Constituency review 2: Mid-Cornwall – Truro/Falmouth and St Austell/Newquay

The two mid-Cornwall constituencies are very different but at the same time deceptively similar. Different in that Truro & Falmouth was the only constituency to have voted Remain last year while St Austell & Newquay was the most inclined to Brexit. Different too in that Truro & Falmouth has the highest number of well-paid, public sector workers and the electorate with the highest qualifications. It’s also the one part of Cornwall which has benefited from globalization, although paying the price for this with mounting capacity issues and environmental pressures. Meanwhile, St Austell & Newquay has the lowest number of highly educated voters and economically has … well, Newquay.

But they’re also similar. Both have a solid bedrock Tory vote of near half the electorate on current predictions, but with some uncertainty about who’s in the best position to challenge the incumbent. Both have Tory MPs who might not be all they appear to be.

In St Austell & Newquay Steve Double comfortably won the seat in 2015 by over 8,000 votes. Part of his appeal lay in his evangelical religious background, attracting those who pray for a return of strong family values. That didn’t last too long though, as a year after the election Steve’s affair with his young case worker came to light, triggering much outrage and shock from some of his constituents.

Steve and friend

Nonetheless, this doesn’t seem to have harmed his chances. Quite the opposite in fact, as his support has grown faster than any of our Tory MPs if polls are to be believed. There may be a lesson here for those who believe in traditional family values. Or more likely he’s getting the benefit of the large Ukip vote (the highest in Cornwall) in St Austell & Newquay in 2015. With no Ukip candidate this time, these voters will most likely swallow any doubts and swing behind him.

Among the predictable platitudes, Steve Double is working to bring a spaceport to Newquay, handy for all those Martians who might fancy a holiday and snap up a second home on the coast while they’re about it. In similar science fiction mode, he promises us that all EU money will be replaced by Westminster. If you believe that, then you’re presumably already letting out your spare room via Airbnb to those same Martians.

Previous Lib Dem MP Stephen Gilbert is in a fight for second place but has zero to little chance of unseating Double. Gilbert’s campaign got off to a rocky start when he cocked up the date of the election, thus confusing the folk of St Austell & Newquay even more than usual. Then it was alleged he’d called the two thirds of voters in the constituency who’d voted for Brexit ‘fuckwits’ in a tweet just after last year’s referendum (in the bargain doing it from Greece, just to make the EU obsessives go really apeshit).

Gilbert, memorably described in 2015 by a miffed Steve Double as a ‘master of half-truths and misrepresentations’ is now desperately pleading for ‘tactical’ voting. This could be a joke, but he cites ‘independent analysis’ that shows that ‘voting Labour in St Austell & Newquay will lead to a Tory’. Which is a bit of an odd claim as voting Lib Dem in 2010 also led to a Tory, namely himself. His voting record in 2010-15 was in fact pretty indistinguishable from the Tories and he was even rumoured at one stage to be considering deserting the Lib Dems for the Tories.

In any case, the ‘independent analysis’ is no such thing. It’s a quick guess by TacticalVoting 2017 based purely on the results last time. Given that the pollsters are informing us that Labour’s Kevin Neil is vying with Gilbert for second place, with both at least 20 points behind the Tory, the blanket tactical voting zealots are merely succeeding in sowing even more confusion.

As they are in the other mid-Cornwall seat of Truro & Falmouth. Here, Labour’s Jayne Kirkham looks to have momentum (!) and be firmly established as the clear alternative to the sitting MP Sarah Newton, the thinking person’s Theresa May. The latest YouGov prediction has Kirkham a full 11 points ahead of the Lib Dems and an equal amount behind Newton. Yet, bizarrely, TacticalVoting 2017 is still ‘advising’ people to vote Lib Dem in Truro & Falmouth and thus waste their vote. The Labour surge in Truro & Falmouth (mainly the latter) comes despite a far more competent and convincing Lib Dem candidate than last time in the shape of local Truro councillor Rob Nolan.

During the last election, I wrote that Sarah Newton floated serenely above the political fray, living in an Alice in Wonderland world where Tories never lied and where cutting disability benefits was a shining example of ‘improving people’s lives’. Little has changed. She still utters vacuous nonsense at regular intervals and gives every impression of actually believing it. Yet somehow I can’t shake off the impression that, behind the bland Stepford-wife exterior, lurks something darker and far more menacing. Anyway, she looks to be the perfect Tory for this most middle class and academically qualified of Cornwall’s constituencies, one where most folk moan about the developer-led destruction of their environment but do little about it as long as they can get parked at Waitrose.

