North Devon

2015 Result:
Conservative: 22341 (42.7%)
Labour: 3699 (7.1%)
Lib Dem: 15405 (29.4%)
Green: 3018 (5.8%)
UKIP: 7719 (14.8%)
Others: 138 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 6936 (13.3%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Devon. Coterminous with the North Devon council area.

Main population centres: Barnstaple, Lynton, Ilfracombe, Braunton, South Moulton.

Profile: A rural seat on the western edge of Exmoor. The biggest town by far is Barnstaple, a market town and former port that is the commercial and administrative centre of North Devon. The rest of the seat is made up of small rural villages and small seaside towns along the North Devon coast. The seat also contains Royal Marines Base Chivenor.

Politics: This has been a marginal seat between the Conservatives and the Liberals since its creation in 1950. It was previously represented by the Liberal party leader Jeremy Thorpe, who lost his seat in 1979 while facing charges of attempted murder and opposed by a wonderfully odd variety of candidates, including perennial candidate Bill Boaks and Auberon Waugh`s Dog Lovers Party. In 2010 was one of four seats where UKIP finished third (the others being West Devon and Torridge, North Cornwall and the Speakers seat in Buckingham).

Current MP
PETER HEATON-JONES (Conservative) Born 1963. Former BBC radio presenter. Swindon councillor since 2010. First elected as MP for Devon North in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 18484 (36%)
Lab: 2671 (5%)
LDem: 24305 (47%)
UKIP: 3720 (7%)
Oth: 2141 (4%)
MAJ: 5821 (11%)
Con: 18868 (36%)
Lab: 4656 (9%)
LDem: 23840 (46%)
UKIP: 2740 (5%)
Oth: 1826 (4%)
MAJ: 4972 (10%)
Con: 18800 (38%)
Lab: 4995 (10%)
LDem: 21784 (44%)
UKIP: 2484 (5%)
Oth: 1191 (2%)
MAJ: 2984 (6%)
Con: 21643 (39%)
Lab: 5367 (10%)
LDem: 27824 (51%)
MAJ: 6181 (11%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
PETER HEATON-JONES (Conservative) Born 1963. Former BBC radio presenter. Swindon councillor since 2010.
MARK CANN (Labour) Born 1950, London. Educated at St Josephs College, London and Reading University. Retired teacher. Former Mendip councillor. Contested North Devon 2010.
NICK HARVEY (Liberal Democrat) Born 1961, Chandlers Ford. Educated at Queens College and Middlesex Polytechnic. Marketing executive. Contested Enfield Southgate 1987. MP for North Devon 1992 to 2015. Minister of State for the Armed Forces 2010-2012.
STEVE CROWTHER (UKIP) Born Devon. Contested Devon North 2010.
RICKY KNIGHT (Green) Language teacher. Contested North Devon 2005, Bristol West 2010. Contested South West region 2009, 2014 European elections.
GERRY SABLES (Communist Party GB) Contested North Devon 2010.
Comments - 231 Responses on “Devon North”
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  1. There is every chance here that this seat could provide one of the Lib Dems’ best holds in South West England.

    Even if they do stoop as low as 20-30 seats, I still expect this to be one that they will hold.

    Harvey has been the MP here for nearly 21 years and has seen his majority go up and down over the years. But with the Tories having never really realistically challenged him since he won it in 1992, I would expect him to hold on here with a majority of about 2-3,000.

  2. will the tories ever win here again

  3. It would be interesting if Farage stood here in 2015 and perhaps the Tories stood aside in this particular constituency…

  4. (Apologies for having to pour cold water on the sentiments expressed in the first post on this thread):

    Local election results:

    Con 8,003
    UKIP 5,245
    LD 4,516
    Ind 3,340
    Lab 1,694
    Green 1,417
    Others 126

  5. It could be this is an example of the UKIP vote damaging the Lib Dems more and there were actually quite a lot of those.
    Even so, it’s a worrying result for the LDs and – by default or not – could give the Tories their first chance for over 25 years.

