“I am the only candidate who can win this seat from the Conservatives”, Claire Wright tells packed hall at Sidmouth hustings

From a correspondent:

The popular Independent candidate’s opening statement of this obvious fact was greeted with warm applause tonight by the large audience who attended the hustings at All Saints Church Hall, organised by the Vision Group for Sidmouth.

Six candidates were present: Henry Gent (Green Party); Eleanor Rylance (Liberal Democrat); Peter Faithfull (Independent ); Dan Wilson (Labour), and Claire Wright (Independent).

The Tory candidate, Simon Jupp, had agreed to be there, but withdrew at the last minute, citing an alternative commitment to appearances at late-night shopping events at Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton that evening. Mr Jupp’s agent’s letter, courteously read out by Vision Group’s Peter Murphy,who Chaired the meeting, prompted loud guffaws from the floor.

All candidates acquitted themselves well, but a vote for any except Claire Wright would simply play into Boris Johnson’s hands. Only Claire Wright, with her decade of dedicated service as first a District, and now a County Councillor, could claim to have the “knowledge, experience, and contacts on the ground” to seriously challenge the Tory hold in East Devon.

“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

Jupp accepted Sidmouth hustings invitation on 15 November – pulled out after deciding to shop in Exmouth instead

FRIT! FRIT! FRIT! (see also post below)

OWL DOES HOPE HE WILL BE EMPTY CHAIRED! Maybe replaced with a block of ice!

“Mr Jupp’s campaign manager, Dan Hallet had initially responded to the Vision Group’s invitation to all candidates with a firm acceptance on November 15: “Simon will definitely attend the event scheduled for Fri 6 Dec at 1900,” after which a confirmation and an agenda were sent out to all candidates and released to the press and online.

Hustings chairman Peter Murphy said: “We were rather surprised then when we received a further email on November 24 from Mr Hallet.”

According to VGS, Mr Hallet responded: “I have double-booked Simon to attend late night shopping events and canvassing sessions in the constituency. …”

https://sidmouth.nub.news/n/conservative-candidate-pulls-out-of-sidmouth-hustings-event

“Conservative election candidate pulls out of Sidmouth hustings” – prefers to shop in Budleigh and Exmouth (honestly!)

IF YOU ARE THINKING OF VOTING FOR JUPP – READ THIS! UNBELIEVABLE!

FRIT! FRIT! FRIT!

“The Vision Group for Sidmouth, which is organising the event on Friday (December 6), has confirmed that Mr Jupp will not be taking part in General Election hustings.

According to the group, Mr Jupp is unable to attend due to being double booked.

Mr Jupp said he is attending late night shopping in Sidmouth and Budleigh as well as the Christmas fayre in Exmouth.

The vision group announced last week that the time of the hustings was put back to 7.30pm to ‘complement the late night shopping event and not compete with it’.

The following candidates are scheduled to take part:

Peter Faithfull (Independent), Henry Gent (Green Party), Eleanor Rylance (Liberal Democrats), Daniel Wilson (Labour Party), Claire Wright (Independent).

Peter Clarke, who is set to chair the hustings taking place at All Saints’ Hall, from 7.30pm, said: “Clearly we are disappointed that for the first time we won’t be fielding all election candidates, but obviously are respectful of Mr Jupp’s decision.”

Mr Jupp, who took part in a hustings event held at Exmouth Community College last week, said: “As a supporter of local business, I have a diary commitment to attend late night shopping events and to meet residents in Sidmouth and Budleigh as well as the Christmas Fayre in Exmouth on Friday.

“I and my team have been campaigning hard across the constituency, including Sidmouth.

“It’s a shame the hustings have been organised for this busy Friday night which is crucial for local businesses. …”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/conservative-candidate-pulls-out-of-hustings-1-6406694

Jupp’s boss Raab appears confused about his plan to sell off NHS

Owl says: A vote for anyone other than Claire Wright in East Devon is a vote for Conservatives.

“Speaking on the Today programme, Mr Raab says the Conservatives have been “absolutely clear there is going to be no privatisation of the NHS” in trade talks with the US and there will be “no dilution of our protection of consumers”.

He is asked about a pamplet he co-wrote called “After the Coalition”, which says that two-thirds of hospitals could be run by private companies or not-for-profits.

Mr Raab says that is a “ludicrous assertion”, calling it a “snippet from pamphlet written a long time ago” and adding that he has “never advocated privatisation”.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/election-2019-50638180

Seems like his “communications” specialist Adviser Jupp (the Tory parachuted into East Devon) needs to go back to that Wimbledon flat to give his boss some help … assuming they both have jobs to go back to shortly.

Tory parachute candidate Jupp claims Tories are what’s keeping a few trains running in South West Rail 27 day strike!

How? What have Tories to do with which trains are running or not running in a strike? It’s purely an operational decision. This guy is seriously confused!

Owl knows Boris Johnson is confused – it seems to be contagious!

