Vandals have burned down an election placard at the home of a general election candidate's parents in a sign of escalating tensions in the race for a traditionally safe Conservative seat.
Claire Wright, an independent candidate for the constituency of East Devon, is in with a fighting chance of ousting the Tories, who have held the seat at every election since 1868.
Ms Wright labelled it a “very deliberate and very aggressive act”, while her parents Lyn and George Bradford said they were “shaken” when they discovered someone had set one of the placards ablaze on Sunday night, leaving them to discover ashes the following morning.
The local councillor is fighting her third general election in the seat, which was held by Sir Hugo Swire until he decided to step down at this election. Ms Wright is now polling almost neck and neck with the new Conservative candidate Simon Jupp, a former adviser to Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab.'Deliberately targeted'
Ms Wright’s mother Lyn said: “We do feel we were probably deliberately targeted. A lot of people know we’re Claire’s parents around here. We clearly can’t be sure who is responsible, but another of Claire’s boards just a few minutes down the road from us was also burned, but one supporting the Conservatives right next door to us was left untouched. It does leave you a bit shaken.”
Ms Wright’s father, George, added: “It could have been far worse. The sign was next to our beech hedge, and if it had been more dry the whole thing could easily have gone up in flames. The hedge was charred, but luckily didn’t catch properly.”
Mr Bradford, who said the incident had been reported to the police, added he had also had to replace far more signs at this election, compared to the previous two his daughter had fought.
Ms Wright said that while many more signs were being ripped down at this election, this was the first time any had been set alight.
“Setting my boards on fire seems to me like a very deliberate and very aggressive act,” she said. “That it happened to my parents seems to be an attempt at intimidation. To scare people closest to me. I'm disgusted. Fortunately my parents are made of strong stuff and this has made them, and me, all the more determined.”
Mr Jupp also condemned the arson attack on his opponent’s signs.
"This is a disgraceful act and I hope whoever is responsible is caught and feels the full weight of the law. My thoughts are with the family," he said.
Another local resident also reported an incident outside her home in Exmouth to police last week. The resident, who asked not to be named, said two men wearing black clothing and black hoods ran away as she confronted them outside her home after discovering them tearing down a sign supporting the independent candidate.
Read David Parsley's full report here.