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”
  1. A very petty correction for Anthony here….it is South Molton not South Moulton.

    I know this somewhat useless fact because the village of South Molton is the main subject of quite a famous 1970s book called “The Rise and Fall of the Country Railway”, which traces how and why country railways were built and operated up until the vast majority were closed in the 1950s and 1960s, through the example of South Molton and those who knew it or worked there.

  2. indeed there was a South Molton constituency until 1950. It was a safe Conservative seat & was joined with Barnstaple to form North Devon that year.

  3. I am sticking my neck out at a Con gain here. It might seem overoptimistic – but I do feel we will do very much better than the national swing here, with UKIP doing extremely well.

    Con 36
    LD 35
    UKIP 18
    Lab 9
    Green 2

  4. The presence of a strong UKIP candidate is likely to increase the UKIP vote, but I would suspect fairly equally from the other parties. The UKIP vote is therefore unlikely to have much effect unless they actually win, or get reaonably near winning. Starting from 7.2% I don’t see this as likely.

  5. UKIP won county council seats in Devon, but I think near to this constituency, not within it. Interestingly the Lib Dems only held on to one county seat in the constituency in 2013 and this must be a concern for them.

    I expect elections depend more upon knowledge of the candidates in a seat like this, than in many urban areas. It does seem to have been closely fought for several decades, except for Jeremy Thorpe’s victories in 1974.
    This will certainly be one to watch in the Euro elections in 2014 for clues.

    For Labour the challenge is to keep its deposit.

  6. I still think it will come mainly from the Tories in this particular constituency. UKIP certainly appeals to LD voters in many parts of the South-West, but these are often in fishing or other industrial communities and more likely than not to be on the coast. This seat however doesn’t really have fishing or light-industrial towns on the coast, or rather down-at-heel seaside resorts of the type where they have done well elsewhere in the country, with the possible exception of Ilfracombe. I suspect UKIP will do best in the greyer small seaside resorts such as Woolacombe, Lynton & Lynmouth & Combe Martin where they will clean up more of the Tory than the LD vote. The north Devon coastline where I can see UKIP doing best at the expense of the LDs is in Torridge & W Devon, not so much this constituency.

  7. UKIP’s advance in this constituency last May came very largely at the expense of the LDs. To give and admittedly extreme example (but it is worth doing so since you specifically mentioned this area)

    Combe Martin Rural
    Con 52.7% -0.3
    UKIP 26.1% +26.1
    LD 9.9% -25.2
    Grn 6.3% -3.5
    Lab 5.0% +2.0

  8. I still think Nick Harvey will hold this but with a majority about 2,000 less what he got in 2010.

  9. For once I totally disagree with Barnaby for the reasons Pete suggests. This has for a while been my tip for a suprise gain for the tories.

  10. The 2013 locals were atrocious for the lib Dems – must have lost votes to both Con and UKIP.

  11. I could well be wrong – it may be that UKIP can appeal more to LD voters than Tory ones in this area. I would still however be rather surprised, though not astonished, if Harvey loses the seat. One problem Harvey has, as well as with most of his colleagues in the SW, is that there is so small a Labour vote left to squeeze & that perhaps the only way is up for Labour even in a seat with a very weak Labour tradition such as this.

  12. I agree that the Tories will win here. I think that there will be quite a significant drop in the LD vote here, with UKIP polling in the 20s; out of the running due to their comparatively poor local election results compared to the area to the South-West of this constituency.

  13. I would suggest this one is quite unpredictable for 2015, thanks to the peculiar nature of parts of the existing Lib Dem vote here. I wouldn’t rule out the Tories, UKIP and Lib Dems all finishing quite close to each other.

  14. I can see your argument there Runnymede. I wouldn’t rule out something along the lines of:

    CON: 32%
    LD 30%
    UKIP: 26%
    LAB: 7%
    GRN: 3%
    OTH: 2%

  15. Lib Dems to fall 17% in a general election? Highly unlikely.

  16. I agree its unlikely to go that far, but the locals were really, really awful for the Lib Dems here.

  17. 201 Locals (%)

    Con 32.9
    UKIP 21.5
    LD 18.6
    Lab 7.0
    Green 5.8
    Ind + Minor 14.2

  18. I think the Tories have a pretty decent chance here actually but I’d still incline towards a Lib Dem hold given the swing required and Nick Harvey’s incumbency.

  19. I think people here are forgetting that the Lib Dems did pretty dreadfully at the locals in 2009 too, and yet the still won the seat. They had one councillor in the constituency in 2013, and three in 2009. One loss was to an independent who they didn’t stand against, the other was a close loss to the Tories.

