Can Andrew George win St Ives? The message of the maths.

Even though the Labour and Lib Dem leaderships turned their backs on a so-called ‘progressive alliance’, we have a de-facto one in Cornwall in St Ives. But how likely is it that Andrew George and the Lib Dems can unseat the Tories’ Derek Thomas? Here are the voting figures for St Ives in 2015.

Derek Thomas Conservative 18491 38.3%
Andrew George Lib Dem 16022 33.2%
Graham Calderwood Ukip 5720 11.8%
Cornelius Olivier Labour 4510 9.3%
Tim Andrewes Green 3051 6.3%
Rob Simmons MK 518 1.1%
turnout 73.7%

Progressive alliance fans tend to approach things a little simplistically. They assume that all the voters for ‘progressive’ parties will vote for the ‘progressive’ candidate. On that basis things look good for Andrew, who can add another 8,079 to his total. Hold on though. The ‘progressive’ alliance is facing a ‘regressive’ one, as Ukip isn’t standing. So on the same basis add another 5,720 votes to Thomas’s total. This gives us

Derek Thomas Conservative 24211
Andrew George Lib Dem 24101
Chris Drew Labour 0

You might have spotted a small flaw in the logic here, with a Labour vote that even the Tory press might not expect. Because Labour is standing. Its local candidate, Chris Drew, is well-known in the Penzance area. It’s hardly likely that no-one will vote for him even if the Labour campaign is extremely low profile. Current polling indicates that around two thirds of Labour voters last time intend to do the same this time, with one in five still undecided and the rest scattering, including 10% to the Tories. But let’s assume that in St Ives only half their voters stick with Labour, while 10% go Tory. This leaves 1,804 for Andrew.

Let’s also assume Andrew picks up 90% of Green and MK votes, which may be taking things for granted a little. This gives him another 3,212. But what will happen to the Ukip vote? Across Britain 60% of Ukip’s voters in 2015 now intend to vote for Ukip-lite – the Tories – in the absence of a Ukip candidate (45% will do so even if there is one!). Eight per cent are considering voting Labour and just 4% for the Lib Dems with the rest undecided. Let’s assume St Ives’ kippers vote the same way but that the non-Tory vote splits evenly between Labour and Lib Dem.

All this surmising gives us the following.

2015 vote Labour GP/MK Ukip  2017 vote
Thomas 18491 +451 0 +3432 =22374
George 16022 +1804 +3212 +343 =21381
Drew 4510 -2255 +357 +343 =2955

Oh dear, it’s still a majority for Thomas, and a fairly healthy one at that.

Moreover, so far this exercise has made the further very questionable assumption that every single Lib Dem voter in 2015 will stick with Andrew. This is very unlikely. Recent polls suggest that Lib Dem voters are more volatile than any other party apart from Ukip. Only half of Lib Dem voters in 2015 are contemplating doing the same in 2017, with nearly one in five saying they’re going for that strong and stable, but nice, Mrs May and one in ten to Labour. The rest are dithering.

So, in order to win, Andrew has to pick up at least nine out of ten Green and MK voters, retain ALL his own voters from 2015 and get at least half the Labour vote. A tall order. But even all that isn’t enough. So he needs to do all or some of the following as well.

  • Attract Tory voters. This will be difficult as Tory voters in 2015 are proving the most resilient to changing their votes. They’re not called conservative for nothing.
  • Attract more of the Ukip vote. This is made more difficult by the Lib Dems’ strong anti-Brexit stance.
  • Pick up support from non-voters. Easier said than done.

There’s one final possibility. In 2015 Andrew went down with the good ship Lib Dem, sunk by the general swing away from the party across the UK. If there were a rising Lib Dem tide this time it could take him back to Westminster. The problem is that there isn’t. Lib Dem support in the polls is stubbornly languishing at levels similar to or even a little down on 2015. The Lib Dem vote in the Cornish local elections also stagnated and was hardly encouraging.

To win, Andrew has to hope that the remaining three weeks of the campaign see an uplift in Lib Dem prospects generally. Otherwise, you can safely place your bets on Derek Thomas.

