Paul Arnott for Exmouth and Exeter East

Paul has lived in East Devon and Exeter for more than a quarter of a century, raising a family of four children through local state schools. He has been a prominent campaigner for change at East Devon District Council, previously Conservative for 45 years, and for the last five years has led an alliance of LibDems, Independents and Greens as Leader of the Council. He has led  causes across the constituency, from at last delivering Cranbrook a town centre and supermarket site, to opening up democratic involvement around Placemaking in Exmouth, and distributing hundreds of thousands of pounds in business and poverty support through the pandemic. He believes that, with respect to others, the real data shows beyond doubt that only he can beat the incumbent Conservatives here, and so does former candidate Claire Wright who has endorsed his campaign.

Below, you can read more about Paul's priorities for the new constituency of Exmouth and Exeter East - which following boundary changes includes the East Devon wards of Broadclyst, Budleigh & Raleigh, Clyst Valley, Cranbrook, Exe Valley, Exmouth Brixington, Exmouth Halsdon, Exmouth Littleham, Exmouth Town, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh, Whimple & Rockbeare, and Woodbury & Lympstone, as well as the Exeter City wards of Pinhoe, St Loye's, and Topsham - as well as some of his experiences as Leader at East Devon and his personal biography.

You can get in touch with Paul via email at or on social media @PaulArnottLD.

Paul Arnott with a yellow Liberal Democrats rosette against a scenic background with trees and grass

Only Paul and the Lib Dems can beat the Conservatives here

The evidence is clear: only a vote for Paul will help to keep the Conservatives out in Exmouth and Exeter East.

A vote for Labour or the Greens is likely to split the opposition vote and increase the chances of the Conservatives winning here – while a vote for the Conservatives is a clear message that you’re content with this government’s neglect of our public services, failure to prevent South West Water from poisoning our rivers and leaking sewage onto our beaches, and horrendous lack of thought for standards in public life.

For more information, see our page on tactical voting.

Claire Wright endorses Paul Arnott for MP
Claire Wright & Paul Arnott

My Priorities for Exmouth & Exeter East

Since I was elected as Leader at East Devon in 2020, my priorities have been clear - and in many ways they are just as central to the brighter future I want to help bring to Exmouth and Exeter East.

Our corner of Devon has been taken for granted by government for decades. As Leader at East Devon District Council, I’ve brought honesty and accountability to our local public services - making a difference to the things that matter to local people. I believe in real action on sewage spills, not just sending angry emails; standing up for our NHS, with investment in staffing for the long-term and a new model for social care; and making sure we deliver quality homes supported by infrastructure, not soulless copy-and-paste brick boxes. Above all else, if you elect me as Exmouth and Exeter East’s next MP, I promise to be a genuine local champion all year-round - standing up for the causes that matter to everyone, not just to whoever sits in 10 Downing Street.

Paul Arnott being filmed by a reporter in front of protestors at Exmouth Town Hall

Real Action on Sewage Spills

I am disgusted by the way South West Water has allowed the poisoning of our rivers and spoiling of our beaches with raw sewage. At East Devon, I've led the fight on this crisis. As your MP, I want to continue with that work - holding South West Water to account here in our corner of Devon, and nationally by:

  • Introducing a new ‘Sewage Tax’ on water companies
  • Banning water bosses’ bonuses until they clean up their act
  • Transforming water companies into public benefit companies to make sure they are putting public interest before shareholders’ profits
Paul Arnott in front of the main entrance to Exmouth Hospital

Standing Up for Our NHS

Our local NHS has an annual deficit of £30 million, while its waiting lists for non-urgent care are among the longest in the country - and our GPs and dental practices are stretched to the limit. Not a single Devon dental surgery is taking new NHS patients. I want to see our health system brought back from the brink, making sure everyone gets access to the care they need, when they need it.

For me, that means:

  • 8,000 more GPs nationwide, by increasing training places and helping experienced doctors stay for longer
  • Giving everyone a right to see their GP within 24 hours for urgent care, or a week for non-urgent appointments
  • Ensuring no-one has to sell their home to pay for care, by reforming the way social care is financed
Paul Arnott standing in front of a block of flats under construction

Quality Homes, in the Right Place

For far too long, Exeter and East Devon have seen the wrong houses built in the wrong places - with rules seeming to be set by big developers and no thought for public interest. People can't afford to buy or rent a home of good quality that meets their needs, despite government policy allowing the concreting over of green spaces and our beautiful Devon countryside.

