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Page last updated at 07:59 GMT, Sunday, 11 September 2005 08:59 UK

South West

Martyn Oates
Political Editor, BBC South West

The Politics Show team...

The South West is indisputably one of the most beautiful parts of Britain.

But as those of us privileged enough to live and work here know, a host of serious political problems and challenges lurks beneath the magnificent scenery.

Tourism, farming and fishing are the most conspicuous industries in the region - and not surprisingly they get a lot of attention from us.

More broadly, we look at mainstream issues affecting us all, set in a South West context.

What are the specific challenges of delivering healthcare, education, affordable housing or public transport in our far-flung and largely rural peninsula?

What, in short, makes living in the countryside difficult as well as delightful? And, most importantly, what can our elected politicians do to make it easier?

We also take seriously a face of the West Country unknown to many people outside the region, who think the place amounts to little more than an idyllic jumble of old-world fishing harbours and thatched cottages.

Poor relation...

Smeaton Tower on the Hoe
Plymouth Hoe attracts thousands of tourists

Paradoxically, the South West also has some of Britain's worst urban deprivation. Areas of Plymouth and the former mining areas of West Cornwall are home to some of the poorest wards in England. And Cornwall is the country's poorest county.

There's a great sense of tradition and continuity in the South West - conservative with a small "c". Until a few years ago it seemed to be largely Conservative with a big "C" as well.

But since the 1992 general election the political map of the region - in Westminster terms at least - has undergone a radical transformation.

It's changed from being almost entirely blue - and one of the Torys' staunchest heartlands - to being almost completely yellow and an increasingly well-established stronghold for the Liberal Democrats.

The present tally of MPs is ten Lib Dems, six Conservatives and four Labour.

A big patch

We're committed to taking real issues which directly impact on people's everyday lives as the starting point for our journalism. Then we take those issues to the politicians and ask them what they can do help solve them.

Travelling the length and breadth of our lovely peninsula can be time-consuming and sometimes down-right trying.

Nonetheless, we try to get across the whole patch - from St Just to Yeovil and from Lynton to Dorchester - at some time or another.

And we very much value your suggestions as to where we should be and what we should be looking into.

Chris Lyddon Producer

Chris Lyddon
Chris Lyddon

Before joining the politics team, Chris spent many years producing the region's evening news programme BBC Spotlight.

Chris was born in Bristol and worked for local newspapers across the South West before joining BBC South West in 1989 as a producer with BBC Radio Devon.

He was later News Editor at BBC Radio Cornwall and has also worked as a BBC health researcher and as a producer with BBC Children In Need. He also helped set up the BBC Devon Online site.

Chris lives in Devon with his partner and has a teenage son and two grown up daughters.

Martyn Oates Presenter

Martyn Oates... Presenter
Martyn Oates

Martyn Oates was born and grew up in West Cornwall, before reading history at St John's College, Oxford.

After postgraduate research in mediaeval French history, he returned to the West Country as a cub reporter on the Western Morning News.

He spent two very happy years learning the black arts of journalism as a district reporter in North Devon.

Coincidentally, the senior reporter he was "apprenticed" to had himself begun as a trainee on the Bideford Gazette at exactly the same time as Politics Show South West producer Chris Lyddon.

Promoted to Business Editor, Martyn moved to the WMN's head office in Plymouth, before joining the BBC as a political reporter for the Politics Show's predecessor Spotlight on Westminster in 2001.

Professional life at the BBC began with a bang: Martyn's first day coincided with the confirmation of the first case of Foot and Mouth in Devon.

Since then he's done pretty much every job on the South West's regional political programme. After working as reporter and assistant producer on Spotlight on Westminster, he produced the programme's last run before launching the Politics Show in the South West in 2003.

Boscastle
In August 2005, the strength of community was deeply challenged with the Boscastle floods

He was appointed as BBC South West's Political Editor in 2008, and clocked up his first election and prime ministerial interview in the first fortnight.

Martyn lives on the Cornish (!) side of the beautiful Tamar Valley. His enthusiasms, in no particular order, include cooking, gardening, walking, singing, dancing, ecclesiastical history and oysters.

Music plays a very important part in Martyn's life. He is the musical director of the BBC South West Chamber Choir, Resonet.

Ben Woolvin Researcher/Reporter

Ben Woolvin
Ben Woolvin

Before joining the politics team Ben could often be heard reading the news on BBC Radio Devon, where he was a district reporter.

Ben's interest in broadcasting began when, at the age of 11, he presented the weather on Regatta Radio in Dartmouth.

A couple of years later Ben got his first taste of politics when the BBC Newsround Mock Elections were held at his school.

Ben went to university in Exeter. He chaired a weekly debating programme on the campus radio station Xpression FM, where he interviewed Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone.

In 2003 Ben was awarded the Jill Dando Bursary which lead to his first job at the BBC. He's also researched for Inside Out and Spotlight.


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