Final line-up in Camborne & Redruth confirmed: the Geoffs versus George

We now know the 99% certain line-up for Camborne & Redruth a few hours before nominations close for the general election. After several days of prevarication the Liberal Democrats finally revealed their candidate as Geoff Williams. As predicted here, Illogan-based Geoff was chosen, according to the Lib Dems, at a ‘packed’ meeting. Might have been a small room though. Geoff was a founder-member of the Lib Dems in the 1980s and is described as a ‘veteran’ local politician, having been around since the time of Gladstone.

Farmer/PR man and sitting MP George Eustice, won’t lose many nights sleep over the Lib Dems. Now buoyed up by escaping a spell in prison, George will be even less worried by the Greens’ announcement that their candidate is strangely also called Geoff. Coincidentally, Geoff Garbett (68), who contested the constituency in 2015, is, like the other Geoff, also a retired teacher and lecturer. Even more uncannily, he’s also a founder member of his party in the ‘south west’. And, stretching the bounds of credibility to their utmost, he’s also a parish councillor.

The Greens, having, as implied here last week, eventually decided not to stand in St Ives, will be trusting local Lib Dems might do the decent thing and return the favour. Fat chance. So far Liberal Democrats have displayed not a glimmer of any willingness to reciprocate in Cornwall and indulge in so-called ‘progressive’ allying. They’re sticking to their tried and tested Gilbert and Sullivanesque presumption that anyone who isn’t a little Conservative must be a little Lib Dem. The Greens’ less than startling performance in the local elections is unlikely to alter that.

And sadly, there’s no MK candidate. For a few moments last weekend MK considered standing in St Austell & Newquay and Camborne-Redruth. But instead the party has decided to save its money and go into hibernation for four years. Knackered by the locals, they’ve been wrong-footed by the TMaybot’s evil plan to call a general election merely in order to undermine the chances of Cornish nationalism for another generation. It remains to be seen whether Cornwall will survive this latest blow.

Not that, for the Tories, there can be any Cornish nationalism of course, as there’s no Cornish nation. And if some people, like the Council of Europe, say there is, then they’re European and automatically wrong and deluded and, well, just foreign and can’t be believed. So, you Cornish oafs and mugwumps, clear the road and leave ‘our country’ safe from the separatists and fit for foxhunters, offshore investors, hedge funds, speculative developers and the super-rich.

P.S. There’s also a Labour candidate called Graham.

Corbyn’s crew enter Cornish lists: Labour candidates named

In a brilliant bit of timing and a blaze fizzle of publicity, the Labour Party quietly announced its ‘Cornwall’ general election candidates a week ago. This was just as the TMaybot’s team descended on Cornwall to bark ‘strong and stable’ as much as they could at the travelling media circus while locking local reporters in a small room. Only a few days later Labour’s announcement wasn’t exactly front page news in the press on the day of the local elections. Perhaps it was in the ‘volunteers wanted’ section.

So who are the horny-handed sons and daughters of toil who will lead the ‘Cornwall’ masses to the sunny uplands of Corbynia, a curious mixture of the 1970s and 1940s, a place where everyone is friendly and smile at each other all day while earnestly not making up their minds about Brexit.

Anyone volunteering to be Labour candidate in the two eastern constituencies must have a strong death wish. North Cornwall is the most torrid territory for Labour, which just managed to save its deposit there in 2015. Their candidate this time is Joy Bassett, an Anglican lay minister in Bodmin who works at the family’s solicitors’ firm. She’ll be trying not to get squeezed by the Lib Dems (an awful fate at the best of times.)

The young Labour candidate in South East Cornwall made news last time around by disappearing on holiday with his mum halfway through the campaign. Traditionally, Labour in South East Cornwall has turned to Plymouth as a useful store of potential candidates and this time is no exception. Their more credible candidate comes in the shape of 59 year old Gareth Derrick who lives in Ivybridge. You may remember – well, you probably won’t – that he was Labour’s candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in 2016.

Gareth’s experience of 36 years in the Royal Navy, where he ended up as a commander, and a subsequent business background in management consultancy, defence contracting and a ‘development’ company should enable him to stand up well to Sheryll Murray, if he gets the chance. Labour in South East Cornwall are actually only 4,000 votes behind the Lib Dems, who have looked on helplessly as the social basis of Liberalism in the constituency – the chapel and the Cornish working class – has disintegrated. The area has suffered large-scale gentrification, which has transformed it into a safe Tory seat.

