Last year I promised that, after the Unitary elections, I would return to review the Cornwall Council election results but, given a change of house (twice) and a change of work circumstances, I have not had the opportunity to do so. With things now being a little more settled, I will share some reflections.
The 2009 elections had been an unmititigated disaster for Labour, deeply disappointing for the Liberal Democrats, comforting for the Conservatives and the Independents; for Mebyon Kernow, they had been less than stellar, although they had shown progress whilst UKIP and the Greens had nothing but dashed hopes.
On the face of it, several parties can claim to be pleased with the results of 2013 but, as with all elections, the story is somewhat different when you look more closely. With Cornwall, things are never quite as simple as they first appear.
I will look at the result in each division to reflect upon what happened (and how wrong, or right, my predictions were). As with most of those who had made educated guesses about the results, whilst I predicted UKIP would do well, I did not see what was coming and that was the biggest surprise of the elections for me.
North Cornwall was a District Council, formed in 1974 which disappeared with the formation of the Cornwall Unitary Authority on 1st April, 2009. It covers the towns of Bude, Bodmin, Launceston, Wadebridge, Camelford and Padstow, with 62 parishes in all.
District Council Election results, 2007:
Party Votes Percent Seats
Liberal Democrat 9988 34.5% 14
Conservative 8988 31.1% 6
Independent 8347 28.9% 15
Mebyon Kernow 1131 3.9% 1
Labour 270 0.9% 0
BNP 202 0.7% 0
2007 was a good election for the Liberal Democrats, gaining 3 seats and slightly increasing its share of the vote on 2003, in a traditionally strong area for them. They had candidates in 18 of the 23 wards (mix of 1-, 2- and 3-member wards).
The Conservatives, despite only winning 6 seats, came second in turn of vote share with candiates in 20 of the 23 wards. They were up from 19.7% in 2003 and were just edged out in three of the seats.
The Inependents were the big losers on 2003, dropping from 43.7% and in a clear lead to third with 28.9%. They lost control of the council but still managed to remain the largest party (though with 4 councillors fewer).
Mebyon Kernow had only one candidate in 2003 with John Bolitho being elected in Bude; in 2007, with Johnn Bolitho not standing again, they lost Bude but gained a ward in Bodmin St. Mary's with Ernest Chapman being elected. Although they had two candidates this time, their vote share only rose to 3.9% from 2.7%.
Labour, in an area where they are historically weak, had no candidates in 2003, but managed to field three candidates in the Wadebridge and Launceston wards, managing only 3.4% and 6.4% repectively.
The BNP's Simon Bennett stood in Poughill and Stratton ward and received 202 votes (7.8%).
Unitary Council Election results, 2009:
Party Votes Percent Seats
Liberal Democrat 11448 38.8% 10
Conservative 10740 36.4% 8
Independent 6037 20.5% 3
Mebyon Kernow 534 1.8% 0
UKIP 555 1.9% 0
BNP 86 0.3% 0
Green Party 82 0.3% 0
At a time that The Liberal Democrats were suffering in other parts of Cornwall, they suffered some disappointments in the old North Cornwall district area in the first Unitary Council elections. Winning 10 of the 21 divisions, they topped the poll with 38.8% of the vote, but they would have been disappointed to have failed to win in Altarnun (falling to third place), Bodmin East (losing by 33 votes), Lanivet (falling to quite a distant second place), Padstow (a surprisingly heavy defeat), Poundstock (losing by 45 votes),
For the Conservatives, excellent results in this electoral cycle, with them making strong advances at the expense of the Liberal Democrats and, in terms of votes, the Independents.
The Independent candidates fared less well, standing in fewer divisions than they would have in the old wards, they only managed to take 20.5% of the vote and 3 out of 21 of the seats, the area becoming much more party politicised as the electoral cycle was approaching a genreal election in 2010.
Mebyon Kernow fielded candidates in Bude South (formerly a strong area for them, they only took 7.8% of the vote), Poundstock (5.3%) and Padstow, where Ron Brown managed a decent 23.3% of the vote, apparently eating into the Liberal Democrat vote.
The BNP stood a candidate in Padstow, taking 5.5% of the vote.
The Green Party also fielded a candidate in Padstow and managed 5.3%
Labour, a sign of their general weakness in this area, did not have a candidate in any of the divisions; given their results elsewhere, this was probably very sensible.
Unitary Council Election results, 2013:
Party Votes Percent Seats
Liberal Democrat 10332 44.3% 15
Conservative 5518 23.7% 2
Independent 3615 15.5% 4
UKIP 2394 10.3% 0
Mebyon Kernow-PC 521 2.2% 0
Labour 735 3.2% 0
Green Party 185 0.8% 0
Unlike the the disappointment the Liberal Democrats faced across much of Cornwall at these most recent Unitary elections, they polled very well here and gained five divisions. With 44.3% of the vote, the Liberal Democrats achieved their highest vote share in this area in many years, the only disappointment being the big drop in turnout that meant that their vote went up by 5.5% but they garnered 1,116 less actual votes than in 2009. They gained (bearing in mind boundary changes) Bodmin St. Petroc, Camelford, Lanivet and Blisland, Padstow and Poundstock, all the divisions they would have hoped to hold in 2009 (see above). They also came very close in the controversial election in Wadebridge East (see below), losing by only 4 votes (they were to go on to just gain this in the subsequent byelection).