    I think the Lib Dems are vulnerable in this area, certainly, but I doubt Nick Harvey is. He seems to have built up a fairly large personal vote, and his track record would indicate a slight immunity to the local election results.

    As for local results: well, the North Devon Council’s last election was 2011…

    Con – 36.1%, -3.7%
    LD – 31.6%, -11.2%
    Ind – 20.4%, +12.9%
    Grn – 6.9%, -2.4%
    Labour – 3.9%, +3.7%

    And everyone else was below 1%. Obviously, pre-UKIP surge.

    The Lib Dems held up pretty well in the northern, coastal areas, and the Tories dominated the south of the constituency, which seems fairly typical.

    The Lib Dems haven’t had control of the council since 2003. The Tories gained it that year, and promptly lost it in 2011 (no overall control).

    As for the county results… It’s odd the Lib Dems didn’t field a candidate in Ilfracombe, which they held the previous election. Could the independent have been a defector?

    (Also, the Devon Council webpage where I got the below results is really nice… very clean, easy to use.)

    Now, the Lib Dem vote share at these elections is pretty bad––17%––but it’s worth noting that they didn’t stand in the two seats won by independents, and there is a fair Green vote to be squeezed (although some will doubtless go to Labour). That said, the results (apologies if these have been posted before):

    Con: 9,619, 33.98%
    UKIP: 6,720, 23.74%
    LD: 4,774, 16.86%
    IND: 3,400, 12.01% ***
    Lab: 1,997, 7.05%
    Grn: 1,746, 6.17%
    Com: 53, 0.19%

    ***Only four independents stood in the nine seats that make up North Devon, and two of those were in the same seat, which greatly inflated the figures.

    And here’re the 2009 locals (the Greens did not stand in one seat, UKIP did not stand in three, and independents stood in five):

    Con: 12,969, 36.85%
    LD: 11,407, 32.44%
    UKIP: 4,641, 13.20%
    Grn: 2,624, 7.46%
    Ind: 2,391, 6.80%
    Lab: 1,141, 3.24%

    So, the Lib Dem vote dropped by a bit less than half. Again, I think Harvey will do well, even if the local party isn’t in a good place. I’d expect something like:

    LD 37%
    Con 33%
    UKIP 17%
    Lab 8%
    Grn 3%
    Oth 2%

  20. ‘The Lib Dems held up pretty well in the northern, coastal areas, and the Tories dominated the south of the constituency, which seems fairly typical.’

    I thought that Ilfracombe – one of the largest towns in this constituency on the coast – was the Lib Dems weakest area in the whole seat

  21. It has been weak in recent local elections but it has not been weak at many times in the past. The LDs’ weakest areas are the rural areas in the South & one or 2 Tory hotspots in the North, with Barnstaple their main centre.

  22. Thanks for the clarification Barnaby

    I thought the Tories led the Lib dems in Illfracombe by about 2:1 in 2010 – which seems quite a bit for what is a delapidated town in a lib dem-held seat

  23. North Devon, 2009 Euros:

    UKIP 30.2%
    Con 26.2%
    LD 18.4%
    Green 9.9%
    Lab 3.5%
    BNP 2.9%
    Oth 8.9%

    It’ll be interesting to see if UKIP are able to improve on their showing or whether there’s some kind of plateau effect where they struggle to improve much in the areas where they did best in 2009.

  24. We now have a full line-up of candidates for the North Devon constituency:

    Mark CANN (Labour)
    Nick HARVEY* (Liberal Democrats)
    Peter HEATON-JONES (Conservative)
    Ricky KNIGHT (Greens)

  25. Correspondents read too much into the 2013 County Results in North Devon. Firstly Lib Dems only fought six
    of the 8 seats. Secondly in the five seats fought by UKIP in
    2009 and 2013 the UKIP vote fell in four and only increased by 27 in the fifth. The Tory vote fell in every seat.
    In terms of average vote per party candidate the Cons came top, Lib Dems second, Inds third, UKIP fourth. Compared to the same calculation in 2009 the swing Lib Dem to Con was only 2.5% way short of the level needed
    to topple Nick Harvey. After the combined Euro/DCC
    elections in 2009 a year later Nick Harvey increased his
    majority by nearly 1,000 to nearly 6,000!

  26. Euros 2014

    UKIP 17,346 – 50.0%
    Con 7,434 – 21.4%
    LD 4,000 – 11.5%
    Grn 2,922 – 8.4%
    Lab 2,091 – 6.0%
    Oth 906 – 2.6%

    Strong showing for UKIP as expected

  27. Where the hell did you get the 17346 figure from? I thought it was about 9000.

  28. The various predictions for this seat are that the Tories will scrape in or that Harvey will hang on. I disagree.

    The LibDems are currently on 8% in the national polls, that’s1/3 of the vote share they got in 2010. In 2010 and the Euros they did somewhat worse than their opinion poll ratings.