In St Austell & Newquay and in St Ives, Labour also came fourth in 2015 and with very similar proportions of the vote – 9-10% – as in the South East. Kevin Neil in St Austell & Newquay is described as a ‘former resident’ who’s been back working in Cornwall since 2016. Kevin believes in democratic socialism and is working with Momentum trying to introduce such ideas to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

In St Ives Labour has chosen Chris Drew, a Cornish born and bred community worker and scion of a well-known Penzance family. Chris says he will offer a ‘real alternative’. It’ll be interesting however to see how much effort Labour puts into this seat, in the face of Lib Dem Andrew George’s desperate pleas for a ‘progressive alliance’. There are still 4,500 Labour votes up for grabs and George needs as many of those as possible to stand any chance at all against the fundamentalist-Brexit margins of Cornish politics.

Labour’s best two performances in 2015 came in Truro & Falmouth, where they scored 15% and almost beat the Lib Dems into second place, and Camborne and Redruth, where they did beat the Lib Dems (into fourth place) and got 25% of the vote. In Truro & Falmouth Jayne Kirkham is their candidate. She moved to Falmouth in 2006 and is a Labour member because she ‘believes in equality’. For her sake, let’s hope there are some redistributive policies with real teeth in their manifesto then.

Camborne and Redruth is Labour’s only realistic hope, but it’s still a very slim one. Trailing George Eustice by 7,000 votes in 2015, they need to ruthlessly squeeze every last Lib Dem vote, given the 7,000 Ukip voters who will, it’s reliably reported, have no Ukip candidate to vote for and will turn like sheep to what they think is a ‘strong and stable’ sheepdog but which turns out to be a ravenous wolf that’ll eat them alive.

Labour’s candidate has to be an improvement on Michael Foster, who they cruelly inflicted on the long-suffering local citizenry last time. This time they’re putting up a local resident who, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a second home. Graham Winter works as a senior advisor in waste management, a useful training for the House of Commons one might have thought. Born in Barnsley, he moved to Camborne in 2005 and is involved in various local activities.

Postscript: the Liberal Democrats in Camborne and Redruth are still keeping the identity of their candidate under wraps, while their websites seem to have been last updated in 2010. Here’s a suggestion for them – save your money and don’t bother.

General election: the return of the Liberal Democrats?

This snappiest of snap elections seems to have caught everyone on the hop. Why were we all fooled by Theresa May’s carefully crafted image as a latter-day Thatcher, given the number of U-turns she’s performed since taking over? But we were. Sage statements about fixed five-year terms and being too busy to be distracted by an election, while having absolutely no intention of cutting and running for a grubby power grab, lulled us into a false sense of security.

Just as we were concentrating on worrying how soon Trump and his generals would blunder into a nuclear holocaust, the Tories took our minds off that little problem by calling an election. The temptation of a 20% poll lead in the end proved too much for them, as the Conservative Party responded like Pavlov’s dogs to the one thing it always prioritised. Power. And as much of it as possible.

They also start their snappy election with a huge advantage over the opposition generally. At this stage of the Parliament there are few prospective candidates in place. If you’re not a sitting MP you won’t have the usual time to ease yourself into a constituency, pester the local media with unctuous press releases and generally glad-hand the great unwashed at fetes and festivals for all you’re worth. Instead, there’s just 22 days left to get selected and then another four weeks before the electorate exercises its measured and thoroughly considered decision.

Candidates who are already locally known could however narrow the gap to sitting MPs. The most exciting point for me on Tuesday, when the election was announced, was the news via twitter that Kernow King was going to stand for Talskiddy Treacle Mine. Sadly this turned out be one of those fake news items, a bitter disappointment to all and sundry. In the absence of KK, we have to make do with Liberal Democrats. You might not have realised it, but because Cornwall is one of their few obvious targets, that party has got its potential candidates lined up in five of the six seats.

In South East Cornwall, Phil Hutty is standing again against the redoubtably seasoned Sheryll Murray. Although her massive 17,000 vote majority two years back, over 50% of the poll, plus a decent Ukip vote to mop up, means it looks like more of a case of curtains again for Phil, who any rational observer would say hasn’t the proverbial cat’s chance in hell.

