Hustings row as East Devon election campaign begins

PUBLISHED: 09:42 18 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:59 18 May 2017

Conservative General Election candidate for East Devon Sir Hugo Swire.

Conservative General Election candidate for East Devon Sir Hugo Swire.

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Conservative Parliamentary candidate for East Devon Sir Hugo Swire has defended his decision not to attend all-party hustings events during the General Election campaign.

Lib Dem General Election candidate for East Devon Alison Eden. Lib Dem General Election candidate for East Devon Alison Eden.

Sir Hugo’s position was revealed following the publication of the confirmed list of candidates.

Taking on Sir Hugo are Alison Eden (Lib Dem), Peter Faithfull (Independent), Brigitte Graham (UKIP), Jan Ross (Labour), Michael Val Davies (Independent), and Claire Wright (Independent).

Sir Hugo’s position was criticised by Ms Eden, who said: “Hugo Swire’s refusal to take part in all-party hustings is a sad rejection of what is an established tradition of all-party debates in East Devon parliamentary elections.

“To deprive local voters of any chance to question their candidates together smacks of arrogance. It seems to be a local echo of Mrs May’s disdain in refusing to debate her political opponents nationally.”

Independent General Election candidate for East Devon Claire Wright. Independent General Election candidate for East Devon Claire Wright.

Defending his position, Sir Hugo said: “I am doing my own hustings, taking the message out on to the streets and meeting as many people as I can..

“I’m not hiding, I’m just not going to go to any of these big organised hustings, as people often can’t get to them.

“There are so many candidates, with three independents, that at one hustings you might get a chance of answering one question, so I think there’s a better way of doing it.”

Offering her reaction, Mrs Wright said: “I am really disappointed that Hugo Swire is refusing to attend hustings during the general election period. MPs are supposed to be accountable to constituents and this is a golden opportunity for him to talk about how he plans to represent people if he is re-elected. It reflects very badly on him that he is refusing to attend.

East Devon General Election candidate for Labour Jan Ross at the launch of her campaign in Exmouth. East Devon General Election candidate for Labour Jan Ross at the launch of her campaign in Exmouth.

“I was looking forward to having a robust debate with him and I can only assume that he is refusing to attend because he is worried about being challenged by me - I have been regularly holding him to account for the past three years via my blog and through the media!”

In other campaign news, Mrs Wright said odds from bookmaker William Hill, which priced her at 9/2 to win, placed her as Sir Hugo’s main opposition.

She added: “People are telling me that they are angry and frustrated with the current government’s policies.

“In 2015, although a long-standing and hard-working local councillor, I was a parliamentary newcomer. Now I have a track record that shows how local people are prepared to back me. I am the only candidate who can win this seat from the Conservatives.”

UKIP General Election candidate for East Devon Brigitte Graham. UKIP General Election candidate for East Devon Brigitte Graham.

Ms Wright is attending a public Q&A at The Grapevine in Victoria Road, Exmouth, on Sunday, May 21 at 7pm.

Ms Ross launched her campaign in Exmouth’s Magnolia Centre, saying: “My campaign will take Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a better and fairer society to the towns and villages of East Devon.

“We have had enough of Tory austerity, its under-funded services and rip off privatisations.”

Independent East Devon General Election candidate Peter Faithfull. Independent East Devon General Election candidate Peter Faithfull.

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