THE Liberal Democrat candidate for Central Devon has claimed only his party can oust the Conservatives from the constituency at the upcoming general election. 

Mark Wooding has called for a “rural revival” and says he will campaign to “reverse the neglect of our rural communities”. 

His comments follow Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon, May 22 that the next general election will take place on Thursday, July 4. 

Mr Wooding welcomed the announcement “at long last” and slammed the government as “moribund, divisive and failed”. 

He also criticised the Labour Party for not having a candidate when the election was called. 

The latest YouGov poll has predicted Labour will come second in the seat with 30 per cent of the vote, just three percentage points behind the Conservatives. The party came second behind Tory Mel Stride in the previous two elections. 

It also forecasted the Lib Dems would get just 16 per cent of the total votes, coming in third place. 

Mr Wooding said: “In the last 18 months I have spoken to hundreds of people and it is clear they think it is time for change.  

“I will campaign to reverse the neglect of our rural communities that has happened under the Conservatives.  

“It is time to stop the Conservatives taking us for granted. 

“We need a rural revival and that means better services and support for our towns, villages and hamlets.  

“We need a fair deal for Central Devon. Our rural communities especially need a fair deal for our struggling farmers. 

“If the residents of Central Devon do me the honour of choosing me as their MP I will have five priorities: giving greater support to our farmers and our rural communities; ending sewage dumping and getting potholes fixed; ensuring hospital waiting lists fall and there is better access to dental treatment; improving children’s education, and introducing a skills training passports for adults; and encouraging the creation of high value jobs in emerging green technologies. 

"We need change and I promise I will help deliver that for our county and country.” 

The Central Devon constituency includes Crediton, Okehampton, much of the eastern half of Dartmoor and Ashburton. 

Its boundaries have been moved slightly for the next election. To the east, Cowley and Brampford Speke will be lost to Exmouth and Exeter East, and a chunk of land west of Okehampton will be lost to Torridge and Tavistock. To the south, the constituency will gain a small part of the Newton Abbot seat. 

Conservative Mel Stride was first elected as the MP for Central Devon in 2010. He has also been Work and Pensions Secretary in Rishi Sunak’s government. 

Mr Stride is standing for re-election and holds a huge 17,721-strong majority. He won over 55 per cent of the vote in 2019.  

The other candidates vying for the seat to date are Mr Wooding for the Liberal Democrats, Ollie Pearson for Labour, Gill Westcott for the Green Party and Jeffrey Leeks for Reform UK.