There are a couple of other candidates here. The Green Party’s Amanda Pennington should have been looking to capitalise on the student and heart-on-the-sleeve liberal vote in this constituency. But that’s been dashed by the Labour surge and the mindless rush to vote ‘tactically’ for the wrong candidate. Although, oddly for a Green candidate, she’s in favour of expanding Newquay airport, Amanda is worth considering as, realistically, Labour won’t win here. Or at least, not in this election.

A vote for the Greens would also be a good idea in order to outpoll Ukip’s sole candidate in Cornwall, Duncan Odgers. He promises to fight ‘for the rights of the electorate’ who of course now have their country (and ours) back. Worryingly however, Duncan appears to think Ukip’s Paul Nuttall is ‘agenda setting’. Those whom the Gods … etc. At least he appeared on the Sunday Politics show wearing a Cornish rugby shirt and advertising Tribute. Pity about the accent though.

In short, in both the mid-Cornwall constituencies the Tory is too far ahead to be seriously threatened. Calls for ‘tactical’ voting are misplaced and serve merely to confuse. They can be safely ignored as the real battle is to claim bragging rights as the best placed challenger at the next election.


Tactical or tactless? Some arguments against blanket tactical voting

As the prospect of a huge Tory majority looms, calls for ‘tactical’ voting become ever shriller. Those who insist on their right to vote for a party that has no realistic chance of unseating the noxious Conservatives are pilloried. At times the calls for ‘tactical’ voting verge on the hysterical. One Independent candidate in Aylesbury has even had a cup of tea thrown at him by someone who shouted ‘stop splitting the vote’. That’s just not cricket, old chap! So here’s what’s likely to be an unpopular blog as I put forward some arguments against ‘tactical’ voting.

Of course, not voting for someone we prefer and instead voting for someone we don’t really prefer in order to stop someone we like even less is inevitable in an antiquated voting system where only a minority of votes count. Ever since the emergence of a three party system in the early twentieth century calls to ‘keep the Tory out’ have been an endemic feature of British elections. On the other hand, anyone has the right to vote for a candidate who best reflects their views and principles. It may be old-fashioned but that’s actually supposed to be the point of a ‘representative democracy’.

There are four major problems with adopting a universal strategy of ‘tactical’ voting to keep the Tories out. First, and most important, it’s fundamentally conservative (with a small c). Second, it’s difficult to distinguish between calls to vote tactically that stem from a genuine desire to stop the Tory and cynical calls to vote ‘tactically’ rolled out by bigger parties to protect their status. Third, it’s only employed in a negative fashion, voting against something rather than for something. Fourth, it’s used in a short term way rather than considered as a long-term strategy. Let’s consider these in turn.

1. Tactical voting is a basically conservative strategy because it maintains the status quo. If all non-Tories had always voted ‘tactically’ then the Liberals would never have been dislodged. Had voters in the early twentieth century voted ‘tactically’ the Labour Party would have been stillborn.

2. Because of its inbuilt advantage for established parties, tactical voting is a very useful ploy that enables Labour and the Lib Dems to ward off emerging challengers that might siphon off their votes. This is no principled anti-Tory stance but a cynical tool used by those who arrogantly presume they have some god-given right to all the votes that aren’t Tory.

Ah, fond memories. Stephen Gilbert and friend. Spot the difference – choice of footwear?

Take Stephen Gilbert, Lib Dem MP for St Austell & Newquay from 2010 to 2015 and candidate again this time. On his return to the fray he was quick to assert that ‘in Cornwall a vote for Labour, the Greens, or Mebyon Kernow helps the Conservatives‘. But these identical words were also used by him in 2015, even though he was the one who’d spent the previous five years helping the Conservatives as a loyal supporter of the coalition government. His voting record then was indistinguishable from Cornwall’s Tory MPs. Anyone seduced into voting for Gilbert was merely stifling the arrival of better alternative and progressive options for the voters of mid-Cornwall.

3. If we vote ‘tactically’ we’re in danger of saying that issues we might deem important can be shelved for the next four or five years. For example, for those who realise that dangerous climate change is the most critical issue facing the planet, then voting Lib Dem or Labour just to keep out the Tory seems of secondary importance. Instead, they have to put their principles first and vote for the candidate or party they think is most likely to push for real action on their core concerns. Even if not elected, the stronger the vote for someone close to those core concerns, the more likely it is that the tweeedledum/dee parties will take notice. Such voters cannot afford the luxury of voting tactically.

4. Finally, if we want to vote tactically then why stop at short-term, knee-jerk thinking? Some long-term calculations might suggest different conclusions. For instance, from a Cornish nationalist perspective, is propping up the Liberal Democrats the most sensible option? For at least half a century the Lib Dems have been the soft option for those seeking Cornish devolution. Yet in that half century the Cornish Lib Dems haven’t been able to convince the rest of their party to respect Cornish rights, as was seen in the devonwall vote. While a few individual Liberal Democrats may be worth supporting, the party as a whole has for too long taken the votes of Cornish patriots for granted. Their rhetoric has accompanied painfully slow progress, while their propensity for policy cock-ups has verged on the disastrous. For example, unitary local government badly undermined the case for a Cornish Assembly. Moreover, given their abject failure to confront the ongoing suburbanisation of Cornwall, if we sit around and wait for the Lib Dems to deliver there may be no recognisably distinct Cornish Cornwall left to fight for.

The Lib Dems lie like some giant sloth sprawled across the path to Cornish self-government. For MK or a future Cornish nationalist party to succeed, it will have to replace the Lib Dems, not prop it up. Ceding the ground to the Lib Dems only leads to the withering away of alternatives, as has happened in St Ives. In what was once its strongest district, MK in St Ives is almost defunct. The same now seems to be happening to the Greens. Only over the dead body of the Lib Dems will a more forceful pro-Cornish party emerge. So the logic for a Cornish nationalist might be to vote tactically against the Lib Dems, not for them.

Clearly, in our electoral system, with its built in ‘wasted’ votes, a proportion of voters will always vote for the lesser evil. However, they need to approach this decision case by case rather than apply it in a mindlessly blanket fashion. When is it really worth subjugating principles to a short-term negative tactic? Sometimes it might be, sometimes not. It depends on the candidates and the possibility of success.

There’s one scenario however when tactical voting would most definitely be worthwhile. For those who feel so strongly about ‘wasted’ votes, the remedy is simple. Make proportional representation and the reform of the voting system an absolute priority. When the non-Tory parties agree to make PR the central plank of their campaign then it’ll be worth voting tactically. But is there any sign of this?

‘Progressive’ alliance killed off. Suspects on run – do not approach, may be dangerous

In a few places in England local agreements have been brokered, against central party wishes, whereby one or more anti-Tory parties stand aside in June’s general election. Here in Cornwall hopes for a ‘progressive’ alliance have been cruelly dashed. Yesterday the news emerged that it was a non-starter. And who did this dastardly deed and killed it off? According to Lib Dem social media it’s all the fault of those nasty Greens, who have decided to stand a candidate in St Ives again. The pure cheek of them!

Andrew George now faces Tory/Ukip ‘regressive alliance’ alone

What lies behind this? We hear that on Tuesday last, Lib Dems (including at least one candidate), Labour and Greens met behind closed doors at a secret location amidst tight security to discuss the prospect of some sort of deal for the upcoming general election. But they couldn’t agree on policy issues. On Friday the Greens, meeting at Redruth, decided to stand a candidate in St Ives and also put someone up in Camborne-Redruth. (So much for my suggestion of 48 hours ago, which is a very long time in Cornish politics, almost as long as dreckly.)

Their decision has triggered a veritable storm of outrage from a facebook full of Lib Dems. The Greens were allowing the Tories in, being divisive, selfish, stupid, idiotic and generally being sinful and very bad dudes. In the absence of more accounts of what actually went on at that secret meeting, we’d best rise above this predictable hysteria.

One might have thought it was up to the strongest party in any area to make the first moves in order to generate the level of trust required for any electoral pact. To my knowledge, the Liberal Democrats have made no such public overture in relation to Cornwall. Quite the opposite. Their decision to stand candidates in every single ward in Thursday’s local elections – even paper candidates – looked like tribalism at its worst and was hardly best designed to encourage collaboration with anti-Tory parties. In doing so, they foolishly threw away a golden opportunity to test the ‘progressive’ alliance and take the moral high ground.

