On Tuesday 12th May, the Conservative MP for North Devon claimed in a Facebook post that there was 'plenty of space' in North Devon. Today, Wednesday (20th) May, tourists flocked to North Devon beaches.
This week the MP has come under fire on her own Facebook live, accused of encouraging visitors over the last ten days. It follows images across social media, local and national press of cars queuing to gain entry into beaches.
Dozens of locals, along with us at North Devon Liberal Democrats, warned the MP that this was coming and encouraged her to put out a clearer message.
On May 12th, North Devon Liberal Democrats wrote to the MP and relevant ministers seeking for a clearer message, forewarning of an influx, and pushing for a clear 'come back later' message. These requests were ignored.
In the Conservative MP's own survey of over 1,100 people during the w/c 4th May, only 6.7% of North Devonians said they would welcome tourists back to the area. This is feedback that the MP ignored, choosing instead to be the voice of her Conservative government from Westminster in North Devon and not North Devon's voice in Westminster.
As a result, immense pressure has been put on the police force; council staff are run off their feet and our vulnerable hospital has been open to the potential for more cases. All of this could have been avoided. North Devon has been put at risk because of her failure to stand up for North Devon, and the Government's lack of understanding of areas like ours. In this MP, North Devon had no voice.
Alex White, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesperson for North Devon, was outraged:
“I am shocked by the scenes we've seen today, but sadly not surprised. I wrote to the MP and the relevant ministers expressing my concern over the 'stay alert' message in particular some time ago. Frankly I was astonished at her remarks on her Facebook Live, blaming Parish Councils not opening car parks for this mess. North Devon Liberal Democrats are clear - the blame is with this MP and this Government. I will push for the Government to amend advice in a way that protects our area. I'm only sorry that this hasn't been done effectively by the Tory MP.”
The MP has, following the aftermath of this mass tourist influx, gone back on her previous comments, in a worried post on Facebook last night. She also changed her cover photo in an abysmal attempt to cover up the grave errors she made. Having ignored residents, toed the party line, and waited for a crisis; we say that this simply isn't good enough. North Devon deserves better.
We will continue to push for clearer guidelines, safer restrictions, and protection for North Devon where others fail to secure it. One thing is clear - North Devon is not open yet, please come back later.