Dan Rogerson will have a lot more chance in North Cornwall. He’ll be relieved his constituency has been accidentally reprieved by the Tories’ casual binning of the fixed-term parliament act and the consequent boundary changes which bring a devonwall constituency with them. That horrendous prospect has not gone away, note, just been postponed, to hang like Damocles’ sword over the Tamar as it peacefully snakes its way to the sea.

Further west are two constituencies where the Lib Dems have put Cornwall Councillors in place as candidates. In St Austell & Newquay Joanna Kenny is attempting to follow the Tories’ Steve Double and Scott Mann and make the leap from local government to the Commons. According to the Lib Dems’ website her current campaigns ‘include upgrading her local playground and dealing with the perennial problem of irresponsible dog owners.’ Which should get the assorted plutocrats and madmen who try to run things these days quaking in their boots. ‘Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump, have you got your poo-bags with you?’

In Truro & Falmouth Rob Nolan carries the Lib Dem banner and looks a more credible MP. Rob has an excellent record of striving, often against the direction of his own party, to moderate Cornwall Council’s mad infatuation with housing and population growth as it rushes to transform Cornwall into a replica of everywhere else as quickly as possible. His only problem is that Sarah Newton had a huge 14,000 vote majority last time around, converting Truro & Falmouth into a safe Tory seat. Except that, with its relatively high number of public sector professionals in Truro and its Guardian-reading intelligentsia and student voters at the universities at Penryn, the constituency doesn’t feel like a bog-standard safe Tory haven in the shires. There’s also a sizeable Labour and Green vote to try to squeeze.

The Lib Dems’ best hope of winning a seat back from the Tories clearly comes in St Ives. Andrew George has been pushing hard for a ‘progressive alliance’ between Lib Dems, Labour, MK and Green people since being beaten in 2015 by Derek Thomas. Cynics might say he would, wouldn’t he. But, as the most independent of Cornwall’s Lib Dem MPs during their disastrous 2015 coalition with the Tories he can distance himself somewhat from any toxic fall-out that may linger among voters. Moreover, most of them seem to have distressingly short political memories.

However, for his call on members of other parties to support him, the Lib Dems surely need to make some reciprocal gestures. Having spurned the chance to do so at the local elections, what are they now proposing? For starters, how about offering to stand down in Brighton and give Caroline Lucas a clear run in return for no Green in St Ives? As Green Party overtures to Labour and Liberal Democrats seem to be being rejected out of hand, there looks little chance of this. The opposition unionist parties are stubbornly determined to prefer suicide to any hint of official collaboration or new thinking. Strange.

Let’s not forget the final constituency – Camborne-Redruth. Here, the Liberal Democrats have no candidate that I can spot, but neither does Labour, although this is supposedly one of their target seats and the only one in Cornwall where they have any chance at all. Nor is George Eustice’s 7,000 vote majority by any means the safest. With no obvious well-known local Labour figure in the frame (or Lib Dem come to that) developments must be awaited. The only thing there is general agreement on is, whatever you do, please, please don’t inflict Michael Foster on us again. (Or Julia Goldsworthy come to that.)

St Ives: Coalition victory assured

Two parallel elections take place tomorrow in Cornwall’s most westerly seat. The first is to elect the MP. Will Andrew George be returned for the fifth time? Or will it will be second time lucky for his Tory opponent Derek Thomas? And then there’s the race for third place. The Greens have made this one of their top ten targets and are pushing hard. A few years ago Ukip were doing relatively well in west Cornwall although, as they’ve hunkered down in the far east of England, their support in Cornwall has, relatively, been sliding. And then there’s Labour, which as recently as the 1980s was contesting second place here with the Lib Dems. Those days are gone but a traditional Labour vote still lurks in this constituency, unlike in east Cornwall.

The Greens’ challenge is key to Andrew George’s survival. He must be more than a little peeved as his record is the most progressive of the Cornish Lib Dem MPs, which is not saying a lot admittedly. He opposed the bedroom tax and selling off the forests; he worked with Green MP Caroline Lucas to introduce an NHS Bill and he’s generally on the side of animals, atheists and angels. Andrew might feel he least deserves a serious Green challenge. But if you live by the sword of an antiquated disproportional voting system then you must die by it.

Andrew George - getting worried?
Andrew George – getting worried?

