It’s fortunate that the Truro and Falmouth constituency has the highest number of voters with degrees and a university campus or two within its boundaries. For here, alone in Cornwall, or any other place in this benighted election for that matter, the issue of neoliberalism has become an explicit subject for the hustings. You won’t actually meet the word neoliberal in any of the Westminster parties’ manifestos though. And the Con/Lab/Lib gang don’t exactly flag up their commitment to neoliberalism on TV. But signed up to it they are.
Neoliberals don’t need to stand for election as such as the whole of the global elite has since the 1980s rushed to embrace this caustic, dangerous and delusional ideology. More than that, they’ve worked their socks off to promote a neoliberal economy and society. This is the ideology that daily informs us that the richer you are the more wealth you create, where the poor are responsible for the crises of financial capitalism and must pay the price, where every man and woman is an island, where the planet itself is ransacked in the interests of a tiny minority of the population. This is the disastrous show that all the Westminster parties (and Ukip) work desperately to keep on the road.
In Truro and Falmouth however, David has confronted Goliath. Four of the candidates have declared themselves openly against neoliberalism. Meanwhile four of the others are in favour of it or don’t understand what it’s about and the ninth is god knows where on this issue as well as most other issues.
The most coherent case against neoliberalism is being put by Stan Guffogg of the Principles of Politics Party. Stan has come up with what must be the best line of any over the Cornish election campaign – ‘Think about stuff! Better than you do at the moment’. Of course, as the most principled candidate, he’s guaranteed to come last. Unfortunately, the other anti-neoliberal candidates will be struggling with the don’t know/don’t care candidate for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth places. Which might hint that even the voters of Truro and Falmouth need to think a hell of a lot more than they do at present.
The other three sensible anti-neoliberals include Karen Westbrook, who’s injected some energy and enthusiasm into the Green campaign. She claims the Green surge, which peaked back in January everywhere else, has mysteriously reappeared in Falmouth. Proving that they’re more than two scats behind down there. Her facebook site has attracted some interest, plus predictable comments such as the person who believes ‘all the parties are manipulated from [a] higher controlling force.’ Calm down, dear; it’s called capitalism.
Rik Evans of the National Health Action Party is on record as opposing privatisation for at least ten years, from a time when the Labour Party was quite keen on it, Although they’re not now. Categorically not. In fact they’re going to ‘save’ the NHS. Honest, guv. Rik’s been keen to have a debate on the NHS with the sitting Tory MP Sarah Newton but she’s been a tad reluctant. A bit like David Cameron in his Oxfordshire seat. I wonder why.
Stephen Richardson of MK is the only explicitly socialist candidate standing. He has a tough task however as the previous MK candidate, later Tory, now Independent Loic Rich, mayor of Truro, is also standing. He’ll no doubt siphon away any potential MK votes, despite now thinking that a Cornish Assembly would be ‘a bit of a distraction’. From what is unclear. Loic is playing the Truro boy card and has a respectable poster presence in the town.
Moving to the neoliberal side, there’s John Hyslop of Ukip. He’s a consultant at Treliske who offers a ‘Cornish voice in Ukip’s NHS policy’ but also seems to think making ‘St George’s Day a bank holiday’ is of relevance to us in Cornwall. Though confused, he seems civilised enough. More that is than some of the thoughtful and well reasoned commentators on his facebook page, such as ‘we cannot let this fascist dictator Sturgeon rule our country!!!’ with the mandatory three exclamation marks that denote the barking mad. Funny, I thought it was the EU that ruled ‘our country’.
For Labour, we’ve the curious and frankly incredible spectacle of the distinctly unimaginative, though well-meaning, union man Stuart Roden welcoming the endorsement from hairy-chested celebrity pseudo-anarchist Russell Brand.
If that’s unexpected, then even more unexpected would be victory for the Lib Dem’s Simon Rix. The Lib Dems came second here last time but their campaign doesn’t have the feel of victory about it. Rix, who can’t tell a Cornish Assembly from Cornwall Council, claims to see no green surge in Falmouth. Instead the town is ‘turning gold again’. Perhaps he meant ‘turning cold again’ – bleddy weather. Anyhow, he’s ‘your local champion’ and ‘on your side’ and refers to a website misnamed ‘Vote Smart’. This humorously calls for ‘left of centre’ voters to vote for him in Truro rather than any of the five further left candidates available. As ‘Vote Smart’ also recommends Liberal Democrats for the discerning ‘left of centre’ voter in every single Cornish constituency, including Camborne-Redruth, it’s either an elaborate spoof or should be renamed ‘Vote Liberal Democrat and act like a gullible idiot’.
Which is precisely what the majority who vote in Truro and Falmouth are set to do on Thursday. Not vote Lib Dem though, but vote for that nice Tory Sarah Newton.
Sarah may have floated spectrally over mid-Cornwall since 2010, an insubstantial phantasm wrapped inside an enigma, seemingly obliviously unaware of the tawdry business of Tory politics, with its naked appeal to the selfish and the greedy. In Sarah’s world Tories never lie, education in Cornwall is ‘world-class’, you need a commission stuffed with the great and good to find out why people are having to use food banks, and it never rains in Truro or Falmouth. Nonetheless, despite, or perhaps because of, her Alice in Wonderland approach to politics, she exudes quiet confidence, effortlessly batting away what she terms Lib Dem ‘dirty tricks’. Although by Lib Dem standards they look like normal campaigning to most people. No matter, Truro and Falmouth is set to return the nice Ms Newton again, and remain safe for neoliberalism, developers and consumers young and old.
Hoping to be proved very wrong, here’s my prediction …
|1. Newton (neoliberal Con)||37%|
|2. Rix (neoliberal LD)||21%|
|3. Roden (neoliberal Lab)||15%|
|4. Hyslop (neoliberal Ukip)||12%|
|5. Westbrook (anti-neoliberal GP)||9%|
|6. Evans (anti-neoliberal NHAP)||2%|
|7. Rich (Ind)||2%|
|8. Richardson (anti-neoliberal MK)||1%|
|9. Guffogg (anti-neoliberal POP)||<1%|