East Devon: Candidates for Honiton and Sidmouth, Exmouth and Exeter east constituencies set out their stalls ahead of a General Election

With a General Election expected to be called sometime in 2024, local democracy reporter Will Goddard spoke to the candidates with their sights set on serving areas across East Devon and Exeter.

Honiton and Sidmouth is one of the new constituencies that will replace East Devon at the next general election.

This follows a review by the Independent Boundary Commission for England.

Members of Parliament continue to serve their current constituencies until the next election.

Lib Dem Honiton and Sidmouth candidate

East Devon

Richard Foord.
Image: Philip Churn/LDR.

It’s “all to play for” in the newly formed Honiton and Sidmouth seat at the next general election, according to Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord.

The current MP for Tiverton and Honiton believes people are fed up with the current Conservative government, and that he has a real prospect of winning.

A former British Army major, the 45-year-old was voted in during a by-election in 2022 following the resignation of former Tory MP Neil Parish after he watched pornography in the House of Commons.

Mr Foord, who is married with three children and lives in Uffculme, will go head-to-head with East Devon Tory MP Simon Jupp in the contest for the new constituency.

Large parts of the new seat is formed from the current East Devon and Tiverton and Honiton constituencies, which up until last year’s by-election win   by Mr Foord for the Lib Dems, have always been Conservative. His majority is 6,144.

Simon Jupp margin in the general election in 2019 was only marginally higher at 6,708. The runner-up with over 40 per cent of the vote was independent Claire Wright, who is backing Mr Foord.

Richard Foord MP said: “I think the fact that she came very close when the Conservatives nationally did so well in the 2019 general election… indicates that this part of the constituency, Sidmouth, Ottery, West Hill should not be taken for granted by the Conservatives.

“The feedback that I’ve been getting on the doorstep is very much that even long-term Conservative voters are at this time, in these circumstances, frustrated with this Conservative government and looking for an alternative.”

Asked whether he thought he only won by a protest vote, as is often the case with by-elections, he said: “If we’re presenting it that by-elections are somehow different, I would say these are not usual times and the government’s polling has not improved since the by-election in June last year.

“The popularity of Rishi Sunak as prime minister has hit lows that Boris Johnson didn’t quite reach.

“I would definitely say it’s very much all to play for and it will come down to potentially every last vote.

“I grew up here in the westcountry. I came of political age at a time when the Liberal Democrats controlled most constituencies here.

“When I was first able to vote in 1997, and at the subsequent election in 2001, you could walk from Truro to Bristol on Lib Dem-held territory.”

If elected, Mr Foord says he will tackle healthcare problems, seek to boost the local economy, and put pressure on water companies to reduce sewage spills.

He said: “I do feel that if we begin to lose community hospitals like the one in Seaton, it could be the thin end of the wedge for community hospitals more broadly.

“Sidmouth has a community hospital, Ottery has a community hospital. I think we really need to protect these things because what I’m hearing on doorsteps is people want to be able to have access to healthcare close to home.

“Linked to that, we have NHS dental services that are collapsing. NHS dentistry is something I care very deeply about. I also know that it’s something my constituents care very deeply about.

“We need to have a local economy that enables businesses to thrive. This is where local politics meets national politics, because businesses cannot thrive if there isn’t a stable business environment for them to work in.

“I’m hearing myself from businesses, large and small, that they want to get back to a time when politics was predictable.  They don’t like the uncertainty that our politics has brought us in recent years. And that… has had the effect of places closing up, shops shutting up, pubs shutting up. Hospitality is big business in this part of the world.

“We know that sewage dumping is rife here on the Jurassic Coast and on the broader East Devon coast.  I think we need to take the responsibility for water quality monitoring away from the water companies, because it has been found that some of them have not been revealing all of the data that they should to the regulator, the Environment Agency.

“The Liberal Democrats have been very strong in this area. We want to see water companies run as public benefit companies.

“We want to see people with environmental concerns… community representatives with environmental concerns on the board of these companies, so that they’re not run purely to extract profit.”

A general election is expected to be called this year, and must be held by the end of January 2025.

Also standing as a candidate for the new constituency of Honiton and Sidmouth:

Simon Jupp – the current MP for East Devon

Simon Jupp.
Photo: Gareth Williams Photography.

Writing on his website, Simon said: “Home is where the heart is and I am proud to be a candidate standing in Honiton & Sidmouth who is lucky enough to live in the new constituency. I have a proven track record of delivering action, not just words.

“Since I was elected in 2019, I have successfully secured a new school to replace Tipton St John Primary, £15.7m from the Levelling Up Fund, a new police station for Exmouth, and the planned reopening of Honiton’s police enquiry desk, and a confirmed banking hub for Sidmouth.

“Following my recent debate in Parliament on South West Water’s poor performance, over £35 million of investment was announced for Sidmouth, Tipton St John & Axminster to clean up our rivers and coastline.

“I have set up a dedicated local office that is open to the public and have held surgeries across the constituency, making it easier for residents to speak to me for advice and help. I have continued to meet residents in our towns and villages over the last few months and I won’t be taking any vote for granted.

