Conservatives leave it late
Who's going to be Exeter's next MP if a general election is called in the next few weeks? One thing is certain, the city's Conservatives haven't a clue who they're putting forward.
With the country in Brexit chaos and parliament suspended - or prorogued in the phrase almost no-one knew until a week ago - expectations are high that a general election will be held in November. Prime minister Boris Johnson says he wants one. On Wednesday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it's his priority - even though he voted against it on Monday. If that's confusing enough, ask Exeter Conservatives who they expect to be their candidate, and the answer is they're waiting for head office to tell them when they can choose one.
From 1970 to 1997, the time of the Labour landslide, Exeter was held by the Tories. John Hannam represented the city in parliament for the Conservatives without a break. In 1997, the Tories put up right-winger Adrian Rogers, a GP who disliked homosexuals and abortion and campaigned for what he called family values. Labour's Ben Bradshaw beat him and has held the seat ever since, increasing his majority to 16,000 in the 2017 election. The Tories, meanwhile, have chopped and changed, fielding a different candidate at every election since, sometimes having unknowns parachuted in from other regions. Exeter barrister James Taggdissian was revealed to the electorate with just a few weeks of polling day in 2017. He came second, but gained only 32% of the vote. All other candidates lost their deposits.
Radio Exe understands that Exeter Conservatives are at a loss to know where their candidate for the forthcoming election is to come from. Ben Bradshaw is almost certainly standing again for Labour, although he's got to convince local activists to back him and not force a 'tigger ballot' which could deselect him. He's an avowed Corbyn critic, but it's unlikely that more left-wing elements of the local party will garner sufficient support to unseat him. The Lib Dems have chosen a 23-year-old Exeter University politics and economists graduate Tom Deakin. The Greens are likely to ask voters to choose Joe Levy, their candidate last time round, who polled 1.9 per cent of the vote.
Last Monday, the prime minister asked parliament to call a general election. They didn't want one - just yet.