  6. The Tories have had CHANCES here, it’s just that they’ve not taken them. They were thinking they could win here in 2001 on the back of the foot & mouth outbreak – not that was Nick Harvey’s fault of course – as the farmers’ party, but fell well short.

  7. I’d have thought Harvey might be hard to shift though. I think Tories have done well locally before, like 2007 IIRC

  8. North Devon is very much the kind of place where the Lib Dem vote could leach away to UKIP – but also where the individual candidates are important. This latter remains Harvey’s big advantage, unless he does some kind of Jeremy Thorpe impersonation.

    Conservative candidate selection has been poor here recently – they need an active local person, of the Glyn Davies type IMO.

  9. ‘Conservative candidate selection has been poor here recently – they need an active local person, of the Glyn Davies type IMO.’

    I imagine the Tories could do with a Glyn Davies-type in every seat they are challenging for, so impressive was his performance in 2010

    You might have thought that given Davies achievements the Tories might have adopted a more local-based strategy for 2015, rather than parachuting Etonians from Notting Hill into areas they have never even been too before, but the Conservatives aren’t renouned for their stupidity without good reason

  10. A lot of banker types have holiday homes in Devon. That might account for why such people have so often been the Tory candidate here.

  11. ‘A lot of banker types have holiday homes in Devon’

    I thought these types preferred South Devon – which is considerably more affluent (and more Conservative) than North Devon

  12. I’m playing this one down a bit – don’t want to have to change my name to Gloy Plopwell.

  13. “I thought these types preferred South Devon – which is considerably more affluent (and more Conservative) than North Devon”

    Though north Devon is more rural, less touristy and closer to London. I guess it depends on individual taste. The wealthy bit of south Devon is I would judge around Totnes. Neither Torbay nor Teignbridge are particularly wealthy, and maybe a bit too touristy for that kind of second homer.

  14. ‘The wealthy bit of south Devon is I would judge around Totnes’

    I was referring to the whole South Hams district and East Devon, around Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton which has lots of wealthy retired voters

  15. The Greens polled their seventh highest share of the vote in South Hams — 12.89%, when you look at district/borough/unitary authorities. (The total number of such councils where voting took place in May was 209, although of course the actual councils being elected were mostly county councils).

  16. whoops the tories chose a candidate from swindon

  17. Nick Harvey has now been MP for this area for longer than Jeremy Thorpe.

  18. what happened to the john le mesurier who was involved in the jeremy thorpe case

  19. Pretty sure he’s dead

  20. He passed away some 20 – 30 years ago.

  21. That was the actor from Dads Army….just read that we are referring to a different JLM.

  22. i did say the one in the jeremy thorpe case not the actor

  23. Reference Andy JS contribution the votes cast in the
    recent DCC election are very similar to recent Euro
    election results in North Devon where the Lib Dems have come third behind UKIP and Cons. On both these
    occasions less than one year later Nick Harvey has won the Westminster seat with majorities of 5 to 6,000.

    In the DCC election the Lib Dems fought 6 out of 8
    seats. If the average vote per party candidate is looked
    at it was Cons first Lib Dems second Inds third and UKIP fourth in North Devon.

  24. Jeremy Thorpe’s electoral record in North Devon-
    1. 1955- 11, 558 (32.45%, +13.04%)
    2. 1959- 15, 831 (42.94%, +10.49%, 362 (0.98%) majority)
    3. 1964- 19, 031 (50.71%, +7.77%, 5, 136 (13.69%) majority)
    4. 1966- 16, 797 (43.57%, -7.14%, 1, 166 (3.02%) majority)
    5. 1970- 18, 893 (44.1%, +0.53%, 369 (0.9%) majority)
    6. February 1974- 34, 052 (53.9, +9.8%, 11, 072 (17.5%) majority)
    7. October 1974- 28, 209 (48.1%, -5.8%, 6, 721 (11.5%) majority)
    8. 1979- 23, 338 (36.7%, -11.4%)

