Only a few weeks ago, the Tories’ Steve Double seemed to be cruising to a comfortable win in St Austell & Newquay. But now he’s let himself get a bit rattled. Steve has discovered that the Lib Dems are ‘masters of half truths and misrepresentations’. Really? What’s taken him so long to realise this? At the 2010 election the Lib Dems’ Stephen Gilbert fought a cynical campaign, draping himself in the Cornish flag in the clay country and then doing the same with the St George’s flag in Newquay.
This time, with all the pundits predicting he’ll lose, Gilbert is pulling out all the stops by publicising the £300,000 that Wainhomes director, William Ainscough, has given the Tories and accusing the Tories of planning to institute regional pay, in other words a pay cut for Cornish workers.
Rather endearingly, the other Steve has resisted the obvious riposte, which is to ask about the closeness of links between Wainhomes (and other developers come to that) and some Lib Dem councillors, who seem as keen to ramp up the ongoing colonisation of Cornwall as their Tory counterparts, with their fondness for the mass housing targets being proposed for Cornwall. Steve Double has however dug out a letter that proves that Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander was also supporting regional pay.
Of course, little things like facts aren’t going to stop Gilbert, who’ll stoop to any desperate measure to retain his seat. For instance, there’s a very curious message of support on his website from a Joanna Kerry of Newquay, described as a ‘local resident and campaigner’ in Newquay. But Joanna Kerry bears an uncanny resemblance to Joanna Kenny, Lib Dem Newquay councillor and the person in whose name large donations have flowed into local Lib Dem constituency coffers over the past year or two. Must be a strange coincidence.
Also on his website, Lib Dem Cornwall Councillor Malcom Brown claims that Gilbert ‘will put Cornwall first’. As in putting Cornwall first in the last Parliament by voting for a Devonwall constituency that is. Gilbert claims he’s blocked a snooper’s charter and secured an EU referendum in law, but strangely he doesn’t claim credit for being one of the most loyal supporters of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government, with a voting record difficult to tell apart from his Tory MP neighbours.
All this means the mud being thrown around St Austell & Newquay is an awful lot of sound and fury that signifies precisely nothing. When it comes down to it, the two Steves are as close as you’re likely to find in a pair of coalition candidates. And as disingenuous. As Steve Double says, people should choose a candidate ‘based on fact not misinformation’. So that presumably means he can’t possibly agree with Cameron and Osborne’s completely fabricated and misinformed narrative about the role of Labour’s ‘high spending’ in causing the crash of 2008 then.
Moving on from this pair and trying to ignore the slightly nasty taste left in our mouths, who’s left? We have David Mathews of Ukip. Not exactly fitting the stereotypical mould of Ukip candidate, David’s share of the vote seems to be holding up better than that of his Ukip colleagues north and west. This is presumably because of the baleful presence of Newquay. He was still within touch of Steve Gilbert according to a poll taken in March but the Ukip organisation on the ground, or lack of it, will probably let him down.
Labour and the Green will be battling with MK for fourth place here. MK’s Dick Cole is the best known and most ’embedded’ candidate and is likely to pick up a personal vote in the clay country. Whether this will be enough to give him the extra percentage point he needs to save his deposit we’ll have to wait to see on Friday. However, Dick is hampered in two ways. First, there’s the declining but still persistent appeal to vote tactically for the Lib Dems in order to dish the Tories. This increasingly ridiculous call is being hysterically promoted by Gilbert’s campaign. A Lib Dem volunteer told me that Dick was making a good impression on the hustings but added that this wouldn’t gain him a single vote. The somewhat arrogant and condescending implication being that nobody would be daft enough to waste their vote on MK when they could vote for the fine Mr Gilbert.
For the Greens we have Steve Slade and for Labour Deborah Hopkins. Both have Newquay connections although Green and /or Labour voters in Newquay must be a relatively rare breed. Deborah has a lively social media presence and is not surprisingly against the evils of tactical voting. Let’s hope she tells that to her fellow Labour candidate in Camborne-Redruth.
For what it’s worth, here’s my prediction. Despite his recent wobbles I still expect Steve Double to take this seat, although Gilbert’s aggressive campaigning may make it closer than it once looked.
|1. Double (Con)||34%|
|2. Gilbert (LD)||30%|
|3. Mathews (Ukip)||18%|
|4. Hopkins (Lab)||8%|
|5. Cole (MK)||5%|
|6. Slade (GP)||5%|