Daily Mirror tips Claire Wright for victory in general election

MAKE IT SO! Remember a vote for anyone other than Claire Wright is a vote for the parachuted-in Tory.

“East Devon is tipped to change hands, with Conservatives nervous about losing it and the Love Actually actor is urging voters to back independent candidate Claire Wright.

The Tories could be ousted from a seat they’ve held for more than 150 years next week – with an independent candidate hoping to pulling off a historic win.

Claire Wright is tipped by some to win in East Devon, a seat that has traditionally been a safe Conservative constituency.

Love Actually star Hugh Grant has urged Labour, Lib Dem and Green voters to back Ms Wright.

It comes after the MRP YouGov poll, released last week, said East Devon is likely to elect an Independent.

It would be a major blow to the Conservatives if they lose the seat.

Ms Wright, who has stood twice before, has seen her share of the vote rise from 24% in 2015 to 35% in 2017, and is eyeing up a place in Parliament.

It will be an interesting battleground, Devon Live reports, as the Tories lost their district council majority in May after 45 years.

It is now run as a minority administration by Independents.

Their poll had Claire Wright on 41% of the vote, and ranging between 31% and 51% – just six points behind Tory candidate Simon Jupp.

Ms Wright, 44, said: “The past few years have demonstrated that the party system is broken.

“It is time for change. As an Independent, I would have exactly the same rights as other MPs and would work cross-party to achieve my manifesto pledges.

“I am different. I have no party whip to tell me how to vote. I am free to speak and free to act. And free to fight for the issues that the people of East Devon care about the most.

“This election is very unpredictable and presents a rare opportunity for residents to elect an MP who truly cares and puts them first.”

Former broadcaster Mr Jupp, 34, thinks differently.

He said: “I was expecting it to be a bit more difficult and to face a lot of opposition but people just saying to me that they want to get on with it.

“I know it is what you would expect me to say, but people are telling me that they want to get Brexit done.

“I voted to remain, but I back Boris’s Brexit deal, it’s a fantastic deal for this country to move forward.”

Clearly anxious about losing the seat, both Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have visited the constituency in recent weeks.

“All the results and polling point to this seat being a straight fight between myself and the Conservatives.”

The seat has been held by Sir Hugo Swire since 1997. After he announced that he was stepping down earlier this year, he made bullish claims that not only would the Conservatives once again win the seat, but that they would win more than half of the votes.

Former Independent MP Martin Bell thinks that Ms Wright can emulate his own historic win in 1997 in Tatton.

And Hugh Grant has urged East Devon voters to back her. He said: “Dear Lib Dem, Green and Labour voters of East Devon. Do this for your country. We beg you.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tories-could-lose-safe-seat-21009359

Pundit Michael Crick says Claire Wright has got Boris on the ropes!

Well-known political pubdit Michael Crick follows Claire Wright around Exmouth where she gets positive results from voters he encounters.

And he says Jupp can’t doesn’t admit he’s a Tory on his election leaflets, except in very, very small print on the otherwise empty back page.

Crick says maybe Tory Jupp trying to fool voters into thinking HE is the Independent!!!

https://www.mailplus.co.uk/tv/the-michael-crick-report/781/our-man-visits-exmouth-to-meet-the-independent-candidate-whos-got-boris-on-the-ropes

After 9 years in power Johnson still tries to blame Labour for anything and everything

Scrutiny – what scrutiny! How can parachuted-in Tory candidate Jupp wish to work for this ogre?

“As an exhibition in shameless buck-passing and politicising of a tragedy, it was hard to beat Boris Johnson yesterday.

On national TV, the mask slipped and the fairly disciplined and boringly repetitive candidate we have seen for the last few weeks was revealed as the Bullingdon bully he is.

By talking over, talking back, by dodging and weaving, by deploying straight out lies, Johnson tried to pin the responsibility for the early release of the London Bridge terrorist on a Labour government of nine years ago.

When asked about his own Tory Government of the last decade, that has closed courts, stripped the prison and probation service of budgets and the wherewithal to manage released felons, he squirmed that it was not his government.

It was the Johnson version of “someone else did it and ran away”.

It wasn’t statesmanlike, it wasn’t truthful, it wasn’t even dignified,considering the father of one of the victims had explicitly made a call not to use his son’s death as an excuse for flogging stiffer sentences in an election atmosphere.

It is easy to see why this cowardly Conservative lion is running from the scrutiny of the public.

He’s also running scared from Andrew Neil, though he blustered that he would submit to an interview by the Scots media prosecutor – if only the time could be found.

It is growing increasingly clear that Johnson is unfit for the office of Prime Minister.

The more people see of him, the more obvious it becomes to voters.

He is trying to sneak back into Downing Street without scrutiny and without giving account of himself.

If the polls are to be believed, voters in Scotland have already decided to reject Boris.

Hopefully voters in England will wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late.”

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/shameless-coward-boris-johnson-tries-21006507