It is a chilly spring morning, and some of the key players in the Conservative effort to retain their Devizes seat are gathering at a country house near Marlborough. The constituency covers an expanse of rural Wiltshire and includes the market towns of Devizes and Marlborough, along with dozens of small towns and villages. It has been a Conservative stronghold since 1924, and the last MP, Michael Ancram, has recently decided to stand down from his unassailable position after 18 years. Today, the Tories will continue their efforts to fill his empty seat with Claire Perry .
The meeting place is the home of the Constituency Chairman, Ken Carter. At 8:30am he is joined by Terry Ralph, a long-time supporter, and James Earle, Claire’s aide. James is a cheerful 23-year-old who worked for the MoD after reading Middle Eastern Languages at Oxford. Later, he turned down a job in the City in order to work with Claire, putting around 70 hours per week into the campaign.
After a run-through of the day’s tight schedule, it is time to set off to meet the rest of the team. James travels in his car, while Ken and Terry take the Battlebus, a shiny, gunmetal grey Land Rover Defender. “Vote Perry” posters adorn the windows, and the roof is crowned with a PA system, a donation from Mr. Ancram.
It is now 9:30am, and the warm lounge of the Bear Hotel in Devizes finds itself host to a Tory gathering. Ken, James and Terry are joined by Deputy Chairman Ann Merrett, Paula Winchcombe, a councillor and former mayor, and Councillor Sue Evans. They chat about the campaign and discuss the BBC’s coverage of David Cameron. Today is market day, and the busy town centre can be seen through the window, crowded with people wrapped tightly in coats but enjoying the sun while they browse the stalls. Claire Perry enters with a white smile. She is over six feet tall and wears a white knee-length coat with a floral design along with a green scarf, loose dark trousers and blue suede slip-on shoes. She greets everyone before firmly placing a copy of the Gazette and Herald open on the table. The article introducing the main candidates lays out Lib Dem plans for the community, but speaks only about Claire’s home life. She says that she’ll be back shortly, and walks to the newspaper’s office to have a word with the editor. Read the rest of this entry »