Can Truro & Falmouth go Labour?

The one place in Cornwall that has benefitted economically from EU grant aid is the Truro-Falmouth corridor. This is one reason it was also Cornwall’s only remain voting constituency, by 54-46, in the Brexit referendum of 2016. Former MP, Tory remainer Sarah Newton, was a perfect fit for the constituency. Just like many of her constituents, who moan about the housing growth being foisted on them yet do nothing about it, Sarah was out of tune with the great moving right show that is the modern Tory Party but didn’t follow her colleagues into exile. Although she has done so now, calling it a day quite late in the day.

The Conservatives’ new candidate is Cherilyn Mackrory (née Williams). Since 2017, Cherilyn has been Cornwall Councillor for St Mewan, where she had the cheek to defeat an actual lord, in the shape of former Lib Dem MEP, Robin Teverson. Cherilyn’s profile looks typical of the unswerving Tory activist, more the parish pump tendency than European Research Group, one who may struggle a bit with the word ideology.

Cherilyn Mackrory

A case worker for Scott Mann and willing helper for Steve Double in St Austell & Newquay, Cherilyn is a stolid brexit supporter, wanting to ‘get Brexit done and move forward’ … instead of having to endure the horror of Jeremy Corbyn and ‘more dither and delay and the chaos of another two referendums’, which looks remarkably close to a Tory Central Office press release.

Cherilyn must have thought that Christmas had come early as within hours of her selection it was announced that Brexit Party candidate for Truro & Falmouth, the almost invisible Paul Wood, was standing down. But within another few hours the real party of chaos, the Brexit party announced it was shifting Robert devito Bouton from St Ives to replace Wood. Hopes of a regressive alliance in Truro & Falmouth were dashed. Which was a bit ungrateful as Wood had described the new Tory candidate as ‘a strong leaver’.

All this must be welcome news for Labour’s candidate Jennifer, or Jenn, Forbes, an ex-BT engineer who has lived in the constituency for ‘more than 20 years’. Sarah Newton’s departure gives Labour its best chance outside Camborne-Redruth to win a seat. Could this be a historic election when Labour doubles its previous record tally of one? At the last election Labour came second in Truro & Falmouth, well ahead of the Lib Dem and only 4,000 votes behind Sarah Newton. This was the closest they’d been in Truro since 1966. Moreover, the constituency saw the third largest increase in the Labour share of the vote in the UK in 2017 and a massive 22% swing from the Conservatives.

The other issue of this election, so we are told, is the climate emergency. In consequence, all the mainstream party candidates at this election are frantically burnishing their green credentials. Jenn Forbes possibly has more of those than others, having run a business helping families to grow vegetables. Cherilyn Mackrory is also ‘a keen environmentalist’. Although it’s unclear whether this amounts to more than going on litter picks and being against plastic pollution. Does she understand the real implications? The symbolic acid test of that comes when Cornwall Council debates its spaceport project in a few weeks time. Expect Cherilyn to be too busy campaigning to turn up for that one though.

If overweening confidence and an ego the size of the Langarth New Town are the qualifications needed to become an MP, then Jenn Forbes seems to have few problems. Her list of priorities is exhaustive and frenetic – urgent action on climate change, new social housing, better public transport, higher quality green jobs, more funding for the NHS, fair deal for Cornwall and a referendum on the final brexit deal. Tiring just to read it.

Is this Labour’s last chance here before Cornwall Council’s project to turn Truro into a never-ending and infinitely extending traffic jam cum sacrifice to Mammon, a stunning example of how not to deal with climate change, bears fruit? Can she forge an alliance between the public sector intelligentsia of the constituency and the residual native working class? Can Labour appeal to the still considerable 46% of voters who it’s estimated voted leave? And can they stop remainers drifting back to the Liberal Democrats and more than that convince enough of that rump of traditional Lib Dem voters to jump ship?

At the moment it all looks like a mighty tall order.

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