    Nicholas Harvey’s electoral record in North Devon-
    1. 1992- 27,414 (47.1%, +4.3%, 794 (1.4%) majority)
    2. 1997- 27,824 (50.8%, +3.7%, 6, 181 (11.3%) majority)
    3. 2001- 21,784 (44.2%, -6.6%, 2, 984 (6.1%) majority)
    4. 2005- 23,840 (45.9%, +1.7%, 4, 972, (9.6%) majority)
    5. 2010- 24,305 (47.4%, +0.9%, 5,821 (11.3%) majority)

  25. I hadn’t noticed that Thorpe’s majority had dropped so sharply in 1966, which was in general a pretty good year for the Liberals, as they gained several seats, losing IIRC only Cardigan to Labour.

  26. @Barnaby Marder
    In the three previous elections, Thorpe had probably got above average vote share increases and so some unwind close to the level it was when he gained the seat in 1959 was therefore likely.

    It is interesting that he also achieved the highest ever Liberal/Lib Dem number if votes, vote share, numerical and percentage majority all at the same time in February 1974- no doubt helped greatly by his high profile as party leader, though I suspect given the general large swing in thier favour that year he may have achieved this anyway.

  27. Thorpe’s average majority- 4,137
    Harvey’s average majority- 4,150

  28. All Harvey has to do now is have a bizarre encounter with a canine.

  29. Well he’s done extremely well so far, managing to hold this seat longer than Thorpe managed to- the fact that the Tories have struggled to put up any realistic fight here should from their point of view be very worrying,

  30. You do get the feeling that this will be one of the SW seats where the LDs might do rather worse than typically in though.

  31. Feeling it in your water eh, Joe… or was it three storks flying backwards that gave you that idea…?

  32. I think the LDs will be extremely hard to dislodge both here and in Torbay.

  33. North Devon I would say is to all intents and purposes at the moment a safe Lib Dem seat- though like Montgomeryshire for example is occasionally capable of electing a Conservative.

  34. A closer look at the result here in February 1974-
    Thorpe (Liberal)- 34, 052 (53.90%, +9.82%)
    Keigwin (Conservative)- 22, 980 (36.38%, -6.84%)
    Marston (Labour)- 6, 140 (9.72%, -2.57%)

    Majority- 11, 072 (17.53%)
    Swing- +8.33% From Con to Lib.

    P.S. does anyone know the notional figures for 1970 as the boundaries changed for this election?

  35. A closer look at the result here in 1959-
    Thorpe (Liberal)- 15, 831 (42.94%, +10.49%)
    Lindsay (Conservative)- 15, 469 (41.96%, -5.17%)
    Pitt (Labour)- 5, 567 (15.10%, -5.32%)

    Majority- 362 (0.98%)
    Swing- +7.83% From Con to Lib.

  36. I wonder which Pitt that was? Was it Dr David Pitt, later Lord Pitt of Hampstead, who I think was the first black Labour peer? Or was it Terry Pitt, many years later MEP for Midlands W? Or neither of those?

  37. David Pitt stood in Hampstead in 1959 but didn’t do well.

  38. The Labour candidate was a Geoffrey W. Pitt.

  39. thanks – so, neither of them then.

  40. Indeed.

    I made a list incidentally the other day of what hapened to the Conservative and Labour vote shares here when Thorpe stood from 1955 to 1979. I’ll post it shortly when I find it.

