Conservative MP for East Devon, Hugo Swire, has announced he will stand down at the forthcoming General Election, in the face of what independent experts see as the strong likelihood that Claire Wright will win the seat from the Tories.
Claire says: “Party Politics is in turmoil. I stand ready to take on the issues that matter to people here in Devon East of health services straining to cope, underfunded schools and the irreparable damage to our environment under the watch of the current Conservative government which lurches from one crisis to another and has put narrow party political interest above the needs of local people.”
NB Seaton and Colyton are not, unfortunately, part of the East Devon constituency. We are in Tiverton and Honiton, of course, and we wait to see what challenges our current MP Neil Parish will face in the election.
In a fantastic boost for the chances that East Devon will soon have an Independent MP, a YouGov poll which interviewed 40,000 people nationwide tips the East Devon constituency (including Exmouth, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton and Ottery St Mary) as the one seat in Devon that the Tories would lose if a General Election were held now. (Alas, Seaton and Colyton are not in this constituency.)
Claire, who is my Independent colleague on the County Council, increased her vote by 8,000 in 2017. She now needs a 6.7 per cent swing to win. The results last time show that Labour and the LibDems cannot win, and that Claire is the pro-NHS, pro-Europe candidate to support in East Devon.
|2017 RESULT||EAST DEVON||VOTES||%||CHANGE +/- %|
|Liberal Democrat||Alison Eden||1,468||2.4||-4.4|
|Independent||Michael Val Davies||128||0.2||+0.2|
@HugoSwire lends himself to a meaningless and doomed manoeuvre to try to save the day for Theresa May
From Politico this morning: ‘Last night three Tory MPs (Hugo Swire, Richard Graham and Bob Neill) laid down an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Act giving parliament a greater role in decision-making around the Northern Irish backstop. The amendment looks suspiciously like it could have had a government hand in it. Nikki da Costa, a former director of legislative affairs at No. 10, agrees.‘
However this is not a real choice. Parliament can only choose whether to extend the transition period after 2020 (in which case the backstop will not be needed, as UK will still be in the EU to all intents and purposes) or to move on to a new agreement including the backstop (as the withdrawal agreement suggests). Swire is lending himself to a thin manoeuvre to try to sway a few more Tories to May’s side, and the signs are it won’t take many people in.
Parliament is taking back control, but without Neil Parish and Hugo Swire (they backed Theresa May’s crumbling administration as it went down to defeat)
Our MP Neil Parish, together with Hugo Swire, supported Theresa May’s crumbling administration in trying to defeat the crucial amendment which will allow Parliament control of the Brexit situation after May’s deal is (as seems almost certain) voted down. This amendment makes a ‘No Deal’ disaster less likely, but both MPs opposed it all the same. They also opposed the motion to indict the Government for its contempt of Parliament over its failure to disclose its legal advice. Parliament is ‘taking back control’, but without Parish and Swire.
Who’s ‘weaponising’ community hospitals, @HugoSwire? Two years ago you were happy to sell out Seaton Hospital to save your parliamentary career
Dear Hugo Swire,
In a recent Exmouth Journal article you said: “Regrettably, Ottery Hospital has been weaponised by an anti-Tory coalition for nigh on ten years with them telling a naturally alarmed local community that it will be sold off or closed. I have spent 10 years trying to counter this scaremongering. …”
It’s hardly scaremongering when the hospital has lost its beds and this July’s Devon NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnership report said, ‘We know a large amount of space in our community hospital buildings is underused. The revenue cost of our community hospital estates is in the order of £20 million; money the NHS could use to improve other services. Working with other public sector partners, as part of the One Public Estate initiative, we will review the space that is required to deliver care, and plan to consolidate the number of sites to free up estate and generate money, which can be re-invested in technology and infrastructure.’
It’s also rich for you to talk about ‘weaponising’ community hospitals. In Seaton we remember all too well when the Clinical Commissioning Group launched its consultation on the future of community hospital beds in 2016, with its preferred option being Option A which would keep the beds in Tiverton, Exmouth and Seaton. You said in Parliament that ‘option B, which sees the beds retained in Tiverton, and also in Sidmouth and Exmouth, is the option worthy of support. Sidmouth has an extremely high proportion of over-85s, with people increasingly living longer, and of people with dementia. Exmouth is the biggest town in Devon with more than 35,000 people.’
Four months later the CCG followed your recommendation, changed its preference, and closed Seaton’s beds. The reasons given for preferring Sidmouth to Seaton were specious – Seaton has an almost identical proportion of elderly. In short, Hugo Swire, you sold Seaton down the river because it was no longer in your constituency (having been removed due to boundary changes in 2010) and you needed to save beds in Sidmouth as well as Exmouth to fend off the challenge from Claire Wright, who even so ran you close in the 2017 General Election.
Today Seaton Hospital, like Ottery, Honiton and Axminster, faces an uncertain future. If it closes, it will be a knock-on effect of the beds decision, and it will be partly on your head.
Martin Shaw, County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton
A smug Hugo Swire MP told BBC’s Sunday Politics this morning that East Devon had more community hospitals than western Devon and than the national average. He failed to mention that it has many more over-85s too. He backed the NEW Devon CCG’s plans to replace community hospital beds with care at home, and said we must ’embrace change’.
Swire knows that beds in Exmouth and Sidmouth, in his constituency are safe from closure, so he is happy to write off Seaton (which he no longer represents after boundary changes a few years back) and Honiton.
Swire’s self-satisfied comments raise the question of whether he played any role in the CCG’s bizarre, unexplained, last-minute switch of 24 beds from Seaton to Sidmouth. Clearly had the CCG stuck with its original preferred option of closing beds in Sidmouth, they would have given Claire Wright a huge issue – which might well have seen her taking Swire’s seat in the general election.
Readers will recall that during the consultation, Swire was already saying that if beds had to go, they should stay in Sidmouth. Did Sir Hugo, or Tories acting on his behalf, lobby the CCG? How did the CCG respond? Both have questions to answer.
Swire’s colleague Neil Parish MP told me and other Seaton councillors that the decision ‘smells’. Whose smell was it?
I appeared on the same edition of Sunday Politics as Swire, but was not in the studio to respond to him. Here I am being interviewed!
Unfortunately the Labour MEP for the South West, Claire Moody, who was on with Swire, obviously didn’t know much about East Devon hospitals and failed to respond.
(YOU WILL BE ABLE TO WATCH THE PROGRAMME ON BBC iPLAYER SOON.)