Stephen Gilbert’s record of collaboration with Tories didn’t stop him nonsensically claiming in 2015 that ‘only’ a Lib Dem vote was a vote against the Tories

The squeals of outrage from Lib Dems should be ignored. Their calls for ‘unity’ are always in practice calls for people to vote for them. Rightly or wrongly, this is seen by others as arrogant presumption, a cynical attempt to muzzle alternatives and maintain Cornwall’s antiquated two-party system. In similar fashion calls to be ‘patient’ and ‘lend’ them our votes ‘this time’ turn out to be a permanent loan with no interest paid. It’s precisely the same mantra we heard in 2015 and 2010 and in elections before then. And where does patience get us? Precisely nowhere.

Given their record, Lib Dem candidates in Cornwall need to do a lot more to convince voters they’re worth voting for. For a start they could pledge not to support another coalition of chaos with the Tories and if Farron takes them down that road to resign the whip and become an Independent. Or they could apologise publicly for having supported austerity politics.

They also need to calm down. The ‘progressive’ alliance may be dead, but that doesn’t mean tactical voting is. It’s up to individual Lib Dem candidates to convince voters to vote for them rather than their first preference. Some will, some won’t. In some places, this might be a sensible strategy; in others it plainly isn’t. It could be better to leave it to voters anyway, rather than stitching up secret deals behind closed doors. If it’s ever going to work any ‘progressive’ alliance has to be a grassroots initiative, not a top-down decision by party hacks.

Lib Dems walking the walk

Since the May Queen announced her pending coronation on June 8th there’s been a flurry of activity by Liberal Democrats in Cornwall. And some confusion.

First, the known knowns. To everyone’s huge delight Andrew George has reluctantly allowed himself to be convinced by squillions of people on Facebook to stand again against the evil Tory Derek Thomas in St Ives. At the joyous news folk in Penzance and St Ives were reported to be falling down in the streets with uncontrollable fits of ecstacy. Others began speaking in tongues. The price of saffron on the commodities exchange also rose by a couple of pence at the news before falling back to its normal level. Andrew is now be-friending all and sundry in the Facebook universe as the first part of his cunning plan to get elected.

More quietly and less dramatically, Dan Rogerson has confirmed what you read about here six days ago. He’ll definitely be a candidate in North Cornwall. Finally, something you also read here, Rob Nolan has announced his candidature at Truro & Falmouth.

Stephen Gilbert (right) and friend

Which leaves us with a known unknown. More surprising is the unconfirmed report in the West Brit that Stephen Gilbert has risen from the grave and is ‘set to challenge Steve Double‘ in St Austell & Newquay. Gilbert, who was fairly indistinguishable from the Tories in the coalition government from 2010-15, sank without trace after the last election. Indeed, many people in St Austell still haven’t realised he’s been replaced by Steve Double, so close are their politics.

Unlike George and Rogerson, Gilbert did not spend time working his old constituency and ensuring media coverage. Instead he was last heard of in March 2016 accepting a place on a postgraduate teaching course at St Austell, to begin last September. Surely the terrifying prospects of doing a useful job and teaching are not trumped by returning to the cosy Commons club?

The mystery deepens when we find that Joanna Kenny, Watford-born Cornwall Councillor for Newquay Pentire, is still listed on the Lib Dems’ official website as their ‘snap general election candidate’, campaigning on issues of dog shit and playgrounds. Kenny’s own Facebook page offers no hint of her candidature.

It was The Silent Majority (?) of St Austell Speak Out’s Facebook page that broke the shocking news yesterday morning of Gilbert’s candidacy. It claimed that Kenny had broken both her legs in a ski-ing accident (on a clay tip??) and been sadly forced to retire. Stephen Gilbert has therefore been hauled back into the frame, we have no knowledge of how unwillingly.

Fake news? It’s reliably reported that Steve Double, the most impressive of Cornwall’s trio of new Tory MPs, is not too perturbed by either prospect.

St Austell round up: coalition candidates in mud-flying spat

Only a few weeks ago, the Tories’ Steve Double seemed to be cruising to a comfortable win in St Austell & Newquay. But now he’s let himself get a bit rattled. Steve has discovered that the Lib Dems are ‘masters of half truths and misrepresentations’. Really? What’s taken him so long to realise this? At the 2010 election the Lib Dems’ Stephen Gilbert fought a cynical campaign, draping himself in the Cornish flag in the clay country and then doing the same with the St George’s flag in Newquay.

wainhomes £300kThis time, with all the pundits predicting he’ll lose, Gilbert is pulling out all the stops by publicising the £300,000 that Wainhomes director, William Ainscough, has given the Tories and accusing the Tories of planning to institute regional pay, in other words a pay cut for Cornish workers.

