Friday, 27 November 2009

St Austell Bay - Cornwall turns its back on the Tories

I made it to St Austell Bay yesterday after all. I had to work in Launceston until 6.45 and made it down there for quarter to eight for the last bit of knocking up and the count.

And boy am I glad I did.

John Oxenham's victory - on a huge 13% swing - was a great triumph for him and for the St Austell and Newquay team. But it will also have wider implications for the Conservatives in Cornwall.

Seeing the ballot papers come out of the boxes and the tally sheets, I thought we were close but no cigar. The Conservatives went into the election with a majority of over 350 (one of their safest seats in the County) and when the boxes were opened I thought we were looking at a Tory hold with a majority of around 50. That would have been a great swing, but still a Tory hold.

Hamish McCallum, the Lib Dem agent, said that he thought at this stage it was still 'do-able'. I thought he was simply putting on a brave face. I'm sorry Hamish, I was wrong.

In the end, after a recount, John Oxenham won by 15 votes and becomes the 39th Lib Dem councillor in Cornwall.

The Conservative candidate was Bob Davidson, their County organiser and a man who promised in a letter to voters that he would go to sort out County Hall. Maybe Tory Leader and Deputy Alec Robertson and Jim Currie (both of whom came to the Count) will be secretly glad that Bob won't be there to tell them where they have been going wrong?

Bob Davidson was beaten by the Lib Dem Graham Walker back in June (majority 19) and was beaten again last night. He was so ungracious this time that he refused to stay for the formal declaration. Instead he was pacing around outside with his phone glued to his ear.

The Lib Dem campaign was an incredibly strong one. Virtually all the Cornwall Councillors came to help John and there was also a great showing from the constituency parties and campaign teams.

The Tories also threw everything they could at it - matching the Lib Dems leaflet for leaflet. That is almost unheard of in Cornwall. Yet still they lost.

I think that the message from St Austell Bay is that Cornwall has seen what the Conservatives have to offer in the County and they are turning their backs on them. Back in June commentators might have looked at Cornwall and thought that the Lib Dems would have a tough time defending their seats. After last night's results I think we all know that the Lib Dems can hold off the Tory challenge. It's still going to be a tough fight, but it is one that the Lib Dems and the people of Cornwall know they can win.

A footnote: Labour stood in this election and managed just 66 votes - less than 5%. They are finished in Cornwall.

Another footnote: Where were Mebyon Kernow. The so called Party of Cornwall couldn't even put up a candidate for an import and by-election in the County. At their conference last week, Leader Dick Cole promised big things.

1 comment:

eyan said...

Nice blog for St. Austell Bay and really good one.

- St Austell Cornwall