By Harry Mottram: Glastonbury sheep farmer Jo Joseph (pictured) has been selected to fight the Wells and Mendip Hills constituency that includes Axbridge for the Labour Party. The former RAF serviceman and pilot manages a flock of Portland sheep and also represents the St Cuthbert Out ward on the parish council near Wells while teaching countryside and environmental management, alongside his duties as a parish councillor.

He said: “As a Labour and Co-operative candidate, I may not be the obvious challenger here, but we are certainly offering a fresh and sensible alternative. I stand for sovereignty over our food and farming, fair trade, and a right to healthy affordable food. I will safeguard standards in public life, restoring honesty and integrity. I want to achieve a co-operative green economy, in which wealth and power are shared fairly. Let’s build on the pride we have in our communities, end rural poverty, and get the countryside working again.”

It will be interesting to see how he gets on in a constituency that is billed by many as a straight contest between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Last time Labour chose Kama McKenzie from Bristol who came in a poor third in 2019 while Andy Merryfield did better in 2017 but the party has never won here or come close except in 1945 when Cyril Morgan came within less that 2,500 votes of beating Dennis Boles. It may be a surprise to some that Labour in the 1950s and 1960s were consistently second in the elections in Axbridge and district. 

He is standing against Helen Hims (Reform UK), Abi McGuire (independent), Tessa Munt (Liberal Democrats) and Peter Welsh (Green Party).

The Conservatives are yet to name their candidate after the current MP James Heappey stood down. The question is now who will step in for the Conservatives in a constituency that has had most representatives since the late 19th century when parliament become more democractic as reforms came in to increase representation. From 1885 to 2010 it’s been a blue strong hold with only the old Liberal Party succeeding in the 1906 and 1923 elections in prevailing. Older residents will recall the Tory MPs Lynch Maydon, Robert Boscowen and David Heathcoat-Amory until Tessa Munt ousted the latter in 2010.

James Heappey has held the seat since 2015 and the general concensus has been he has had ‘a good Ukraine war’ as Armed Forces Minister fielding questions from the media on the UK’s role in supplying weapons to the beleagued nation in its war with Putin’s Russia. However, it’s fair to say he’s not enjoyed that level of support locally if you go with what is written on social media – but that counts for nought now he is stepping down. David Heathcoat-Amory was undone by the Expenses Scandal while today the collapse of support for the Tories in opinion polls over The Cost of Living Crisis and Party Gate will mean Heappey’s successor has an uphill battle.

In 2019 the result was a 9,991 majority for James Heappey. Back in 2010 Tessa Munt had a majority of 800 over David Heathcoat-Amory. Below is the 2019 Result:

James HeappeyConservative33,33654.1%4.0%
Tessa MuntLiberal Democrat23,34537.9%0.2%
Kama McKenzieLabour4,3047.0%-4.7%
Dave DobbsIndependent3730.6%0.6%
Susie QuatermassMotherworld Party2700.4%0.4%

The General Election was called by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and will be held on Thursday, July 4th, 2024.

Axbridge News is edited by Harry Mottram (pictured) and is published for the interest of himself and fellow residents.

Harry is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc