The farming vote will be important when the people of Honiton and Tiverton go to the polls next week in a by-election triggered by the resignation of former MP Neil Parish for looking at pornography in the House of Commons.
Some farmers in the constituency have made their voting intentions known and for this historically safe Conservative seat there is evidence of a mutinous mood.
See also: Farming reacts to porn-watching MP Neil Parish’s resignation
As a farmer and chair of parliament’s Environment Farming and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee, Mr Parish was a mostly popular figure in the farming community and secured votes regardless of political affinity.
But beef and sheep farmer John Wescott, a Conservative voter, said the party would not be getting his vote this time around.
“It can’t be Conservative because of all the damage they have done to farming in the past couple of years, they have sold us down the river,” said Mr Wescott, of Brockhole Farm, Morebath.
“Neil Parish had a good knowledge of farming, he understood the farming view and is a great loss to the industry.”
Mr Wescott said there was a good chance he would vote for the Liberal Democrats, in what he described as a “protest vote”.
“So many things have gone against agriculture in the past few years, some of the policies are absolute waffle.”
As a butcher as well as a farmer, Mr Wescott said he was able to “paddle his own canoe” to some extent, but he worries that policies are now stacked against the industry and there will be an exodus.
Farmers in the region have received a letter from Defra secretary George Eustice suggesting that a vote for the Conservatives will be “a vote to support farming”.
Among the recipients was dairy farmer Richard Tucker, of Ditchetts Farm, near Tiverton, who is the NFU county chairman for Devon, and who played host to prime minister Boris Johnson and Defra farm minister Victoria Prentis on his farm last week.
“He came to the farm with the local Tory candidate on Friday (10 June) and there was much more talk about production and food security than we have heard before, perhaps the penny is dropping that we are not just custodians of the countryside,” Mr Tucker said.
In common with other rural regions, there is huge pressure on farmland in the constituency from housing, energy production, carbon offsetting and environmental measures.
The party that will win the by-election will be the one which doesn’t overlook agriculture, Mr Tucker said.
“This is a very productive farming area and with our previous MP farmers always felt that he was on their side, but there is now a new face in town,” he said.
For Bamford sheep farmer Colin Rowland, a committed Conservative voter, the party will get his vote, but he said it would be no bad thing if the Liberal Democrats “stir things up a bit” to keep the Conservatives with “their feet to the fire”.
“Neil Parish is a very good friend of mine and he said after the last election that the Conservatives had won by too many votes and would be allowed to get away with exactly what they wanted to do,” said Mr Rowland.
“Boris got Brexit done, but from a farming perspective they couldn’t deliver what they promised and changed the rules somewhat afterwards.”
Who is standing for election?
The candidates for Honiton and Tiverton on Thursday 23 June are:
Jordan Donoghue-Morgan Heritage
Andy Foan Reform UK
Richard Foord Liberal Democrats
Helen Hurford Conservative
Liz Pole Labour
Frankie Rufolo For Britain
Ben Walker Ukip
Gill Westcott Green Party