    I understand that the LibDem support might be concentrated in their best areas and I understand the incumbency effect.

    When we vote we vote partly for the individual candidate, partly for his (her) party and partly for the leader. The personal vote of the individual candidate counts for little if the party leader or his party are badly contaminated in the electorates minds. I think this stands to reason and common sense, who could vote for an individual if you strongly disliked their party or leader. I wouldn’t for sure. In 2010 Nick Clegg was seen as a good guy and the LibDems were the nice party.

    The electoral evidence is that Nick Clegg personally and the LibDems as a party are held in contempt by the electorate, (pretty unfairly in my opinion), in these circumstances I do not believe Harvey can attract the same level of personal support. Further more he is up against a 2/3 reduction in his party’s share of the vote at a national level.

    I believe the Tory vote will go up a bit along with the labour and green vote, UKIP will be the main beneficiary and that the LibDems will be lucky to get 25% and may be in 3rd place.

    To win this seat the LibDems need to be less disliked by the public – to be up at the dizzy heights of say 14 or 15 % in the national polls.

    I know this is a controversial opinion in many ways I wish the LibDems well but it is the only interpretation i can see of the facts that are available.

  29. This seat is actually very interesting in many ways I think.

    It is now basically a secure enough Lib Dem seat and I don’t think they will lose it next year. Nick Harvey will probably hold it with his majority halved at the very worst I reckon. The Tories will be hit here obviously by UKIP, so I don’t think they’ll be able to take this seat from the long-standing incumbent.

    After all, with the exception of 1979, 1983 and 1987, all big victories for the Tories nationally, this has been a Liberal seat as far back as 1959. That in itself tells me that the Lib Dems would be doing extremely badly nationwide if they weren’t to hold on to this in 2015, and given their disappointing progress in vote share since 1997 I can’t see how they can, for the next few years at least, take this back.

  30. I agree with the Results that it is an interesting seat. As with a lot of south-west seats it’s sometimes hard to determine where the contenders’ strong areas are. I know Barnstaple has been a LD stronghold but Ilfracombe, where you’d think the LDs would also do quite well, appears to give the Conservatives support. The loyalties southern wards also hard to determine. One would have thought they would lean Conservative in 2010 but the Devon CC elections of 2009 were very tight and in the 2011 N Devon elections a lot of Independents were elected.

  31. “the loyalties of the southern wards…

  32. Mostly the southern wards vote Conservative in general elections, but S Molton town isn’t bad for the LDs. Part of the problem for the Conservatives has been that the LDs have become competitive in some of the smaller seaside towns & villages which were once Tory strongholds, e.g. Croyde, Georgeham, Mortehoe, Combe Martin, though not in all by any means – the Tories are still strong in Lynton & Lynmouth for example and I strongly suspect they win Woolacombe too. However my knowledge comes from 2 holidays in the constituency which were quite a few years ago now, & it could be that my impressions are no longer all valid.

  33. The Results, I think that UKIP take more support from the Lib Dems than the tories in a seat like this where a lot of the Lib Dem vote is simply protest. You can’t just generalise that every seat UKIP do well in, their votes are just coming from former tories.

    Anyway my prediction for this seat is a Con Gain:
    1. Conservative (35%)
    2. Lib Dems (29%)
    3. UKIP (25%)
    4. Labour (7%)
    5. Others (4%)

  34. Please disregard my Euro figures above — I misread the source which threw me off by about 6k! Around 9k is right!

    @Stephen — I have to disagree with your idea that “a lot of the Lib Dem vote is simply protest”. Protest against the Conservative candidate, maybe — Philip Milton who stood in 2009 was a local businessman, well known and regarded perhaps less well in certain areas and demographics. It might seem counterintuitive, but I honestly think the Conservative trick of bringing in a semi-local with a career outside the constituency might well pay off for them.

    Nick Harvey has an enormous party and personal vote as he was regarded rather well with a nice incumbency factor. I personally have heard somewhat less about him recently in local media, so I don’t know how his popularity is in this run up towards the election.

    I could honestly see this seat being held by Harvey, falling to the Conservative candidate, or even as an outlier a UKIP gain for Crowther (who seems to be maintaining a higher profile than Harvey here recently!)

  35. Despite resent bad polls for the lib Dems, I think they’re still likely to hold on here considering the size of the majority and the fact the Tories didn’t do that well here in the 2013 local elections. If Nick Harvey de idea to stand down though, then a narrow Tory gain will be most likely. But for the moment I’m still saying North Devon will be a narrow Lib Dem hold.

