DESPITE having spent 23 years as MP for one of Britain’s safest Tory seats, Nigel Evans knows all about scrapping for his political life.

With a majority of 14,769 in 2010, the 57-year-old should be a shoo-in for a return to Westminster on May 7.


But Mr Evans knows that in unusual times his affluent, rural constituency can do strange things.

He lost the seat in the 1991 by-election caused by Tory MPs David Waddington’s appointment as governor of Bermuda to Liberal Democrat Mike Carr by 4,601 votes.

The campaign was unpleasant with attacks on Mr Evans being Welsh and allegations of government high-handedness.

At the General Election months later he turned the tables by 6,542 votes and never looked back, becoming an adopted favourite son.

Shopkeeper David Brass, who stood in 1991, has returned to the fray following Mr Evans’ March 2013 arrest on sexual assault charges, of which he was cleared a year later.

The 56-year-old independent, who claims to be a lifetime Conservative, says his campaign based on the slogan ‘No More Nigel’ is not about Mr Evans sexual orientation or the false accusations made against him.

The greengrocer turned newsagent said: “It’s about his lifestyle, as he himself described it at the trial, which might be all right in London but not here.”

Mr Evans said he was sad Mr Brass still holds a grudge but praised other candidates for sticking to the issues.

He is dismissive of UKIP hopeful Shirley Parkinson’s hope to make a challenge based on the party’s surge in national polls pointing out that it is not contesting any council wards.

Mr Evans hopes his Euro-scepticism and hard work on issues such as dairy farming and house-building will see him through.

Mr Evans promised: “If re-elected, I will use every means at my disposal to defend the Ribble Valley’s 35 villages from overdevelopment by houses not needed or supported locally.”

With the Liberal Democrats struggling in opinion polls, nuclear physicist and IT expert Jackie Pearcey is keen to stress that despite Mr Evans’ speeches in Parliament, the Conservatives have failed to defend the Ribble Valley countryside from developers.

She claims a good response on the doorstep especially for her scientific opposition to fracking in East Lancashire, but seems unlikely to repeat Mr Carr’s surprise win.

With eight candidates in all, including Sabden teacher Grace Astley fighting on a justice for the North ticket, opposition to the Tories seems fragmented.

Mrs Parkinson, a conservation officer, 49, said: “We’re getting a very interesting and positive response on the doorstep.

“In Ribble Valley borough the issues are housing, school places, public transport and transport links. In South Ribble its more crime, anti-social behaviour and potholes.”

Labour’s David Hinder, a 60-year old businessman and Wilpshire resident, hopes to confirm the 2010 replacement of the LibDems in second place in both the Parliamentary and council elections.

Fighting on ‘Labour’s fairness agenda, cuts, a crumbling NHS, shrinking public services and local planning chaos’, he hopes the 3,000 plus voters in the constituency from South Ribble borough will help.

Greens candidate and former LibDem councillor Graham Sowter could take votes from his old party.

Ribchester’s Tony Johnson, 63, founder of the Independent Political Alliance Party, is fighting on a platform which includes opposition to over-development and to fracking.

Bookies odds of 1/33 for Tory victory suggest that Mr Evans will return as MP, but with a much-reduced majority.