by Frankie Rufolo, For Britain Candidate

14th April 2021

I live in a red island surrounded by a deep blue sea – namely Exeter, the Labour capital city of the Tories’ rural heartlands. Supposedly “the South” are the Conservatives’ friends and we’re rich, benefiting from their policies at the expense of the North. I’m not denying Scotland, Wales and the North of England have problems and are in some ways worse off, but the Conservative Party hurt this region as well, only to be rewarded with a narrow majority under an outdated First-Past-The-Post election system.

Devon is famous for its green and pleasant land, its natural beauty, but the “Conservatives” conserve none of it. There’s a new town near Exeter Airport called Cranbrook. Building started under Cameron with the promise it would prevent more houses from being built on the outskirts of existing towns and villages. Not only did this overdevelopment around Devon continue, but we now have a town without a town centre. Cranbrook is little but a modern housing estate with ugly holes in the middle for delayed building work, blighting the beautiful surroundings. It’s been unfinished for over five years and yet the Tory MP for East Devon tries to blame it all on councillors who were only elected in 2019.

West of Exeter, Teignbridge District Council was under Conservative control when it first considered an application for thousands of houses to be built on green hills, despite huge pushback from people in Newton Abbott. Private Eye exposed a leading Tory councillor’s son to be involved with the developers, recently in the news for threatening people objecting. East Devon District Council was Conservative since records began and the local Tories let each other get away with murder; a councillor who moved permanently to France was deemed still fit to represent Budleigh Salterton, corruption was investigated by the police and one councillor had to resign after a bribery scandal.

Devon County Council is under complete Conservative control and responsible for roadworks and highways. Many residential streets need resurfacing – not just around election time – and rural roads are as cratered as the dark side of the Moon. When local Tories do act, they often do a shoddy job. In Topsham, a voter told me the leader of the Exeter Conservative group, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter had arranged resurfacing, but the tarmac had cracks and weeds within weeks. In the Heavitree and Whipton by-election, a resident showed me where the council had tarmacked over a storm drain causing flooding on the busy road below. Every winter there’s gushing water causing chaos with the traffic all over Devon because the Conservatives learn little when it comes to dealing with drainage problems.

Our transport overall needs improvement. Marsh Barton, an industrial estate on the West side of Exeter was promised a train station but it’s over five years behind schedule. Then there’s the Dawlish problem – an important rail line through Teignbridge that’s dangerously close to the sea, damaged by rough waters. A wave even crashed into a train, smashed a window and hurt a passenger. Johnson’s government built a new wall there but just months on there are already structural issues and it’s made using a plastic material that can be pulled out by birds, polluting the sea. According to the Plymouth Herald, all Devon’s railways could be improved using just 1% of the budget for HS2, a Tory vanity project that’s not even intended to help the South West and one that The For Britain Movement rightly opposes.

Devon County Council’s Conservatives are also responsible for education, some of the most underfunded in the country. I’ve spoken to teachers and followed local media and many of our schools have class sizes above the national average. I’ve had parents tell me teachers can’t even afford books. Local Tories complain about the SEND deficit, the underfunding for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities from national government, but they’ll support the Conservative government anyway and wonder why little changes.

As for the curriculum, the Tory Councillor James McInnes recently announced a focus on “Black History,” in response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Why centre right politicians should allow violent far-left protests to dictate lessons is beyond me and it would seem to have little connection to local history. Never mind “when is White History Month?”, when is Chinese History Month? They’re Exeter’s largest minority, aren’t they worth celebrating? I suppose anti-capitalist BLM activists wouldn’t want children to be taught about the evils of Communism. My city is home to one of Britain’s oldest synagogues, so when is Jewish History Month? Do Jews just have to settle for Holocaust Memorial Day? What the Tories are promoting is not equal treatment, but special treatment. Even before BLM, there was propaganda. I remember speaking to a young girl (she was my neighbour and my boss’s daughter) who mentioned learning about terrorism in school. When I asked what they were teaching, she said “we’re taught about Islamophobia.”

