Posted: 04.11.19 at 13:40 by Joseph Bulmer
Former Independent MP and journalist Martin Bell OBE has thrown his weight behind the General Election campaign of Independent Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for East Devon, Claire Wright.
Bell, who was Independent MP for Tatton (1997 – 2001) and is a British UNICEF ambassador has given his backing to Wright’s campaign which was officially launched on Saturday, November 2.
Bell, 81, a former BBC war correspondent, said: “I served as an Independent MP for four years and was privileged to represent the people not a party. Claire Wright will do the same. I am confident that she will be an outstanding MP.
“Claire Wright has forged a reputation as a formidable local government politician in Devon and I am in no doubt that she will do the same in the House of Commons.
“Contrary to popular misconception, independents do have a strong voice in parliament and, such is the current, mass disillusion with mainstream parties, their voice will only become louder.
“By supporting Claire, who has a proven track record of standing up for her constituents and instigating real change, the people of East Devon have, what is likely to be, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the future of politics in Devon, and indeed, the rest of the UK.”
East Devon has been a Conservative seat since the establishment of the constituency in 1997 and under previous boundaries as far back as 1868.
In the 2017 General Election Claire was runner-up, with more than 21,000 votes.
Her results in both the 2015 and 2017 elections make Wright, who is a Devon County Councillor for the Otter Valley ward, the most successful Independent PPC in the country, by more than 10,000 votes.
In the 2017 General Election, sitting Conservative MP Hugo Swire – who has been the MP for East Devon since 2001 and has announced that he is not standing again – won 48 per cent of the vote with Wright winning 35 per cent.
Meanwhile Labour only took 11 per cent of the vote while the Lib Dems took two per cent.
Wright believes her success reflects, ‘the groundswell of support for the wider independent movement across the district’.
Prior to the 2015 local election there were five Independents on East Devon District Council, then 16 seized Tory seats and for the first time ever, the independent contingent became the main opposition in the district.
Then in May, independents won the majority for the first time in council’s 45-year history.
A local politician of 10 years, Wright has a track record of overturning the odds.
In 2011, she won the seat from the Leader of East Devon District Council, Sara Randall Johnson which she’d held for a decade after 62 per cent of voters turned out to vote.
And in 2013 Wright won 74 per cent of the vote in the Devon County Council elections for the Otter Valley ward, taking over from Roger Giles who stood down after 20 years and winning the largest majority in the South West.
Wright is adamant she can change the political landscape in East Devon.
“I’ve always been an Independent. I’ve always been elected because of my hard work and the way I stand up for people, not because of the party I’m from,” she said.
“It’s a complete myth that you need a party around you in the Commons. You don’t. It’s all about the person. The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas is probably one of the best known and effective MPs in the country.
“I’ve worked cross-party for the last 10 years to achieve a range of things and I’d be exactly the same if I was in Parliament.
“In 2015, I was an unknown. Now, after two campaigns, I can really challenge. I just think I can do so much good.
“There’s nothing certain about this election. National predictions don’t really apply to East Devon, because I am independent and the only viable alternative because I have a track record.
“I think I can attract voters from across the political spectrum. I’m a hard-working and effective councillor and will be a hard-working and effective MP. I know I can win.”