Friday, 26 June 2009

All change for Hayle

Tonight we had a meeting at the White Hart in Hayle to establish a new campaign branch in the town. We made strong progress in Hayle during the local elections, although sadly not quite enough to win either of the seats which went to candidates standing for the Independent Group. Tonight we had a strong turnout and there is a lot of enthusiasm.

Hayle was previously in the St Ives constituency. Following the last round of Boundary Commission changes, Hayle has been put together with Camborne and Redruth for the next General Election. The current MP for the area, Andrew George, decided not to stay with Hayle but instead to focus on Penzance next time. So there is no incumbent MP for the town.

These are exciting times for Hayle. After years of dithering, plans to redevelop the harbour have now finally been approved which could transform the prospects for the area. Hayle has the longest and the best beach in Cornwall and it is second only to Newquay in terms of the numbers who go there to surf or take a family holiday. The estuary is also an important centre for bird species - but this will not be affected by the plans for the Harbour.

Alongside the plans to develop the harbour area into a marina there will also be small 'incubator' industrial units to support new businesses and create new jobs in marine energy technology linked to the Wave Hub project. In a couple of weeks, the Conservative Party is hosting a national Marine Energy Summit in the consituency - recognition of the fact that the advent of Wave Hub at Hayle has the potential to make this part of Cornwall THE international centre of excellence in these new technologies.

I have many memories of the White Hart in Hayle and have known Mike Bows, the proprietor, for about fifteen years. I often stayed there on visits back to Cornwall and when I was younger it was a watering hole we would visit after the Smugglers Inn at St Erth Praze on the way to the night Club at Penmare (now knocked down and turned into houses)or 'the Bluff' on Riviera Towans for a night out.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Royal Cornwall Show

I wasn't able to make it to Royal Cornwall on Thursday or Friday due to the elections but it was good to have a few hours this afternoon to get up there to meet old friends - even though the weather was not great.

My father was a council member and volunteer steward at Royal Cornwall when we were growing up and my grandfather was the Director of the Showyard. So it was always a show the family attended. My father managed one of the gates which meant an early start. I can remember sometimes having to get up at 5 am to get a lift up and then spending three hours early in the morning wondering around the show when there were few others about and nothing was open!

This year my brother, Giles, has been showing some of our pigs. The family have kept British Lop Pigs(which are native to Cornwall) at Gwinear since the 1800's and we keep the herd to this day and sell the pork through the Farm Shop at Trevaskis. It is the oldest herd of Lop Eared Pigs in the country and they are a rare breed these days.

This year we have done well - with many awards at both the Devon County Show and the Royal Cornwall. But Giles had a bit of trouble persuading the pigs to get back into the trailer for the journey home this afternoon!

I finished the day with a visit to the Young Farmers pavillion. I was a member of Praze YFC for many years. While there I bumped into Beatrice Dyer who taught me how to do public speaking for a Young Farmers debating competition way back in 1987 when I was sixteen years old.

Today she is Chairman of the Friends of the Royal Cornwall Hospital and was raising money for our health services by selling calendars in a joint project with the YFC movement. I bought one...and now I must make sure I don't lose it before next year!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Progress, but more to do

It is always tense at the count after elections. So many people pledged their support but will it actually happen on the day? No candidate ever really knows. The count is the moment of truth.

The results of the local elections are now in. We have made some very solid progress in Camborne and Redruth making gains in Camborne West, Camborne Central, Camborne North, Troon and Beacon, Gwinear and Gwithian, Carn Brea North, Illogan, Redruth Central, Constantine and Mabe. Meanwhile the Lib Dems were reduced to just two seats in the whole constituency.

We did well. But all elections hold disappointments for every party. We had two fantastic candidates in Hayle who worked hard but didn't quite overcome the independents they were up against. Barbara Ellenbroek, the Mayor of Redruth, would have worked so hard for Redruth South, but it was not to be. Camborne South should have been won by John Herd who would have given his all - but a last minute gaffe by the Lib Dems, who issued a leaflet smearing the MK candidate, had the reverse effect of putting MK just ahead where they would otherwise have lost to the Conservatives. We lost by a handful of votes in Gweek too.

We mounted serious challenges in Stithians, Mount Hawke and Portreath and even Redruth North. And even though we didn't win, we polled substantial votes and made major progress on which we can build between now and the General Election.

It was a good result for the Conservatives in the South West. We took control of Devon and Somerset, removed the Lib Dems from power in Cornwall establishing the Conservatives as the largest group with 50 seats. All eyes now are on what happens next...

Monday, 1 June 2009

Lib Dem smear campaign backfires

Election campaigns always have unexpected twists and surprises. The news in Cornwall today is that the Lib Dems have been putting out leaflets which smear an opponent and describe him as "a greasy haired t***." Not very positive.

The leaflet was sanctioned and promoted by Joe Taylor who works for Julia Goldsworthy, courtesy of the taxpayer, of course.

As someone who has seen a few political campaigns over the years, it has always struck me as odd that the "Lib Dem" party are seen by some people as being less "political" and even more "positive" than others. I suppose it just stems from the fact that they have long been seen as the "in-between" lot. But anyone who has experienced political campaigns knows different.

Campaign guidance issued to Lib Dem activists by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors sets out clearly their approach. The published document called "Effective Opposition" orders Lib Dem members to, "Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly."

It goes on to say, "Don't be afraid to exaggerate...Positive campaigning will NOT be enough to win control of the council."

And finally it says "you can secure support from voters who normally vote Tory by being effectively anti-Labour and similarly in a Tory area secure Labour votes by being anti-Tory."

So there you have it.

I remember when I was helping in the Crewe and Nantwich by election last year, there was an issue over vandalism and theft of party election signs. At one point, we were having 30 a night damaged. There will always be some damage to signs for all parties, but this seemed to be happening on an orchestrated scale. At first we suspected the Labour Party - but then it emerged that they, too, were suffering heavy losses of their own signs. The only party that wasn't seeing its signs disappear were the Liberal Democrats. Funny that.

I have always found this sort of "anorak tendency" in politics a bit sad. Those who really believe in liberal democracy would surely value freedom of speech and tolerate alternative view points.

Someone once explained to me that you should not be surprised by the sharp practice of the Lib Dems and that you only needed to look at those rather arrogant "winning here!" orange diamonds to see that they really exist only for the campaign - and have few real convictions beyond that. At times like this, it shows...