Making up one of the largest constituencies in England in terms of geographical size, Torridge and West Devon is a beautiful mix of hills, valleys, coastlines and moorland. The constituency stretches from Bideford along the North Devon coast to Hartland, and in the south from Dartmeet across Dartmoor to Tavistock and the Bere Peninsula aside the Tamar Valley. The constituency contains part of Dartmoor and is made up of market towns such as Holsworthy and Great Torrington, as well as the aforementioned Stannary Town of Tavistock and the ‘Little White Town’ of Bideford, which nestles on the banks of the River Torridge near Northam and the romantically named village of Westward Ho!.
Politics in both Torridge and West Devon has always been a competitive affair, with Conservatives and Liberals vying for popularity. Past MPs for the area include Lord John Russell, a reforming Victorian Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, Jeremy Thorpe served Bideford, and for a brief while Mark Bonham Carter scored an early by-election victory for the Liberals in the old Torrington constituency before being unseated at the next election by Percy Brown for the Conservatives. Conservative MP Sir Peter Mills is remembered with great affection for his qualities of being an honest, hardworking local MP, whilst turncoat Baroness Nicholson became notorious for her defection from Conservative to Liberal Democrat. Between 1997 and 2005 the seat was held by Lib Dem John Burnett, who retired in 2005. Geoffrey Cox was subsequently elected MP in 2005 and re-elected in 2010.
This is a rural constituency with rural issues. Population sparsity works against fair funding for local services, which are consistently under funded by government on a per-capita basis in comparison with the national average or particularly Labour dominated areas. The on-going depression in agriculture continues to alter the face of the local communities and means less reliance on the traditional means of earning a living, whilst more and more people look towards Barnstaple, Exeter and Plymouth for a job.
However, the quality of life in the constituency would be considered by many to be good. There is less crime and unemployment than in many areas, and the people are traditionally welcoming and friendly. There are a great many interesting and enjoyable places to visit and the rat race can be left far behind as you walk across the moor, stroll on a magnificent sandy beach or enjoy a Devonshire Tea with clotted cream!