There’s a group called “Devon Development Education” promoting multiculturalism in schools. Some of it is harmless, teaching about foreign food for example, but their website supports open borders and mentions girls in Teignbridge trying on the hijab. Do they encourage hijabi Muslim girls to embrace other cultures, take off a sheet of misogyny and wear a French plat or dreadlocks instead?

Devon County Council is also responsible for Children’s Services, and therefore care-leavers becoming homeless and living in tents (whilst asylum seekers are put up in four star hotels.) Homelessness has more than doubled since the Tories have been in government, many ex-armed forces among those rough sleepers. This year, an army veteran died in a drug squat in Plymouth, where Boris Johnson’s Minister for Veterans, Johnny Mercer is the local MP, an indictment on a country that needs to take better care of its Vets and the Conservatives’ failed war on drugs.

Our healthcare is in a bad state too. Devon’s NHS helpline was recently rated “inadequate” and we have the worst waiting times for dentists in the country. Not only that, but in recent years, the South West has had the highest suicide rate of any English region.

Under Conservative governments and a Tory Police Commissioner, violent crime has increased in Devon with knife crime reaching record highs. Reportedly, sexual assault has tripled in Exeter since 2010. 2020 saw a particular rise in dog theft in the region and a 50% rise in domestic violence across Devon. Despite all these serious problems, Commissioner Alison Hernandez wasted resources enforcing lockdown lunacy: Police fined birdwatchers in Exmouth, visited a house in Ottery because a girl had just one friend round for her birthday, and fined pubs that broke the substantial meal rule in North Devon. My friend had officers round her house in Exeter because they suspected an illegal gathering when in reality, she was talking to her cat.

Hernandez isn’t the only local Tory enacting Johnson’s restrictions despite Devon’s relatively low COVID rates. All twelve of the county’s MPs criticised placing Devon into Tier 2 when neighbouring Cornwall was in Tier 1 but only two Tories voted against it. The Tory MPs all talk about supporting local businesses but only two of them voted against the unscientific 10pm curfew. Even under usual circumstances, they’re no friends of freedom: Simon Jupp, the MP for East Devon recently shared a petition to ban anonymity on social media, invading the privacy of users and most likely silencing whistle-blowers, closeted gays and victims of crime.

Some people who might want to vote For Britain will think the Conservatives are the lesser of two evils, an effective way to keep out Labour, the Lib Dems and more left-wing candidates but the local Tories are no opposition. At least two years in a row, the Conservatives on Exeter City Council have voted for the Labour administration’s annual bad budgets and voted with Labour against any amendments. At both district and county level, Labour and the Conservatives have voted together to raise council tax and parking charges. Recently there was a push for proportional representation and the leader of Exeter’s Conservatives insisted the councillors would tow the party line and vote against it, even though the new election system could benefit the Tories in Exeter as well as smaller parties. I’ve heard my local Labour councillor telling unsubstantiated and outrageous lies about voter ID laws, about Donald Trump, enraged at the lack of response from the Conservatives. Labour have worked on local projects, spending more and more taxpayers’ money and the Conservative councillors ask for no explanation when those items are on the agenda.

Bad motions get watered down, not voted down by Devon’s Tories who sometimes compete with the left to be the party of political correctness. Alison Hernandez has repeatedly emphasised “hate crime” and even suggested calling 999 over wolf-whistles. Vote Conservative, get third wave feminism. The leader of the Conservative group on Torridge District Council suggested removing signs that refer to Bideford as “The Little White Town,” for fear someone would call it racist. The name comes from white houses, not white people.

The For Britain Movement is the real alternative to the main parties: Only For Britain will stand up consistently for our countryside and give local people referendums on these huge developments. Only For Britain will properly support the grammar school system, reform the curriculum and protect our children. Only For Britain will defend our local communities and identities.

In just a few years, our councillors have challenged the political orthodoxy, voted against raising council tax and opposed unpopular planning applications. Let’s fight for a better Exeter, let’s save Devon, by ticking the box for freedom, justice and democracy.

Frankie is standing in the May local elections in Exeter. Help support our party by donating to our fighting fund here