That needs to change. We need developers' free-for-all to end, and for local councils to be empowered to deliver high-quality homes within well-designed communities, of the right size and type, in the right place to meet local needs, and supported by the infrastructure we desperately need. That means:

  • Ending right to buy, and strengthening councils' powers to build their own homes - including eliminating "hope value" when purchasing land for housing
  • Strengthening renters' rights by banning no-fault evictions and giving social housing tenants more powers over the management of their homes
  • Improving building standards across the board, making sure new homes are cheap to heat and zero-carbon, as well as ensuring big housebuilders don't get away with poor workmanship
Paul Arnott with Lib Dem campaigners Dianne Conduit and Trudi Cotton, holding freshly-baked sourdough bread bought from a local business exhibiting at the Exmouth Gate to Plate Festival

Backing Local Business

Small local businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy. That’s why, under my leadership, East Devon District Council has done more to support them than ever before. In recent years, I led on targeted support during the Covid-19 pandemic, and on the expansion of the Exeter & East Devon Enterprise Zone near Cranbrook - helping to protect and create jobs for local people, and making our area a place where businesses want to invest. In May, East Devon launched the Carbon Action Programme, with ambitious packages of support for small businesses to reduce carbon footprints.

I want to see the importance of local businesses properly recognised by national government in policy, and particularly:

  • Reform to business rates to boost high streets and encourage local job creation
  • More skills training and apprenticeships for young people to help fix the recruitment crisis
  • A new 'duty of care' towards the environment, to encourage businesses to act in a sustainable way

My Record at East Devon

Being an MP is a very different job to leading a local council, but I hope some of my achievements at East Devon show my commitment to working on behalf of our communities.

Getting a grip on development

The council was at risk of losing democratic control over development in our district because of its involvement in the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP). This was a cross-council body with no proper constitution identifying major development sites, leaving councillors and the public at East Devon with only superficial democratic oversight. 

Under my leadership, we withdrew and the GESP shut down. We are now making our Local Plan for Development with full transparency, unlike previous Conservative methods. 

Cranbrook Town Centre & District Heating

In the first weeks of my leadership we discussed with officers the appalling way in which residents had been let down by the building of a new town which had been run almost entirely under the influence of developers leaving the new community short of a town centre. By purchasing pockets of land ourselves, we are able to push on to where the town centre is approaching completion and by the end of this year the new supermarket building is opened. We have also been involved in tough talks with Eon, the district heating monopoly supplier, to get them to reduce service failures.

Exmouth Town & Seafront

For too long decisions about Exmouth’s future in both the town and the seafront were dominated by a behind-closed-doors Conservative approach. Under my leadership we created the open-to-all Exmouth Placemaking committee and have restarted the process of how to regenerate the town in the public interest.

After the sea walls were damaged by storms last year, under my leadership East Devon managed the engineering and found the money to build new and critical protection. This has been neglected by the Conservatives, and unsurprisingly when work began, we found evidence of honeycombed holes in the foundation area behind the wall. 

I have opened new sea defences by the clock tower and will continue to work to protect the people and businesses of Exmouth from rising sea levels.


I am disgusted by the way South West Water has allowed the poisoning of our rivers and spoiling of our beaches with raw sewage.

At EDDC I’ve led the fight on this crisis. In February, the council declared that it had no confidence in South West Water, and we’re taking steps to make sure South West Water proactively communicate with us to help us protect the public from spills along our coast. 

We’re also looking at whether sewage infrastructure can cope with new development, and potentially using our planning powers to pause housebuilding in areas without capacity until South West Water invests. However, our powers are limited - particularly as the Environment Agency doesn’t have the money they need to properly investigate. 

Building tourism and cultural economies

I have always believed that East Devon has a unique offer to make in both tourism and culture but has not quite managed to market a clear identity. I created a new Portfolio role in Cabinet to cover this, and working with officers and using post-pandemic recovery funds we set up highly successful networks for businesses and individuals involved in both areas. My belief is that if we can succeed at this then there will be an even better life for local people with both quality employment in tourism and outstanding arts and entertainment offers. 

Public Toilets

After 45 years of Conservative neglect, the toilets in East Devon are in a woeful state. We have not ducked the challenge, spending to renew key locations and going into partnership with businesses or smaller councils to take them on. This work is happening right now.

About Paul

I have lived for more than a quarter of a century in East Devon and Exeter, from Bonhay Road near Exeter St Davids, to a tiny flat in Topsham, and then raising a family of four children in Colyton, all educated in local state schools.

