he “would not dignify any comment made by that man with a response”.