“I have been out on the doorsteps speaking to residents already and look forward to getting back out in the coming days, weeks and months.”

Exmouth and Exeter East Tory candidate 

East Devon

David Reed.
Photo: Conservatives.

Tory election hopeful for the newly formed Exmouth and Exeter East constituency David Reed says he takes “nothing for granted” and is “going to have to work extremely hard” to win at the general election.

Exmouth and Exeter East map.
Image: Boundary Commission/Google.

The new seat contains much of the previous East Devon one, including Exmouth, Lympstone, Topsham and Budleigh Salterton, but will also have eastern parts of Exeter such as Pinhoe.

East Devon has always been Conservative, while Exeter has been in Labour’s hands since Tony Blair first came to power in 1997.

A former royal marine, Mr Reed was born in Carshalton in the London borough of Sutton and now lives in the Broadclyst area.

He said: “St Loyes and Topsham have been Conservative for long periods of time. Pinhoe probably had more of an identity within the city but there are still lots of Conservative, or people that are aligned with the Conservative party, in that ward as well.

“I take nothing for granted. I am going to have to work extremely hard. I have to actually demonstrate and prove to people in the constituency that I’m up for the job.

“That means going out, knocking on lots of doors, speaking to people, going to local events.

“Since being selected in July, that has been my main thing, to go out and listen first of all, before creating any policies, go out and listen to what the main issues are.”

A former wingsuit jumper, the 34-year-old currently works for defence firm BAE Systems and is getting married in the summer.

Asked about his relative political inexperience, he said: “I would like to think that I’ve actually packed a lot into my life so far.

“I’ve been very close to central government policy for a long time, and I’ve been on the sharp end of delivering that policy, either through the military or in other jobs that I’ve done, or in the defence industry.

“I’m coming in knowing how the state works, understanding how to bid for central government money, how to write an effective bid, which is very, very important, and then how to actually work with relevant authorities to actually get on the job and actually deliver those things.

“It takes a long time to see how that puzzle fits together, but I come good to go.”

Mr Reed describes himself as ‘centre-right.’ On being a Conservative, he said: “It comes down to values. A big part of why I’m a Conservative now is the Labour education policy. I remember being in secondary school and that policy being brought out. They wanted 50 per cent of school leavers to go to university.

“Now that policy sounds fantastic and obviously everyone wants more education. But it’s not realistic.

“When I look at the Conservative government, it’s based less on ideology and idealism and more on being a pragmatic person that can deliver.

“Looking back to when the first Conservative government came in 2010, that came out with everything that David Cameron was saying, that yes, we can’t promise everything. It’s after the financial crash. We need to sort out our finances. We need to make some tough decisions.

“That, for me, was responsible, pragmatic governance. That turned me on a lot more to the idea of the Conservative Party.

“I would definitely put myself in the centre-right camp. But at the same time, there are some policies that you need to be slightly more right-wing on, and there are policies that you maybe need to be slightly more left-wing on.

“I would never entrench myself in an ideology that didn’t give me room to manoeuvre.”

Three key issues he will address if elected are reducing sewage spills, improving social care access, and promoting apprenticeships.

He said: “I want to see first of all a reduction in unnecessary sewage outflows.

“I want to see better monitoring, putting a number of sensors in all of the different infrastructure so they can see where blockages are, see where issues are, with storm overflows.

“I’ve started the process already now of going out and surveying across the constituency to build up enough support so that we can put the appropriate amount of pressure on South West Water.

“I’ve met with them already, I will be meeting them again. I want to have a collaborative relationship with them.  If we put too much pressure on South West Water and they end up folding all of that debt will go onto the taxpayer. I do not want that to happen.

“But at the same time, we need to let South West Water know that we are really not happy about this. I want there to be far better visibility for what social care is out there in the constituency.

“That’s something that can be done with Devon County Council in partnership with the NHS and with local private providers as well.

“I’ve been going out to a number of different care homes to understand how their model works. I’m going to meet with the Devon County Council cabinet member for social care… and I want to start fleshing this out more and more to see what we can do locally.

“The vast majority of jobs are becoming digitised now. There is a coming wave starting in our jobs market with these new technologies coming into companies, companies automating.

“There is going to be a significant requirement for people both in the constituency and nationally to potentially have to retrain at some point in their career.  I want to normalise… that apprenticeship schemes are a good path to go down, whether that be vocational apprenticeship schemes or degree apprenticeship schemes.

“It allows companies, the private sector, to invest in their people, and it creates a much better connection so that people can actually learn on their job, but also have the opportunity once they’re qualified to save a lot more and then buy into things like housing, have a family, which I think the Labour [education]policy has eroded.

“We need to go back to those core Conservative values, if you work hard, then all of these things will be open to you. That’s the way it should be.”

A general election is expected to be called next year, and must be held by the end of January 2025. No other candidates have yet been announced for Exmouth and Exeter East.

See more about the most recent boundary review here and specific proposals for Honiton and Sidmouth here.

Where you can recycle your Christmas tree in East Devon: Sites in Axminster, Broadclyst, Budleigh, Cranbrook, Exmouth, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton and Sidmouth