The Greens’ Tim Andrewes is fending off the inevitable Lib Dem squeeze and his success in holding their vote together is key to the outcome. The Greens are calling for people to ‘vote for what you believe in’ and ‘vote positively’. They might also remind people what a certain Nick Clegg said back in 2010 – ‘Vote with your heart; vote for the values and the policies you believe’. The Greens are also appealing to those ‘tired of the same old parties’ who aren’t living up to their responsibility for the planet. With this clearly including the Liberal Democrats, there are signs that Andrew George might be getting worried.

Is the 'Green surge' in St Ives a figment of a fevered imagination?
Is the ‘Green surge’ in St Ives a figment of a fevered imagination?

He also has to resist a less organised effort to siphon off voters on his Cornish flank. Again, he’s been the only Cornish MP to stand up consistently against second homes and oppose the ongoing colonisation of our land and at least he abstained on the Tory/Lib Dem plan to introduce a Devonwall constituency. His presence has succeeded in reducing MK support in the constituency to a rump. But the voting system serves to conceal a potentially much larger pool of support for MK and its active local candidate Rob Simmons. It’s probably fair to say that MK wouldn’t exactly be weeping with sorrow if Andrew George lost, as the longer he stays on, the longer they’re marginalised electorally.

Then there’s Labour. Cornelius Olivier, yet another local candidate, began with a burst of energy, trying to capitalise on the second homes issue, although a difficult area on which to confront Andrew George convincingly. This has since seemed to falter and his presence on social media has tailed off. It’s likely that Labour voters may be more prone than others to fall for the tactical voting ploy now being played to the hilt by the Lib Dems.

Derek Thomas - the Sarah Newton of St Ives?
Derek Thomas – the Sarah Newton of St Ives?

Of course, the Tories could also lose votes to their right – to Graham Calderwood, who’s standing for Ukip. At one stage Derek Thomas, whose public statements are otherwise fairly anodyne and uncontroversial, was posting on social media that a vote for Ukip was a vote for the SNP. He didn’t care to specify the convoluted logic behind that particular nonsense. Thomas’s apolitical politics, taking the Sarah Newton route to Parliament, may not prove that attractive to those toying with voting Ukip however, who may be looking for more red meat.

It will be close, but on the basis of his local record, plus the evidence that sitting Lib Dem MPs are holding on to their vote share much better than others and the possibility of a late swing to the Lib Dems as people fall (yet again – will they ever learn?) for the tactical voting trick, I reckon he’ll sneak it. St Ives will stick with him rather than a relatively unknown Tory who’s reputedly a creationist. Should anyone who thinks the earth is younger than farming be allowed anywhere near the Commons?

Andrew George hasn’t been helped by his leader Nick Clegg and his clear cosying up to the Tories over the last few weeks. When Andrew claimed that ‘I am sure my party would not go for it’ (another coalition with the Tories), he was immediately slapped down by Clegg, whose comments on the SNP and reliance on Tory voters in Sheffield mean he’s more than prepared to go for it again.

So what will Andrew do when the inevitable Tory/Lib Dem coalition emerges from the horse-trading? It could have been so different. If only Andrew had taken one of those many opportunities to resign the Lib Dem whip and build up a base as an outspoken, environmentally aware, Cornish independent MP, he could have made his mark in Cornish history. If he loses this time, he’ll be just a footnote. What a pity.

Postscript As I write this, I’m informed that two Green Party acquaintances in St Ives have decided to vote for Andrew to stop the Tory. How many more times? But I’ll tweak my forecast to give him another percentage point. Perhaps it’ll turn out to be less close than I thought.

1. George (LD) 38%
2. Thomas (Con) 34%
3. Calderwood (Ukip) 10%
4. Andrewes (GP) 8%
5. Olivier (Lab) 8%
6. Simmons (MK) 2%

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%

Truro & Falmouth: Coalition the popular choice

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.

All nine Truro and Falmouth candidates at a hustings
All nine Truro and Falmouth candidates at a hustings

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.

Nice. Transforming Truro into a neoliberal, consumerist, over-congested wasteland.
Nice. Transforming Truro into a neoliberal, consumerist, over-congested wasteland.

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.

Too nice to vote against
Too nice to vote against

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%