The residents of St Austell and Newquay are looking forward to a return to the 1950s. This constituency is Cornwall’s most brexit-besotted. Almost two thirds of voters voted leave in 2016, a toxic combination of white-flight immigrants at Newquay and other places and disgruntled, left behind and ignored natives in the clay country and parts of St Austell. This alliance has now transformed what was a Tory/Lib Dem marginal seat into the second safest Tory seat in Cornwall.
The memory of David Penhaligon in those parts that voted for him in the 1970s and 80s has long been a tarnished dream. The Lib Dem hopeful, barrister Tim Styles, insists ‘the message is getting out there. Stop Brexit and fight for a fair deal for Cornwall.’ The problem for Tim is that the second part of this ‘message’ is the same old message his party has been pushing for 30 years and we’re still nowhere near getting a ‘fair deal’. In addition, in relation to the first part, it’s looks a weird strategy to say the least to direct your appeal to a third of the voters while writing off the other two thirds.
Tim has another message from ex-Lib Dem MP Paul Tyler, who claims that ‘residents in mid-Cornwall know that Lib Dem MPs get things done for this area, rather than just obey Tory bosses in London’. One assumes that’s a joke. If not it’s evidence of worrying memory loss about the period of the last Lib Dem MP from 2010 to 2015. Then, Lib Dem Steve Gilbert did nothing but ‘obey Tory bosses in London’. No wonder people are now looking for a more trustworthy alternative.
It’s surely not the Tories’ Steve Double. Never a stickler for precise accuracy, Steve now believes that the top 5% earning more than £80,000 a year are on ‘modest incomes’ and ‘hard working average earning families’ will ‘pay the price of Labour’s tax plans’. Or perhaps he knows that this is bilge but just couldn’t care. Steve will no doubt be heartbroken when Brexit eventually ‘gets done’. Having lived and breathed brexit to the point of catatony for the past couple of years, whatever will he tweet about? Probably the spaceport, another backward-looking lost cause for which history will surely judge him.
Maybe the trustworthy alternative to the Lib Dems is Labour’s Flick Owen. Remembering when St Austell was the core district of the Workers’ Union in 1918-19, she’s pitching a heavily labourist campaign on the NHS, public sector pay, trade union rights and an ’end to food poverty, the cruel universal credit and austerity’, while standing for a ‘kinder future’. This is however a future where apparently new roads are still being built in order ‘to keep traffic flowing’, something Flick miraculously claims will ‘lessen traffic in residential areas’.
Less enamoured of 1919 or the 1970s is MK’s Dick Cole, who offers an alternative to the old politics. Dick has an unimpeachable track record of being ‘honest, trustworthy and decent’, as he’s described by one of his supporters. The only problem is that, on past evidence, respect for honesty, trustworthiness and decency aren’t major selling points in this constituency.
Just to confuse matters Dick also has to contend with another standard bearer for a new politics that looks to the future rather than the past in the Green Party’s Collin Harker, who’s calling for ‘real climate action’. Both of them will struggle to get more important issues heard above the Brexit babble here though.
Adding to the brexit babble is Richard Byrne of the Liberals, from whom little has been heard or seen so far.
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