  36. ‘the Tories are still strong in Lynton & Lynmouth for example and I strongly suspect they win Woolacombe too.’

    I thought the Tory strength in this seat was based around the seaside town of Ilfracombe with the Lib Dems strongest in Barnstaple itself and places like South Moulton and Lynton and Lynmouth

  37. The LDs’ strongest area is certainly Barnstaple but they have been known to win in Ilfracombe in the past & still have some council representation there even now. You are actually right about Lynton & Lynmouth, whose LD strength rather surprised me. A lot of the constituency is basically marginal between the 2 parties, Barnstaple being one obvious exception, and some very Tory inland villages on the other hand another. Some surprising LD wins have been seen in some of the smaller seaside towns & villages as well as the ones you mention at times.

  38. It’s a curious seat in many ways in that it’s one of the few of the Lib Dem’s natural seats, yet they have never been able to build up the sort of majority they have in other seats with less of a liberal history – Lewes, North Norfolk, Westmoreland – despite having a well-regarded and local long-term incumbant

  39. Different demographics….large numbers of wealthy second home owners around here, quite a bit of it City money. You see this in East Devon & parts of Dorset / New Forest too.

    Though it is full of lovely places, I’ve always found North Devon very snooty and unwelcoming, especially towards families with younger children. South Devon is IMO much better from that perspective.

  40. The number of second home owners in these areas tends to be greatly exaggerated – not least by people living locally! In my district the number is 5%. I suspect if you asked around many people would estimate it at double or even treble that. The proportion of second homes is similar in North Devon I believe.

    Generally there are a few coastal hot spots but beyond those second homes are not that common. And of course a lot (most I suspect) of these second home owners don’t vote in the constituency where their second home is.

  41. HH – completely agree with your second paragraph. I much prefer S Devon, though sadly it’s been a long time since I’ve been. I used to go every year, and in fact my acquaintance with a number of lasting friends dates from my yearly visits to the Dartington Summer School of music (though I was only actually enrolled to study there once, in 1977).

  42. I’ve always found most places I’ve been to in Devon welcoming – certainly more welcoming than Cornwall, which I’ve been to an equal amount of times

    Funnily ebough one of the friendliest places in the UK I went on holiday – and I remember it quite well – was Chipping Norton.

    I’m sure nothing could be further than the truth today, now Cameron and his snooty city friends have taken over the area

  43. Cameron isn’t snooty in the sense I meant.

    North Devon villages tend to exude a “how dare you bring your 2 year old into my tea shop” attitude….an attitude made possible by 99% of the other customers being over 65 and tut-tutting about buggies and boisterous children.

    As (I think) you have no kids yet, you perhaps haven’t seen that side to it.

  44. I seem remember that attitude from the other side when I was a child and we went on holiday to (I think) Ilfracombe. I was about eight or nine, mind you, and perfectly capable of behaving – but it didn’t strike me as very friendly and I don’t remember many other children.

  45. So perhaps Nick Harvey is the only MP in the country whose chances of winning would increase if he were known to be mean to small children?

    But jokes aside, I think this is one where we could see a shock loss, but I would still expect the Lib Dems to narrowly hold.

    My guess:
    LD 34
    Con 32
    UKIP 23
    Lab 7
    Green 2
    Oth 2

  46. “I seem remember that attitude from the other side when I was a child and we went on holiday to (I think) Ilfracombe. I was about eight or nine, mind you, and perfectly capable of behaving – but it didn’t strike me as very friendly and I don’t remember many other children.”

    In my experience North Devon also has some of the most bad tempered drivers I’ve encountered in the UK. It’s as if the average central London driver has been transported onto its windy and hilly country lanes.

  47. This one is really hard to call but I’m going to try.

    prediction for 2015-

    Lib- 35%
    Con- 33%
    UKIP- 19%
    Lab- 9%
    Green- 4%

  48. I am really beginning to fancy the Conservatives’ chances here next year. I expect that Crowther will also poll extremely well though so the race here is quite unpredictable at the minute as North Devon is starting to look increasingly like a 3-way race. Although UKIP is definitely behind the Lib Dems and the Tories here right now, UKIP could end up edging a very narrow win if the vote here is split enough and they keep up the momentum that they have gained over the last month.

  49. nah UKIP will get between 15%-25% and that is absolutely the line in the sand, especially as the tories could gain this one. They have no chance of a gain, infact if I was to make the odds:

    Lib dem: 55%
    Conservative: 40%
    UKIP: 5%

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