Rather endearingly, the other Steve has resisted the obvious riposte, which is to ask about the closeness of links between Wainhomes (and other developers come to that) and some Lib Dem councillors, who seem as keen to ramp up the ongoing colonisation of Cornwall as their Tory counterparts, with their fondness for the mass housing targets being proposed for Cornwall. Steve Double has however dug out a letter that proves that Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander was also supporting regional pay.

Joanna Kerry
Joanna Kerry

Of course, little things like facts aren’t going to stop Gilbert, who’ll stoop to any desperate measure to retain his seat. For instance, there’s a very curious message of support on his website from a Joanna Kerry of Newquay, described as a ‘local resident and campaigner’ in Newquay. But Joanna Kerry bears an uncanny resemblance to Joanna Kenny, Lib Dem Newquay councillor and the person in whose name large donations have flowed into local Lib Dem constituency coffers over the past year or two. Must be a strange coincidence.

Joanna Kenny
Joanna Kenny

Also on his website, Lib Dem Cornwall Councillor Malcom Brown claims that Gilbert ‘will put Cornwall first’. As in putting Cornwall first in the last Parliament by voting for a Devonwall constituency that is. Gilbert claims he’s blocked a snooper’s charter and secured an EU referendum in law, but strangely he doesn’t claim credit for being one of the most loyal supporters of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government, with a voting record difficult to tell apart from his Tory MP neighbours.

All this means the mud being thrown around St Austell & Newquay is an awful lot of sound and fury that signifies precisely nothing. When it comes down to it, the two Steves are as close as you’re likely to find in a pair of coalition candidates. And as disingenuous. As Steve Double says, people should choose a candidate ‘based on fact not misinformation’. So that presumably means he can’t possibly agree with Cameron and Osborne’s completely fabricated and misinformed narrative about the role of Labour’s ‘high spending’ in causing the crash of 2008 then.

Moving on from this pair and trying to ignore the slightly nasty taste left in our mouths, who’s left? We have David Mathews of Ukip. Not exactly fitting the stereotypical mould of Ukip candidate, David’s share of the vote seems to be holding up better than that of his Ukip colleagues north and west. This is presumably because of the baleful presence of Newquay. He was still within touch of Steve Gilbert according to a poll taken in March but the Ukip organisation on the ground, or lack of it, will probably let him down.

Labour and the Green will be battling with MK for fourth place here. MK’s Dick Cole is the best known and most ’embedded’ candidate and is likely to pick up a personal vote in the clay country. Whether this will be enough to give him the extra percentage point he needs to save his deposit we’ll have to wait to see on Friday. However, Dick is hampered in two ways. First, there’s the declining but still persistent appeal to vote tactically for the Lib Dems in order to dish the Tories. This increasingly ridiculous call is being hysterically promoted by Gilbert’s campaign. A Lib Dem volunteer told me that Dick was making a good impression on the hustings but added that this wouldn’t gain him a single vote. The somewhat arrogant and condescending implication being that nobody would be daft enough to waste their vote on MK when they could vote for the fine Mr Gilbert.

For the Greens we have Steve Slade and for Labour Deborah Hopkins. Both have Newquay connections although Green and /or Labour voters in Newquay must be a relatively rare breed. Deborah has a lively social media presence and is not surprisingly against the evils of tactical voting. Let’s hope she tells that to her fellow Labour candidate in Camborne-Redruth.

For what it’s worth, here’s my prediction. Despite his recent wobbles I still expect Steve Double to take this seat, although Gilbert’s aggressive campaigning may make it closer than it once looked.

1. Double (Con) 34%
2. Gilbert (LD) 30%
3. Mathews (Ukip) 18%
4. Hopkins (Lab) 8%
5. Cole (MK) 5%
6. Slade (GP) 5%

Is there any point in voting Liberal Democrat?

Let’s take a short trip down memory lane and remember those days in the spring of 2010. Bliss it was in that dawn to be a Liberal Democrat, brimming with youthful energy and enthusiasm in their quest to slay the Tory dragon.

Dusting off those old election leaflets from that year, what do we find and how does it then compare with what happened?