  41. I’ve found the list…

    What happened to the Conservative vote in North Devon during the Jeremy Thorpe era-
    1. 1955- James Louis Lindsay, 16, 784 (47.13%, -5.28%)
    2. 1959- James Louis Lindsay, 15, 469 (41.96%, -5.17%)
    3. 1964- Michael Peto, 13, 895 (37.02%, -4.94%)
    4. 1966- Timothy Carlton Keigwin, 15, 631 (40.54%, +3.52%)
    5. 1970- Timothy Carlton Keigwin, 18, 524 (43.2%, +2.66%)
    6. February 1974- Timothy Carlton Keigwin, 22, 980 (36.4%, -6.8%)
    7. October 1974- Antony Kirby Speller, 21, 488 (36.6%, +0.2%)
    8. 1979- Antony Kirby Speller, 31, 811 (50.1%, +13.5%)

    What happened to the Labour vote in North Devon during the Jeremy Thorpe era-
    1. 1955- H. Heslop, 7, 272 (20.42%, -7.75%)
    2. 1959- Geoffrey W. Pitt, 5, 567 (15.1%, -5.32%)
    3. 1964- Frank Paton, 4, 603 (12.27%, -2.83%)
    4. 1966- J.H. Rayner, 6, 127 (15.89%, +3.62%)
    5. 1970- Christopher John Mullin, 5, 268 (12.3%, -3.59%)
    6. February 1974- T.K. Marston, 6, 140 (9.7%, -2.6%)
    7. October 1974- Alexandra Golant, 8, 536 (14.2%, +4.5%)
    8. 1979- Anthony John Saltern, 7, 108 (11.2%, -3.0%)

  42. Michael Peto was the son of Sir Basil Peto who was Tory MP for the Barnstaple constituency until it was merged with S Molton (not S Moulton as Anthony has inadvertently spelt it in the list of the main towns within this constituency) in 1950. Christoper John Mullin is of course the nowadays well-known Chris Mullin, author & former MP for Sunderland S, & former minister.

  43. Thanks for that information, Barnaby. Also, Michael Peto’s brother Christopher was the MP for Barnstaple from 1945 to 1950, then for North Devon from 1950 until 1955.

    A note about Tim Keigwin- He was a leading member at one time of the Monday Club.

  44. The pattern of the Liberal/Liberal Democrat vote in this seat since its creation since 1950-
    1950- 30.43%
    1951- 19.41%, -11.02%
    1955- 32.45%, +13.04%
    1959- 42.94%, +10.49%
    1964- 50.71%, +7.77%
    1966- 43.57%, -7.14%
    1970- 44.1%, +0.53%
    Feb 1974- 53.9%, +9.8%
    Oct 1974- 48.1%, -5.8%
    1979- 36.7%, -11.4%
    1983- 37.9%, +1.2%
    1987- 42.8%, +4.9%
    1992- 47.1%, +4.3%
    1997- 50.8%, +3.7%
    2001- 44.2%, -6.6%
    2005- 45.9%, +1.7%
    2010- 47.4%, +0.9%

  45. Prediction for 2015-
    Harvey (Lib Dem)- 42%
    Con- 35%
    UKIP- 12%
    Lab- 7%
    Others- 4%


    Good analysis by Nick Harvey here on the Lib Dems free School meals policy and why Ed Miliband is certain to enter Downing Street in 2015.

    Perhaps we can all agree on everything and get along now?

  47. Miliband must be favourite to enter Downing Street, but to say that it’s “certain” is completely daft. Nothing is ever certain in politics, 18 months ahead of the event. The bookies give Miliband about a two thirds probability of entering Downing Street in 2015 which I think is about right.

    This site certainly has its share of partisan Tories so maybe you are making your posts increasingly aggressively partisan to balance that up a bit. Fair enough, but be careful what you wish for. I wouldn’t have thought that 5 years of the two Eds sending the economy down the toilet is going to do much to end your unemployment.

  48. I think Nick Harvey will be an MP for some years to come yet, as he has a good wealth of experience now that the Lib Dems will continue to benefit from should he remain in Parliament after 2020, for example.

    I agree with Hemmelig that this site could do without partisan remarks from any side of the political spectrum- I didn’t think that was what it was for anyway?

  49. I more or less agree with the 2/3 comment. I do think that a labour majority is pretty unlikely though – certainly no shorter than 7/2.

  50. I agree with HH too. Very sensibly put.

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