Post by andrewp on Apr 18, 2020 13:13:13 GMT
Exeter is Devon‘s oldest city and its administrative headquarters. It is well sited at the junction of the M5, A30 and A38, and millions thrash past it each year on the way to Cornwall. In 1942, like many other large Southern Towns and Cities, the city centre was bombed as part of the Baedeker blitz. Large parts of the city centre were destroyed and the city centre was eventually rebuilt in a unsympathetic 1950’s style. In the last few years, the redevelopment of the Princesshay shopping area has brought a fresh feel to the City Centre.
Exeter is home to the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Union team, who have risen from the 4th tier of English Rugby in 1995 to be English champions in 2017, and runners up in the last 2 seasons. Exeter is 93% white, with the next biggest group being the Chinese population. One of the largest employers in the city is the Met Office which relocated from Bracknell to Exeter in 2004. It has a University founded in the 1950’s which is situated on a hilly campus about a mile to the North of the City Centre, and which has a very good reputation. Exeter feels like a student city with rows and rows of terraced streets to the North and East of the City Centre.
Labour’s strongest areas traditionally were in the former council estate wards in the East of the city like Whipton and Stoke Hill, as well as in the many terrace streets in Newtown and across the river in Exwick and St Thomas. Exeter Labour party has a very good campaigning reputation, and they have had a good record in local council elections. Despite having a moderate Labour MP in Ben Bradshaw there have never been any issues with Labour Party factions in the last few years. The Conservatives traditional strength is in the South East around Countess Wear and Topsham. Topsham is a small Conservative town, with a pretty high street and marina on the river Exe some 4 miles South East of Exeter, which arguably should be in East Devon district area rather than the City. The Conservatives have never lost Topsham in a local election, although it is more marginal than it use to be, as the ward now stretches further into Exeter.
In the boundary review that took place before the 2010 election, Exeter had got to the point where it was too big for one constituency. The initial proposal was to remove the area West of the Exe into the new Central Devon constituency. This would almost certainly have led to a Conservative gain in 2010. The Labour party effectively won the enquiry and the final proposals were to remove the only 2 consistently Conservative wards in the city- the aforementioned Topsham and St Loyes into East Devon.
The Labour strength is quite efficiently consistent across the city. In the 2019 local elections they won 9 of the 14 wards in the City- but only achieved 36.1% of the vote. The other 5 wards were Conservative wins in St Loyes and Topsham ( out of this constituency) , a Liberal Democrat win in the studenty Duryard and St James, a Green gain in the studenty St Davids and a surprise Independent win in Newtown and St Leonards- the latter 3 wards being essentially the most central wards.
Prior to 1997, Labour had only won Exeter once in 1966. In 1945 the Conservatives had held by 1175. In 1966 Gwyneth Dunwoody gained the seat for Labour, but she was defeated in 1970 by John Hannam. Hannam held the seat for 27 years. On his retirement the Conservatives selected the very right wing candidate Adrian Rogers. After a very acrimonious battle, he was defeated by the openly gay Ben Bradshaw by 11700 votes. Bradshaw has usually enjoyed healthy majorities- the sole exception being 2010 when it was cut to 2700 and as discussed he had the boundary Comsission’s decision to thank for holding in that year. By 2017, he had rebuilt his majority to a massive 16000. In December there was a 5% swing to the Conservatives, but Bradshaw still won by 10400, and it now feels like a safe Labour seat.