Real Zorro

Mission - to challenge in East Devon. To hold elected representatives & their officials to account.

Friday, 9 June 2017

In East Devon Hugo Wins; Claire Crowned Opposition Leader

The national picture is now clear (as mud). The overall result of this general election that Theresa May didn’t need to have called shows that, whilst the Conservatives share of the national vote increased, their, albeit previous thin majority, has now dissipated. Overall, it was a bad night for the leader of the Conservatives and for her party. She, like her predecessor David Cameron gambled and lost.


In contrast Labour had a good night with, against all of the odds, Jeremy Corbyn leading his party to an increase in the number of its MPs. Equally, Tim Farron led the Liberal Democrats to a better place than they were in. And as for UKIP; its support has withered on the vine almost as quickly as it grew. And at the time of writing it once again has to search for a new leader. Surely the odds on it being Nigel Farage must be so very slim!


Here in East Devon the election dust has settled. We now know that incumbent MP Hugo Swire has been re-elected and obviously receives congratulations for that. But, despite his slightly increased share of the vote has he been damaged in the process?


He was strongly challenged by Independent Claire Wright who also increased her share of the vote since the 2015 general election when she first took the fight to Hugo Swire. Interestingly for a constituency such as East Devon, the Labour vote also increased, and no surprise at all was the fact that the UKIP vote crashed and burnt.


As we know the result in East Devon was –


Hugo Swire
Claire Wright
Jan Ross
Alison Eden
Liberal Democrats
Brigitte Graham
Peter Faithfull
Michael Val Davies


All of this was on a turnout of 73.3%, which was slightly down on the last general election in 2015. Where was the other quarter of the East Devon electorate? It really is a scandal that in a mature democracy where men fought and died in wars to secure our freedom to vote and engage in robust political discord, and where women fought, and even died to gain the franchise, so many electors really just couldn’t be bothered to pop down to their local polling station.


Hugo has been re-elected with a majority 8,036, which has significantly dropped from the last election by a third. That is in part why Zorro asks whether Hugo has been damaged, particularly at an election where he could reasonably have expected to have increased his majority as the UKIP vote was always going to be squeezed to his advantage.



Perhaps Hugo has had it a bit too politically easy in the past? The challenge to him and the one party domination of East Devon has certainly stepped up a gear or two over recent years. But that surely was to be expected? Hugo is a representative of a party that for the past seven years has put the country through austerity measures which have particularly hit those in society who were already struggling.


Until not so long ago he had his moment in the political sunshine as a government minister. He has been the elected representative at Westminster of the East Devon electorate. So against this entire backdrop Zorro argues that it was inevitable that some robust challenge would eventually come his way. And in this election it did more vocally than ever before, more damaging than before.


Perhaps Hugo has lived a sheltered political life. Zorro would contend that in many constituencies around Britain incumbent MPs of all political persuasion regularly receive robust and regular challenge from electors and commentators. It’s called being held to account! That’s the price you pay when you are an elected politician!


Hugo claims to have been abused and verbally attacked during the campaign by supporters of Claire Wright. He reports some of his posters were either removed or defaced. Zorro has to take his claims at face value. Zorro will defend robust challenge, but abuse isn’t helpful or appropriate.


But Hugo wasn’t the only candidate who faced the same attacks. Claire Wright and some of her supporters had their posters stolen too! Zorro has seen some of the vile social media comments posted against Claire Wright supporters. All of that too isn’t helpful or appropriate.


In this election Claire Wright and her team of some 700 enthusiastic volunteers managed to mobilise over 21,000 electors to vote for her. That is a truly remarkable achievement, particularly if one recalls that in the seven weeks since the election was called Claire Wright has had to decide whether to stand as a candidate, put together a campaign team, recruit volunteer workers raise around £13,000 to fund her campaign, produce, print and distribute a manifesto, produce, print and distribute leaflets, pound the streets and shopping areas of East Devon to engage with voters, attend hustings meetings to explain her views to voters and work out how to juggle all of this with both a personal and a work life.


With all of this Claire was able to significantly increase the number of votes (up to 21,270) over those she received in the 2015 election, as well as increasing her share of the vote by over 11%.


Come on Hugo give her credit, albeit grudging credit, for taking a significant fight to you. Be the big man. Be magnanimous in victory. Surely, even you can do that!



As at the time of the 2015 election, Zorro argued early in this election that the Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green parties should all stand aside in East Devon in order that the anti-Conservative vote shouldn’t be split. History shows that they chose to carry on their vanity politics by standing and, yes, the anti-Conservative vote was predictably duly split with Claire Wright emerging as the most popular of the progressive candidates.


Zorro would have hoped that in this election progressive parties could have been somewhat tactical or pragmatic in how they approached each constituency. Why, in one like East Devon where it would take a bigger miracle than either a messiah like Jeremy Corbyn or the Liberal Democrats’ Tim Farron could every dream of for either party to have the slightest hope of winning East Devon?


So, why did both Labour and the Liberal Democrats fight this seat? Why did they not do as the Greens did and put no candidate up? Why did they, as predicted split the anti-Conservative vote? Those who are members and leaders of these parties really need to think about the bigger picture. They need to start to think about what serves the electors of East Devon best – is it having their party name on the ballot paper or removing a Conservative MP?


Zorro is no mathematical genius but when you add the number of votes that Claire Wright received to those cast for Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the constituency yesterday you get – 21,270 + 6,857 + 1,468. All of this totals 29,595 or 49% of the total vote.


Compare this total anti-Conservative voting against (an even improved) vote for Hugo Swire of 29,306 or 48.5% of the total vote. And what does that show? It shows that a progressive alliance in East Devon could have won! Even Hugo must be doing the sums and wondering what might have been or might be in the future.


It is highly likely that before the year is out we will all be subjected to another election. Whether the Conservatives are propped up by the DUP and try to govern or whether Labour try to form a minority government the margins on either side are so very slim that “stable and strong” (sic) politics aren’t going to be. And Zorro hasn’t even mentioned the Brexit calamity facing whoever tries to govern.


So, Zorro argues that Claire Wright has demonstrated that she is the leader of progressive politics in East Devon. Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and East Devon Alliance need to collectively seize the moment. There are things that need to be done at District and County Council level that require new alliances to be built.


More urgently, the Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green parties need to prepare for another general election by building on Claire’s excellent and engaging campaign and ensuring that she is allowed to receive their support to singularly take the fight to Hugo. The timing for this could not be better.


Here we should steal the Labour slogan “For the many, not the few”.


The many are the collective of anti-Conservative voters out in East Devon who desperately want change. The few are those whose votes are effectively thrown away in East Devon by being drawn to the vanity politics demonstrated by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.


The challenge is now to coalesce behind Claire Wright and prepare for the next general election. It’s time for brave actions by anti-Conservative parties!

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