‘If elections changed anything, they’d be made illegal’

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED APR 24, 2013

So who’s standing in Cornwall? In the old Council we had four political groups with more than one councillor. Two of those were actually difficult to tell apart, as they made up the central government austerity coalition of Conservatives/Liberal Democrats. The Conservative wing of the austerity coalition is standing 103 candidates in Cornwall, down 20 on 2009, while the Liberal Democrat wing is putting up 91, down 28. In 79 seats these allies are inexplicably opposing each other, while in ten seats they are wasting taxpayers’ money by indulging in a fairly meaningless straight fight.

Then, there’s the Independent group. This contains councillors whose views ranged from anti-excessive housing growth, relatively progressive, pro-Cornish councillors such as Bert Biscoe (Truro) or Graham Walker (St Austell) to recent renegades from the Tory Party such as Lance Kennedy (Bodmin), Carolyn Rule (Mullion) or Armand Toms (Looe). Ninety Independents are standing in 71 wards, eight fewer than last time around.

The fourth and final group is MK. There are 26 MK candidates this time, rather surprisingly seven down from 2009. Although a couple of Independents are either members of the MK group who prefer to stand as Independent (Neil Plummer at Lanner) or former MK candidates (Roger Holmes at Liskeard).

Those parties who are standing more candidates this time are all minority parties not represented, or hardly represented, on the retiring Council. The largest intervention comes from Ukip, on the reactionary right of British politics. Their 76 candidates are well up from just 28 in 2009 as they ride a wave of disaffection with cynical ‘mainstream’ parties and are buoyed up by a prurient interest from voyeuristic journalists who seem to get a frisson of excitement from their fascination with the far right.

Then there’s Labour. Former MP Candy Atherton claimed in March that Labour ‘has more than 85 candidates in place’. Mysteriously, 17 of these disappeared before nominations closed and the party is actually putting up 68, a modest increase of nine on their 2009 effort. She also said they’d have candidates ‘from Penzance to Bude’. True, they have a full slate in Penzance (though two live in St Just) but none in Bude (their nearest is actually Launceston). This party has currently one lonely soul on the Council and spent a period in the political wilderness after failing to get a single candidate elected back in 2009.

2010 Labour Parliamentary candidate Charlotte Mackenzie, now standing as an Independent in Truro
2010 Labour Parliamentary candidate Charlotte Mackenzie, now standing as an Independent in Truro

Labour Party activists remain very confused. At Penzance they’re claiming that Labour occupies the ‘centre ground’. In contrast, over at Camborne some claim the party is ‘left wing’. The evidence suggests the Penzance wing has got it right. The record of Blair’s government or Labour’s recent refusal in the Commons to vote against workfare hardly support the idea that there’s much radicalism left in this party. Those who cling to the comforting notion that it’s a progressive or left-wing party are nostalgically taking refuge in its early 20th century past. It’s now a centrist party. Get used to it. Unfortunately, this confusion and their army of paper candidates merely serve to confuse the voters and split the real anti-Tory/Lib Dem vote even further.

Finally, we have the Greens, whose 23 candidates are a modest rise of seven on 2009.

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