Cllr Clarissa Slade: Why I think Devon's Exeter needs to be targeted

The recent General and local Elections saw Devon become completely blue in all but one of its constituencies.

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North Devon and Torbay, won by Peter Heaton-Jones and Kevin Foster respectfully, were originally Liberal Democrat seats now turned blue. Plymouth Moorview, won by Johnny Mercer, went from Labour to Conservative. In many other constituencies, Conservative MPs increased their majorities. One of these being Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, who increased his majority of 9,320 from 2010 to 20,173. This makes his seat one of the safest seats in Devon.

But despite this monumental win in Devon, Exeter remained. Despite the hard work of Dom Morris, our candidate, who gained 17,000 votes from Exeter's 121,800 population, but he couldn't quite manage to oust incumbent Ben Bradshaw of the Labour.

During the run up to the election, Exeter managed to gain recognition from CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) from all the campaigning they did and raising lots of funds to support Dom Morris' campaign to become Exeter's first Conservative MP since John Hannam who retired in 1997.  

On the Council front in Devon, 7 out of the 8 Districts returned or gained a Conservative majority ranging between 18 and 35. On Exeter City Council we lost seats to Labour, who kept their majority. We have 5 seats on Exeter City, thanks to a recent win in a by-election by Cynthia Thompson on August 13th 2015 with 755 votes with the Labour Candidate getting 749 votes, with the Labour and Cooperative Party holding 1 seat and Labour holding the majority with 8 seats.

The future of Conservative electoral prospects in Exeter do show promising signs. When asking local members, Oliver Holman said “There is no reason why Exeter can't be a Conservative seat but it won't be Conservative if Bradshaw is still around. He has this reputation around Exeter for being this open-minded, understanding MP who can contribute to an amazing ethic but in reality he isn't.”

Another member, Lewis Rawlinson, said  “We need to prove to the people of Exeter that this government is working in the interests of them and their families, we need to show how cutting taxes and red tape allows businesses to grow and expand and employ more people and furthermore we need to highlight Labour's failures within the constituency. Most importantly we need to have a continuous presence on the streets of Exeter; engaging with people at the grass roots level, as in my view, politics has become far too distant for many people to be involved and have any real connection with their representative and we need to return to that and as a first step is to turn Exeter blue.

In order to completely paint Devon blue, we must focus our efforts on winning Exeter. To do this, we will need all hands on deck and support from across the county and wider South West region. In order to completely guarantee support from further afield, Exeter would benefit from marginal seat status. By securing the necessary resources and additional assistance, combined with an enthusiastic candidate and campaign team, Exeter will be more likely to go Tory in 2020. 

Clarissa is Mid Devon District Councillor and Tiverton Town Councillor

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