My personal backstory is a little unusual. I was adopted at birth and raised in south London, only to discover that I was from an unmarried Irish couple for whom the baby was a crisis pregnancy. Very unusually, they went on to get married back in Ireland and had four further children, my brothers and sister. My adoptive parents have both now passed away, but after we were reunited the huge Irish family has been part of our family life for some decades and we all attended my natural father's funeral in Dublin after he died at Easter aged 92.

Writing & Journalism

This has given me a keen interest in child welfare issues, the challenges of the now historic “closed adoption” period, and the issue of safeguarding young people. All this was the subject of my first published book, A Good Likeness: A Personal Story of Adoption. Subsequent books have included Windrush: A Ship Through Time and Let Me Eat Cake: A Life Led Sweetly. All received excellent reviews in national newspapers.

My writing work began in the 1980s at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, where I won a short play prize and wrote a new play that was then performed in London. Realising that this was no way to make a reliable living, I became a journalist covering entertainment and the arts for The Independent and Time Out. At both publications I also worked as a sub-editor at the front end of production.

Television Production

This then led to my being recruited to cover similar work but for television, where I became Series Editor of a Channel 4 daily programme. With my own company I branched out into working with the Royal Shakespeare Company which eventually led to our producing a worldwide feature film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Many documentary productions followed for the BBC and TG4 in Ireland, including White Mughals with William Dalrymple and Barbado’ed, about the transportees from these islands sent as indentured labourers at sugar plantations before the appalling Transatlantic slave trade began.

All this was fulfilling but very hard work, and as a producer you need to know where every penny is being spent every day. I have tried to continue this practice as an elected councillor.


Football has played a central role in my life.

I have supported Charlton Athletic since childhood, something of a cross to bear, with Exeter City as my second team. I well remember Charlton attempting one of their many relaunches at home only for Exeter to thrash them 4-0. I have many happy memories of going to see games with my adoptive dad, more in hope than expectation.

I set up and managed a Colyton Girls’ Soccer Team which included my twin daughters and ran it for five years, taking me across East Devon and many fine contests in Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton and Ottery St Mary. Seeing these young women grow in skill and personal confidence was one of the happiest times of my life.

For many years I played 11-a-side football (a goalhanger, say my teamates, but they don’t mind it when I toe poke them into the back of the net), and then indoor five-a-side for a couple of decades. It was after a player stood on my toe leaving a bruise which simply did not heal that life threw me a curve ball.


Taking my toe to my superb GP in June 2011, I was quickly diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Treated by the amazing RD&E Yarty Ward team for many months in a sealed room, I went on to have a bone marrow transplant in Bristol in 2012. It took a year or so to fully recover from the effects, but I am now cured and other than a slightly compromised immune system (I am on Covid jab number nine!) I am in fine health with hopefully a long life to come. Like so many people, my debt of gratitude to the National Health Service is absolute, and I have campaigned hard, for example, to prevent East Devon community hospitals being closed down and sold off.

Getting into politics

Like many people, politics in my adult life was in essence Mrs Thatcher then Tony Blair. I was not at ease with either, feeling despite their obvious strengths that the job went to both their heads. I had always voted Liberal Democrat, but did not become politically active at all till I was in my early 40s.

Ironically this happened after the family moved back to Devon in 2001. I first became an independent parish councillor in Colyton to protect a project I was leading to build a new Youth, Scout and Pre-School building from opposition from the local old guard. This was a tough time and introduced me to local political affairs, and to my deep concerns about an historic tendency to look the other way at East Devon District Council (EDDC) for their allies, in this case Conservative.

Politically independent

I was astonished to discover that I was one of a legion of people across the district who’d had problems with the institutional arrogance at EDDC. In brief, we formed a group called the East Devon Alliance to take this on, which first contested the 2015 local elections, before in 2019 forming (after a one-year hiatus) a Democratic Alliance of Independents, Lib Dems and Greens to run the council. I was elected Leader in 2020, and led the Council throughout the pandemic and beyond till the present day.

Turning yellow

Then in 2022 there was an extraordinary by-election for Parliament after the resignation of a Conservative MP who’d been looking at pornography in the Commons on his phone. I felt there could be a decent chance that a Liberal Democrat could win, and as a mark of my support joined the party. We hosted many MPs and campaigners at our house and this played some part in the superb eventual win for Richard Foord MP.

At the local elections in 2023 I therefore stood as a Liberal Democrat and again won by a substantial majority in my ward. It was a very good election for the Liberal Democrats who are now the largest group within the Democratic Alliance, still working constructively and happily with Independents and Greens.

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