Oh look, Stephen Gilbert, bless him, was opposed to the incinerator at St Dennis and he was against plans for an eco-town in the clay country

  • the incinerator, instituted and pushed by the Lib Dems, got built
  • the eco-town is going to get built with the plans being proposed by Cornwall Council, controlled by … err, the Lib Dems

Up in the north, Dan Rogerson was going to help ‘make Britain a fairer place to live’

Meanwhile in 2010, the Lib Dems promised to ‘give people the power to sack corrupt MPs’

  • they haven’t

In Camborne-Redruth, Julia Goldsworthy said ‘we need strong local MPs to fight the Tory cuts’ and protect ‘vital public services’

Julia was arguing that the Lib Dems would stop housing on greenfield sites by opposing ‘top down housing targets’ while introducing powers to stop the spread of second homes

  • the Lib Dems have been part of a government that has stealthily re-imposed top down housing targets
  •  second homes are still spreading

Julia promised a lot more money for Cornish schools if the Lib Dems were in government

And whatever happened to that famed Liberal Democrat ‘fair deal for Cornwall’?

  • Cornwall is still underfunded
  •  in 2011 all three Cornish Lib Dem MPs voted for the final reading of the Government’s Equal Constituencies Bill. If implemented, this will demolish Cornwall’s historical political border and set back the struggle to obtain special treatment for Cornwall by decades
  • and despite five years in government that elusive Cornish Assembly remains just as elusive

In 2010 the Lib Dems told us that ‘a vote for Labour or the smaller parties will only help the Conservatives’

  • and then they helped the Conservatives.

Don’t get fooled again. While we’re at it, we might also note the long list of Tory broken promises. And when we listen to all the spin about which party will join which or refuse to join another in potential coalitions, bear in mind this gem, printed in the Telegraph just four days before the last election.

tories rule out coalition

Public warning: conmen out and about in Cornwall

Hardly a day passes without either Cameron or Clegg popping across the Tamar for a quick photo-opportunity. A weekly hour of Poldark plainly isn’t enough to satisfy these boys. Yesterday it was the turn of Clegg to descend on us bringing the usual sack of gifts from the east but unaccompanied by any visibly wise men.

This time he was in St Austell trying to shore up the sagging campaign of sitting Tory Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert. We were promised cheaper petrol (greenest government ever?) and a doubling of the rate of council tax on second homes. Of course, as Clegg also yesterday ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP he’s left with only option, which is to prop up his old mate who leads the party of second home owners. So this is another promise that we can confidently add to the essentially meaningless list then.

It’s more about ratcheting up an apparent difference between the Glib Dem and Tory wings of the coalition Government as Clegg suffers terrible amnesia when it comes to the actual record of the past five years. In Cornwall, he calls on Labour voters to vote tactically for the Lib Dems. But of course, with the usual astonishing impudence, up in Sheffield where he’s defending his seat from Labour, he’s calling on Tories to vote tactically for the Lib Dems.

Mind you, to prove that it’s not that difficult to fool most of the people most of the time, especially in Cornwall, Lord Ashcroft happened to be conducting a focus group in St Austell and Newquay this week. Apparently, ‘most’ of those present thought Stephen Gilbert was a reincarnation of David Penhaligon. One proudly referred to his actions on the pasty tax. “He sorted that out. They wanted to charge you extra for a pasty!” The only tiny problem with this great success in saving us from the demonic pasty taxers is that most bakeries ARE charging the pasty tax. The notion that it was binned must rank as one of the biggest myths in Cornish history, up there with visits from the Phoenicians and the whisht hounds of Goss Moor.

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg

Amazingly, Ashcroft concluded on the basis of this soul-destroying evidence of the political perspicacity of St Austell voters that for ‘the Cornwall [sic] participants’ local factors were pulling them towards the Lib Dems while ‘national’ factors pulled them towards the Tories. Which explains why they’re perfectly happy to go on voting for someone whose voting record in the last Parliament was the same as the Tories 98% of the time. Let’s see.

He voted strongly for

  • slashing welfare benefits
  • reducing corporation tax
  • raising tuition fees
  • privatising the Royal Mail

and strongly against

  • increasing taxes on those (hardworking) folk ‘earning’ more than £150,000 a year.

Not to mention being willing to sacrifice Cornwall’s 1,000 year old border in return for a lost referendum on the pathetic alternative vote.

Is there really no-one in St Austell supremely indifferent about which one of the Two Steves, the Liberal Tory one or the Tory Liberal one, actually wins the seat?