Camborne & Redruth: Coalition set to retain seat

The old Falmouth-Camborne seat was a three-way marginal from the 1990s to 2005. Yet, like the majority of the other Cornish seats, the new Camborne & Redruth seat is looking a safe bet for the Tories this year with a ragtag of competitors struggling to win second place and with their eye on the election after next.

Julia Goldsworthy was once Lib Dem MP here. Ah, those were the days, the days before the expenses scandal, the financial crash caused by having too many nurses and teachers, or the failed austerity policies of the Tory/Lib Dem Government. She’ll now be lucky to get third place as the latest poll in this constituency puts her behind Ukip. As Lib Dem activity in the constituency has withered away, so have Julia’s poll ratings. Those who voted for her last time to keep the Tory out have now deserted in droves and she’s down to a pathetic 13 or 14% in the polls, an astonishing 24% drop on the Lib Dem score in 2010.

It’s unlikely she’ll actually do that badly, but a toxic hangover of Cleggite Liberal Toryism, the whiff of dodgy expenses claims that clings to her and an inability to shake off the tag of Westminster insider-ism dogs Julia. It looks like the end of the line for her, which induces a momentary and unaccountable spasm of pity as she’s actually one of the better Lib Dem candidates on offer in Cornwall.

Crowds wait at Camborne for Loveday Jenkin to speak
Crowds wait at Camborne for Loveday Jenkin to speak

While Julia is doomed, former Lib Dem voters may as well cast around for other homes for their protest votes. Such as the Greens’ Geoff Garbett or MK’s Loveday Jenkin. The Greens were spotted canvassing a deserted Redruth Fore Street on bank holiday morning and will be looking to save their deposit. Loveday, scion of one of Cornish nationalism’s royal families, has fought a robust campaign and will be looking to add to the 775 votes she got in 2010.

Although a rather late choice following an earlier typical Ukip candidate cock-up disaster, Bob Smith of Ukip has been taking his band of angry middle-aged men leafleting and canvassing through the streets of Camborne-Redruth and especially the Ukip heartland of Hayle (what is it about Hayle?) Ukip was at one point tipped to be a serious contender here as it looked like a three-way marginal – Tory/Labour/Ukip – last summer. But the Ukip surge faded and he’ll do well now to retain third place.

Labour voters on way to poll at Redruth
Labour voters on way to poll at Redruth

However, for a properly angry middle-aged man, we have to turn to Labour. Labour has taken a novel approach this time, adopting as its candidate a self-made millionaire from London with a holiday home on the Helford who made his fortune advising media celebrities. Michael Foster claims he’s a new sort of politician. It’s difficult to see why. It can’t be, as he asserts, because he’s a businessman. The House of Commons and even the Labour Party is stuffed full of those these days. Indeed, he seems to be ‘new’ in the sense of being very old. Ross Poldark would have been very familiar with Foster’s political style as it reminds us of the eighteenth century when candidates would throw their money around to buy seats in pocket boroughs.

Pouring his own money into the constituency, Foster has been wildly outspending other candidates in the run-up to the election. But this new very old candidate has also injected some much-needed controversy. Sailing close to the wind when soliciting postal voting and making the usual outrageous statistical misrepresentations, Michael Foster was then accused of directing a volley of earthy cursing and threats against MK’s Loveday Jenkin at a hustings. The former Labour parliamentary candidate here, Jude Robinson, has loyally dismissed the allegations as not containing a word of truth and just being ‘silly stuff’.

Michael Foster tries to look sweet
Michael Foster tries to look sweet

While losing your rag with Loveday is something that’s hardly impossible, as anyone who has sat through a meeting with her might attest, the notion that she went to such inordinate and excessive lengths and concocted such an extensive and elaborate fabrication is just not credible. It might also be easier to believe it was all made up had there not previously been a series of bizarre episodes where Michael Foster’s anger management issues appear to have got the better of him. For example, he threw a mobile phone at Tory MP Sheryll Murray during a BBC TV debate, is reported to have blown up at the Greens’ Geoff Garbett at an earlier hustings, lost it when questioned by a student at a Tremough event, and has been alleged to have tried to take away Truro Ukip candidate John Hyslop’s phone on another occasion, almost provoking a fight.

Just make sure you don’t stand anywhere near him at the count when the results come out. As it doesn’t look as if this unsettling mix of eighteenth century political style and the usual bullying and arrogant bluster that seems to overcome the Labour party when in Cornwall will work. While all this nonsense goes on, PR lobbyist and strawberry farmer George Eustice calmly and quietly slides his way back into Parliament, courtesy of the very poor choice of candidates made by the old London-orientated parties.

Here’s my forecast.

1. Eustice (Con) 34%
2. Foster (Lab) 22%
3. Goldsworthy (Lib Dem) 20%
4. Smith (Ukip) 15%
5. Garbett (GP) 7%
6. Jenkin (MK) 2%
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