Central Devon – A beautiful place to fight for
Tue 11 Feb 2020
By Lisa Robillard Webb
By the time you read this, we will know the result of December’s General Election. As all candidates will say, these elections are exhausting but often invigorating. As with everything else there is always a lot of admin, but mostly I just wanted to get out and speak to our local voters. That’s a very different proposition in our part of Devon than it is in somewhere like Exeter or Plymouth.
Central Devon is the 34th biggest constituency by geographical area in the United Kingdom, covering 546 square miles, and stretching from Buckfastleigh in the south to the edge of the Tiverton in the north, and from Bradninch in the east to a point just beyond Okehampton in the west.
The constituency contains wards from four local authorities - Teignbridge, Mid Devon, West Devon, and East Devon - and it’s the head of Electoral Services in West Devon who runs the election for the whole constituency, which means that I handed in my nomination papers for the General Election in Tavistock, and watched the votes being counted in Okehampton. Most days during the campaign I was out and about in Bovey, Chudleigh, Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, Exminster, Moretonhampstead, Crediton and Okehampton to speak to voters on the street and find out what’s important to them. Throughout the campaign, I travelled to golf clubs, arts centres, pubs, schools and churches to speak at hustings with my fellow candidates.
The issues we hear about are always the same. Everywhere I go I’ve heard the same story, which I know from my own life to be the case - the banks have gone, the high streets are struggling, the post offices are in trouble, and the hospitals are closing. Not just the little cottage hospitals so suitable for convalescence, which we still want back, but important hubs of primary care for whole communities, without which whole communities will suffer.
And those miles that my team and I have clocked up over the last few weeks have brought home to me how truly stuck so many members of moorland communities can be without a private means of transportation, and how bad for the environment this reliance on cars must be. We desperately need more bus routes to link up our scattered towns - the injustice done to young people and to the elderly is so grave, and it’s not as though we’d have to reinvent the wheel to put it right.
I thought I’d seen my campaign manager finally crack under the stress as he jumped around waving outside a venue, only to discover that he was just trying to get some signal on his phone to read his emails. We love our lives on and around Dartmoor, and we’re proud of our resilience and our ability to pitch ourselves against the wilderness, but we don’t see why life can’t be made that little bit easier.
I love being on Dartmoor watching the looming weather from a distance, a whirl of woodland and geology that tell of another time entirely. I sometimes think about candidates in urban seats, whose patch can cover just a few square miles and can be a just a ten-minute walk away from their next engagement, and wonder how much easier they must have it. Mostly, however, I think they’ve drawn the short end of the stick. Throughout this campaign I’ve been reminded of how much I love our wild and rural corner of the world, and of how determined I am to fight for it.
Lisa Robillard Webb, The Labour Party – firstname.lastname@example.org
Other columns by Lisa Robillard Webb
South Dartmoor Community College - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Our Local Post Offices - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Political Choice - Fri 3 May 2019
High Streets – At the centre of our communities - Thu 24 Jan 2019
The Shame of UK’s Indefinite Detention - Thu 8 Nov 2018