Former Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw blasts ‘misleading’ Lib Dem tactical vote claim over Exmouth and Exeter East seat

Former Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, who stepped down ahead of the election after 27 years serving the city, has spoken out against claims tactical voting kept Labour from winning the new Exmouth and Exeter East seat.

Labour’s former stalwart Exeter MP, Sir Ben Bradshaw, has criticised the Liberal Democrats for claims about being the anti-Conservative choice after his party narrowly lost two Devon constituencies, writes local democracy reporter, Bradley Gerrard

Sir Ben, first elected in 1997 to the Exeter seat but who did not contest this election, is disappointed that Labour’s candidates in Central Devon, and Exmouth and Exeter East (EEE) “lost by a whisker”.

Writing on the social media platform X, Sir Ben said Ollie Pearson, the Central Devon candidate, and Helen Dallimore, the EEE candidate, missed out because of “misleading Lib Dem claims they were the tactical anti-Tory choice”, followed by a red, angry-faced emoji.

Both seats were exceptionally close, with Central Devon Conservative MP Mel Stride just holding onto his seat by just 61 votes – the county’s closest race – while Ms Dallimore missed out by only 121 votes to her Conservative rival David Reed.

In both constituencies, the Lib Dems came third, with Mark Wooding in Central Devon taking 8,232 votes – a 15 per cent share against Labour’s 31 per cent share – and in EEE, Paul Arnott secured 11,387 votes – a 22 per cent share against Labour’s 29 per cent.

However, the Lib Dems claims of being the tactical voting choice for people wanting to oust the Conservatives from power did hold sway in other areas of the county.

The Lib Dems took several seats in Devon, including South Devon, where Caroline Voaden dislodged Conservative Anthony Mangnall, Richard Foord won the new Honiton and Sidmouth seat against former Conservative MP Simon Jupp, and Steve Darling beating Conservative Kevin Foster in Torbay.

Sir Ben cheered his “friend Steve Race on a great win” in Exeter for Labour, stating that the new MP had matched his first majority in 1997 when Labour also swept into Parliament with a landslide under Tony Blair.

He also cheered the “phenomenal” performance of his party in Cornwall.

Sir Ben previously said it is time for someone else’s turn in Exeter and after 27 years is taking the opportunity to take life a little easier.

Conservatives win the new Exmouth and Exeter seat by a narrow majority