By Harry Mottram: More than 75 Conservative MPs have chosen not to fight the forthcoming general election on Thursday, July 4, 2024, in part as some retire, some have new careers and some fear they will lose their seat and so jump before they are pushed. That’s understandable but it puts huge pressure on local Conservative organisations who have to quickly nominate a new candidate with the deadline of 7th June now very close.

The former Conservative MP and now a presenter of travel programmes Michael Portello has been very critical of some of the Tory MPs who have left it late to decide to step down. His feeling was it was very unfair on local party organisations who literally had to scramble around to find someone willing to stand for parliament – taking time out of work and family commitments and potentially losing out to a rival political party.

Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom left it late causing something of a flutter amongst parliamentary observers and no doubt their constituent organisations while our MP James Heappey and defence minister Ben Wallace announced some time ago they would be leaving Westminster. Even so it can be a struggle to find a replacement as time runs out before the cut off date. Axbridge is part of the Wells constituency and so far has several contenders to replace Mr Heappey. If the Conservatives can select a well known local figure then it is expected to be a fight between Tessa Munt for the Lib Dems and whoever the Tories put up. With the Conservatives polling rather badly then it could be very close with some making Ms Munt a slight favourite. But as Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time in politics, while in a month anything could happen.

Pundits suggest the Reform Party could eat into the Conservative vote which could be decisive here while the Greens could do the same to the Lib Dem vote. Then there is the Independent candidate who is well known in Shepton Mallet. She could poll well – and then of course the Labour Party who nationally are expecting to win may be disappointed if many of their votes here are split between the Lib Dems, the Independent and the Green Party. Opinion polls continue to show little change in the national picture but locally there are often unexpected results and this election will no doubt prove no different.

The constituency has dropped Burnham on Sea and Highbridge – now in Bridgwater – and has gained Yatton, Congresbury, and Kenn in the north and the Polden Hills with the villages of Shapwick, Moorlinch and Catcott in the south. The Mendip Hills includes Blagdon, Green Ore and Charterhouse while in the east the constituency includes Shepton Mallet and Pilton but not Glastobury and Street. The changes were made by the boundary commission to try to make all constituencies roughtly the same size.

So far, these are the brave souls who have put their names forward to stand:

Liberal Democrats

Tessa Munt for the Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrat Tessa Munt has be installed as the potential winner having maintained a high profile locally and winning a Somerset Council ward in Wells in local elections and is now a member of the executive committee of Somerset Council. She was previously the MP for Wells winning in 2010 against David Heathcoat-Amory who was caught up in the expenses scandal. In 2015 she lost to James Heappey who has held the seat since then. Originally from Surrey where she went to school Ms Munt has had a variety of jobs in teaching, the law, social services and as the personal assistant to cricketer Phil Edmonds. It is fair to say she is well known in Axbridge – and of course Wells.


Helen Himms, Reform UK

So far, we know that Helen Hims is standing for Reform UK and will be hoping to inherit the votes of UKIP and disgruntled Conservatives. She has been in business with her husband in retailing and lives in Winscombe. Previously with UKIP she was in favour of Brexit, cutting foriegn aid, defending British culture and is in favour of proportional representation. She has previously stood for parliament in Weston-super-Mare.


Abi is standing as an Independent. She says on her website: “For the past 100 years, our constituency has been led by a select few politicians who drive forward their party agenda. We do not have to be represented in this way. It can be different. I believe we have all we need to resolve our own issues, but we currently do not know who to trust or what to do. We need to be brave and challenge the status quo, exposing the system that is divisive and does not work.

“Since 2019 I have led significant change as an independent town councillor for Shepton Mallet, where we have worked collaboratively to remove party politics and concentrate on working together to get things done.”

Abi McGuire Independent

Green Party

Peter Welsh appeared on BBC’s Question Time as a member of the audience and gained support on social media when he spoke up. He said: ““I support 100% nurses to take action if it’s the last resort and I think they’ve been in the last resort for many years.”

The Green Party are well known for their strong support of enviromental measures including recycling, preservation of natural envirnoments, pushing for more public transport, cycling friendly measures, action on Global warming but also pressing for more on social reforms and community based politics,

Peter Welsh. Green Party


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.”


To be announced.


Many people will know of the town’s long history – some of which is dramatised in the Axbridge Pageant Community Play – beginning as a Saxon town during the time of Alfred The Great in the late 9th century. Like several towns and cities in the South West its parliamentary representation dates to 1295 when as part of the Wells constiuency it had two MPs. The Reform Act of 1867 changed this archaic representation and in 1885 the seat had just one MP as modern politics finally took over from the era of Whigs and Tories when Sir Richard Paget became the sole Coonservative MP. The first known or rather named MP was Nicholas Christesham in 1386 who along with Thomes Phelpes represented Wells and the area that included Axbridge.


Whether others will join the contest is yet to be seen but I will update residents on my website of developments purely out of interest – and I will do my best to be objective. I cover proefessionally Bath for a newspaper which has not dissimilar dynamics to Wells – although the current Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse will have to do spectacularly badly to lose.

Axbridge News is edited by Harry Mottram for his own interest and those of residents.

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