Political Journeys – mine, yours, our Country’s!
Political Journeys – mine, yours, our Country’s – wow, that’s a big topic and I can feel people thinking with trepidation, where am I going with this? To be honest, at the moment, I’m not sure but the triggers are threefold:
- Liberal Democrats winning a Cornwall Council by-election last week and many hours talking and listening to people on the doorstep/ through social media;
- A Green Councillor within the St Ives constituency area resigning his party after loyal service and strong environmental beliefs;
- Finding an old business card from when I was in Cornwall Council’s Cabinet – 2017 – 2019.
When the Councillor for Long Rock, Marazion and St Erth resigned, triggering a by-election, I knew we had to find a good Liberal Democrat candidate and campaign hard to try to win. I knew it would not be easy because that area has been safe for the Conservatives and that a split non-Conservative vote, could let them win again, even though most people vote for a different candidate; and that is true in local and National Politics, due to our voting system of First Past the Post. Many people are not represented by people they believe will represent them well and the person elected often gets less than 50% of the vote.
Explaining very simply and in a fun way the problem with our way of electing people and some alternative voting systems are some videos based on fantasy politics in our animal kingdom – do spend some time at least watching the first one about First Past the Post.
Politics in the Animal Kingdom videos
ELECTION RESULT FOR LONG ROCK, MARAZION & ST ERTH IN MAY 2021
Election Candidate Party Votes % Outcome
Tara Sherfield-Wong Conservative 874 36% Elected
Bill Mumford Liberal Democrat 563 23% Not elected
Angelo Spencer-Smith Independent 419 17% Not elected
Nastassia Player Labour 280 12% Not elected
Colin Pringle Green Party 267 11% Not elected
ELECTION RESULT FOR LONG ROCK, MARAZION & ST ERTH IN FEBRUARY 2023
Election Candidate Party Votes % Outcome
Will Elliot Conservative 503 28% Not elected
Katherine Hayes Green Party 244 14% Not elected
John Martin Liberal Democrats 811 45% Elected
Nastassia Player Labour 230 13% Not elected
Having campaigned in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election from Parliament, there were some similarities to our local by-election; lifelong Conservative voters were split between voting in their usual way, not voting because they were so fed up with Politics or switching to Liberal Democrats as a protest to show their true party what they thought of things locally and Nationally. Locally, they felt down by the previous Conservative Councillor they had taken the trouble to elect and were not impressed with the Devolution Deal, the proposal for an Elected Mayor for Cornwall and probably more than that, the way the Deal and Mayor for Cornwall issues were being presented. Nationally they were fed up with poor decision making and poor leadership.
Green and Labour voters were conflicted between wanting to support the party they felt most strongly aligned to and the knowledge that our First Past the Post voting system, if they all did that, would lead to the outcome they least wanted, another Conservative elected. Many Green and Labour leaning voters lent their vote to Liberal Democrats, tactically, because they regarded our candidate to be the most likely to defeat the Conservative candidate and they too wanted to send a very strong message to County Hall that they did not want a Mayor for Cornwall and they definitely did not want that foisted on them by 87 Councillors.
So, what does this tell us for the next General Election? Obviously many of those lifelong Conservative voters will return loyally to their home BUT, I suspect a good few (unless the Government can pull a good many rabbits out of hats) will not vote or will vote tactically – many will choose the Liberal Democrats, some will choose the Green Party but very few will go as far as voting for Labour. In some areas, if there is a grandchild of the Brexit and UKIP parties, they will go that direction if any shift left is too much for them to bear. There will be another factor that will favour Conservative candidates getting elected – the need to produce photographic ID to vote in person (this does not apply to postal voters) – older, wealthier people are more likely to have valid drivers licences or passports and bus passes will be accepted too; younger, less well off people will be less likely to have those forms of ID and would be more likely, if they voted, to vote for Labour or maybe Green or Liberal Democrat.
The next General Election will be using the First Past the Post voting system so, unless UKIP, Brexit type parties arise strongly to split the right of centre vote, the left of centre vote will be split at least 3 ways and that alone will let many Conservative candidates in. Tactical voting is going to be key, no matter which of the 3 centre/ centre left teams you support – and I know that feels wrong but you have seen what voting with your heart did in the last 2 general Elections!
So, what about locally and what about me? The next Cornwall Council and Town and Parish Elections will be in May 2025 and I do not intend to put my name forward for any elected position – I feel I’ve been a Councillor, Town and /or Cornwall since 2007 and like many am a little tiered of the abuse – criticised because I was not born in Cornwall, cast as being “the same as all other Politicians” or just abused by people because I cannot deliver exactly what they want, no matter how carefully I explain why. The word ‘intend’ is in italics, because that is how I feel today, will I feel the same in 2025? To be honest, I stood in 2007 because I was persuaded to, not because I had any Political ambitions…it took me ages to accept I was a Politician….probably not until I became a Cornwall Councillor in 2013!
With a different voting system, I think Cornwall Council would become a decision making body that truly represented the mixed views of the people living here. I think coalitions and more importantly, collaborative Politics would be the norm and I suspect what we have had since May 2021, a Conservative or indeed any Political party having a majority would be extremely rare.
Mayor for Cornwall or Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) will nearly always be Conservative, unless the system for electing them changes (PCC elections will switch to First Past the Post next time) – bigger areas mean people are less likely to have contact with candidates and be less likely to vote and, low turn outs favour the Conservative party as their voters are generally more likely to be loyal and dedicated voters, come polling day! Tactical voting is much harder to work out over a larger area.
So, where does the bullet point about a Green party Councillor resigning fit into this debate? I think I saw the Green party as a super kind, democratic bunch, where listening and accommodating others views probably made decision making more difficult BUT, from the lengthy statement of that Councillor, Nationally and locally, their party people can be unkind with some seemingly having more of a voice and say than others. It is much easier to get elected as a Member of a Political party BUT, we need much thicker skins than those who manage it locally as Independent candidates – they will still get some of the public abuse but they are less likely to get castigated every time someone in Politics behaves badly AND, they are free agents on every single issue under discussion.
Before anyone starts to think I am not 100% behind Liberal Democrats, just like those loyal Conservative and Labour voters, I cannot foresee a day I will vote anything other than Liberal Democrat. I do agree with a lot of what the Green party stands for and would not want to argue a great deal with many Labour party policies and would definitely prefer and Labour to a Conservative Government. In my ideal Political world, the Green party and Liberal Democrats would combine, become the 2nd main party Nationally and get elected under First Past the Post ….then they would change the voting system to one that is fairer at representing all voices in our communities, whether we agree with them or not. Probably not going to happen in my life time, but I can dream!