When I get out of bed in the morning and meet the face of the balding man in the mirror, I do not see a 'local politician.'

I didn’t get involved until my mid-40s and because my approach had never been dominated by national party politics, I’ve always been a subject-by-subject person.

It’s why I only rarely write in this column in outright negative terms about the Conservative party. Today, however, I cannot do other than lay the blame for something threatening the health and wellbeing of thousands of people in East Devon at the Conservative’s door.

The Tories have lost control of an entity called NHS Property Services, a body they set up just before Christmas 2011 to try and sweat NHS property assets. This always was a classic Tory notion – take “assets” paid for by us the public through taxation and see if they could make a few extra quid for their chums.

Theoretically, some funds for the NHS too, if only chicken feed. Inevitably, for the private sector, smacking its lips at the possibility of tucking into city or town centre locations with 'developable' value. Land often given many years ago by benefactors, hospital buildings often hugely supported by local fund-raising.

A few years ago, some of our key community hospitals had their inpatient beds torn out of their wards by the Tories, amongst them Axminster, Ottery St Mary and Seaton. Real people who knew what a mistake this was protested and put up positive plans, doing all they could to draw a line in the sand so that a different government could reverse the decision.

One almost instant consequence of the loss of these beds was sadly that people at the end of life were passing away in Exeter rather than their local hospital, which can as much as an hour’s transport from their homes at the worst time for families. I have met many afflicted by this.

The RD&E is superb but it’s not there to retain patients recovering from a pandemic. When Covid-19 hit in 2020, it was realised that major hospitals were greatly hampered by their inability to discharge patients. Many of them were prematurely returned to care homes, with devastating consequences. Even though our communities had empty buildings, where beds and well-trained staff had been just a few years earlier, which would have made good half-way home solutions, the capacity had been destroyed.

Not so long ago these “assets” were known as “cottage hospitals”, with good service from in-house doctors, able to call on local GPs, a range of good general nursing staff and crucially a short bus or car ride from people’s homes.

This week we hear of an emerging plan from NHS Property Services to demolish a two-storey wing at Seaton Hospital. The community and the wonderful League of Friends are shocked that such a negative proposal is even being considered.

This is why I am going to write something unusually hard-hitting by my own standards. You cannot trust the Tories with the NHS. Don’t take my word for it. Sasha Swire, the wife of Simon Jupp’s predecessor Hugo Swire, wrote in her best-selling diaries of “a politician’s wife” that Swire had meddled to keep in-patient beds in his own constituency at the cost of Seaton and Ottery St Mary. The politics of this amused them both, she wrote.

It’s good that Richard Foord, the LibDem MP for Seaton now, and hopefully after, the election is on the case of Seaton hospital. I do hope that the Tories don’t have the gall now to start having pictures taken outside the building for electoral purposes. But I wouldn’t put money on it.