THE Conservatives have won Central Devon, with cabinet minister Mel Stride narrowly avoiding defeat. 

The Work and Pensions Secretary secured 16,831 votes, 31.5 per cent of the total ballots cast – a huge drop from more than 55 per cent at the last election in 2019. 

Several polling companies had predicted Labour would win the seat, and the party’s candidate Ollie Pearson came very close to doing so – he came second with 16,770 votes, 31.4 per cent of the total. 

Mr Stride was first elected as the constituency’s MP in 2010 and had dominated every election since, increasing his vote share every time. 

But that trend has been bucked at this election, with Mr Stride’s majority falling from over 17,700 to just 61 votes. 

History of Central Devon general elections graph
The Tories sustained big losses and only just beat Labour (Will Goddard, Crediton Courier)

He only just dodged a “Portillo moment” – so named after Tory cabinet minister Michael Portillo lost his seat in Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide. 

Mr Stride said: "Can I thank the returning officer and all of those who conducted the count so efficiently here through the night.  

"Could I give a special thank-you to my agent, Mike Knuckey... and all those who helped me during what has been a very hard-fought campaign.  

"I would also like to pay tribute to my opponents. This has been a decent, fair and well spirited contest without any personal acrimony, and I thank them for that and I think that's good for democracy within our constituency.  

"I would like to express my sadness at the loss of so many of my colleagues who will not be joining me in the House of Commons.  

"We have suffered a truly major, major defeat over the last 24 hours. My party must now go away and learn the lessons and think deeply about what has happened and the message that it has sent to my party as we seek to rebuild and establish ourselves in time once again as the natural party of government and I look forward to playing my role in that endeavour.  

"I would also like to thank my family. Politics is a journey, it's exhilarating, it's exciting, you can often get many, many useful things done but it's also tough and it's toughest for those who love you the most. So my love to my wife Michelle and to my three daughters.  

"And finally I want to say this, which is that I take the responsibility of having been elected for a fifth term as the Member of Parliament for Central Devon extremely seriously.  

"This is one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country and it has within its boundaries some of the finest people that live in this country, and I will continue to fight for them as I have in the past and stand up for them in this next Parliament." 

Liberal Democrat candidate Mark Wooding picked up 8,232 votes, 15.4 per cent of the total, coming in third place. 

Jeffrey Leeks of Reform UK finished fourth with 7,784 at 14.6 per cent. 

Gill Westcott finished fifth for the Green Party with 3,338 at 6.2 per cent. 

Independent Arthur Price came last with 477 at 0.9 per cent, losing his £500 deposit.  

Turnout this year in Central Devon was 71.2 per cent from an electorate of 75,385. 

The figure is lower than that in every previous general election in the seat since it was created in 2010.  

The seat’s boundaries were adjusted slightly for this year’s election, though, and this was the first general election that voters needed photo ID. 

Married with three daughters, 62-year-old Mel Stride studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford before setting up events and publishing company Venture Marketing Group in 1987. 

He and his wife still hold shares and voting rights in the business.