Nominations are now closed for the elections on May 4th. The number of candidates is a little down on the last elections in 2013, 448 this time compared with 478 last. This may reflect a growing disillusion with party politics, or a realisation that being a Cornwall Councillor these days is a full-time and thankless job.
The traditional parties – the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives – have re-asserted their hegemony over the local political scene, at least in terms of candidates. Last time these two parties accounted for 41% of all candidates, but now they comprise a majority of 54%. For the first time the Lib Dems have managed to offer a candidate in every ward, as they seek to take overall control, hoping that the memory of their disastrous participation in the Cameron/Clegg coalition has proved to be very short.
Meanwhile, the Tories have also succeeded in mounting a challenge in all but four of the 123 wards. Given that both these parties were desperately calling on anyone and everyone to become a candidate for them as recently as last week on their various websites, we might be seeing quantity at the expense of quality here. It’s to be hoped that these candidates have the ability to think critically in what is effectively an officer-run council and not become mere voting fodder.
Independents are present in 69 wards this time, slightly fewer than the 71 in 2013, while the total number of Independent candidates has slipped a little.
The self-styled ‘progressive’ parties – MK, the Greens and Labour – have all struggled to match their effort last time around. All three are putting forward fewer candidates than in 2013. Labour has 58, the Greens 21 and MK 19. Interestingly, while Labour has re-entered east Cornwall, which was a no-go zone for them last time, potentially winnable seats in the Camborne-Pool area have been left uncontested by them. Not much sign of the long-awaited ‘progressive alliance’ either, as Labour oppose the sitting Green councillor in St Ives and an MK councillor at Callington. Indeed, two thirds of the Green Party candidates are being opposed by Labour, while almost half the MK candidates also have Labour opponents keen to split any progressive vote that might exist.
The most dramatic change involves Ukip. This party is only putting forward 21 candidates this year, compared with 76 four years ago. Camborne and Four Lanes, which returned half of the six successful candidates in 2013 is now a Ukip-free zone. Has the populist bubble burst now that the Tories have stolen their clothes, Brexit is won, and we seem to be returning rapidly to the 1950s?
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) makes its first electoral intervention in Cornwall, offering the masses at St Austell and Fowey a couple of candidates. And the Liberal Party refuses to curl up and die in Cornwall, in fact doubling its challenge from one candidate to two.