For the Conservatives, this was a terrible result, with the vote share dropping by over a third. They did not run candidates in Bodmin St. Mary's, Bodmin St. Petroc (where Conservative councillor Lance Kennedy quit and defended the division, unsuccessfully, as an Independent), Launceston South, Lanivet and Blisland (despite having won the seat in 2009), and St. Issey and St. Tudy. They generally suffered at the hands of UKIP (as well as others), most strikingly in recording a humiliating vote share in Bodmin St. Leonard of 5% (28.1% in 2009). They only bucked the trend in Altarnun, which they held with a slightly reduced share of the vote, and Wadebridge West, where Councillor Scott Mann pulled off a spectacular result. They were humiliated.
For the Independents/Unspecified, it was a mixed result with them gaining a councillor overall, but losing more of the vote share, down to 15.5% this time. They held Stokeclimsland, Wadebridge East, and St. Teath and St. Breward, all with long-standing councillors whose personal votes are what carry them on, only gaining St. Minver and St. Endellion with Andy Penny gaining from the Tories with a 16 vote majority. One wonders about the future for non-party candidates in this part of Cornwall.
For UKIP, not their best result in Cornwall, as they failed to dent the Liberal Democrat appeal.They only fought half the divisions, coming close only in Altarnun (80 votes behind), Lanivet and Blisland (129 votes behind).
Labour stood candidates in five divisions this time, doing best in Wadebridge East with 12.1% of the vote and worst in Launceston Central with 9.2%. The party really ought to do better given the social needs of the area but at least they had candidates this time, unlike 2009.
For Mebyon Kernow-Party of Cornwall, disppointment in that they failed to put up much of a challenge in the three divisions where they had a candidate, failing miserably in Bodmin St. Mary's where they once had a councillor (see below). They achieved around a sixth of the vote in the seats they contested.
The Green Party had one candidate in Lanivet and Blisland, achieving 15.5% of the vote.
This division has been normally represented, in its slightly varying guises by the Liberal Democrats, until it was gained in 2009 by the Conservatives with the Lib Dems falling to a surprise third place. Conservative Vivian Hall held onto the seat for The Conservatives with a slightly reduced vote share of 37% whilst the Liberal Democrats remained in third place (despite, or maybe because of, the candidature of the sitting Launceston South councillor, Sasha Gillard-Loft). In 2009, the Conservatives had just held off the challenge of Independent Brian Eno, but this time it was the UKIP challenger, John Knights, who proved the greatest threat. I predicted he would get a healthy vote share but didn't think he would threaten to take the seat - he wasn't far off though, taking 30% of the votes cast and failng only by 80 votes.
I had predicted, although I clearly said "with little confidence", that the Lib Dems would regain the seat, basing this on a bounce back after the pretty appalling result for the Lib Dems in 2009, although I believed Labour's entry into the campaign might hinder that. Labour's Geoff Hale will be happy with the 111 votes gained and 11% vote share, I guess the Lib Dems less so, although it wouldn't have given them the seat even if the votes had gone their way otherwise.
What happened? The Conservatives held on much better then one might have expected, given that the sitting councillor had stood down, and UKIP, with no electoral history to speak of, were the surprise package. It would seem that Mr Knights took votes that were once with the Independent candidate as well as a handful of Tory votes; who is to say what the result might have been if it had been known how close UKIP would come to taking the Division?
Bodmin St. Leonard
A safe, indeed impressive, Lib Dem hold here with Cllr Pat Rogerson garnering a excellent 62% of the vote. As I predicted at the time, UKIP were always likely to be a hindrance to the Conservatives, I had realised just how much of one - the Conservative vote share collapsed to 5% with their candidate, Mr Scoffham, reduced to a humiliating 4th place.
Whilst UKIP's Chris Wallis posed no threat to Cllr Rogerson, he took a creditable 24% of the vote and a clear second place. Labour's David Acton will be disappointed to have only taken 9% of the vote but has the comfort of knowing he did not place last. I thought that Councillor Rogerson might be a little unnecessarily worried by Labour's entrance into the race but it would appear that the strong vote share for the Independent in 2009 swung mostly behind her whilst the Conservatives can only go home and lick their wounds.
I had predicted a Lib Dem hold.
Bodmin St. Mary's
This is a seat that I thought might be a challenge for the Lib Dems and predicted it as being too close to call between them and Mebyon Kernow-Party of Cornwall (MK-PC). I had predicated this on the past success of MK-PC in the 2007 district council elections. Well, more fool me to try to make that kind of normal political assessment in a north Cornish town. Local connections matter here and, despite the apparently strong local connections of MK-PC's Roger Lashbrook, it was Cllr Kerridge who was comfortably re-elected. Whilst her vote share was down on 2009 when it was a two-horse race with the Conservatives, her 56.4% share of the vote is a great achievement.
In the end, it was UKIP's Peter Walter's who proved the main - if distant - challenger, soaking up the majority of the Tory vote (as the Conservatives's failed to field a candidate) to achieve 19.9%, with MK-PC in third with 16.5%.
Labour's Janet Hulme will be disappointed to have taken only 7.2% of the vote, but at least she flew the flag.
A 27.4% turnout, but not massively down on 2009.
Bodmin St. Petroc
An interesting election battle here with the sitting Conservative and former Cornwall Cabiner member, Lance Kennedy, fighting to hold his seat against former Cllr Steve Rogerson who had only lost the Division by 33 votes in 2009.
As predicted, Mr Rogerson was re-elected and he comfortably increased his party's vote share (48.4% to 56.1%); a very comfortable majority of 461 for Mr Rogerson.
Mr Kennedy quit the Conservative party two months before these elections in protest at the decision of the Council to vote for a zero percent rise in Council Tax. The Cabinet Member for community safety, public protection and waste management, he might have hoped to do better, in his new guise as an Independent, than coming third with only 15.6% (51.6% when elected).
MK-PC's John Gibb's will be pleased with his party's 125 vote share (12%).
Voter's don't like division and the fallouts at County Hall cannot have been helpful to Mr Kennedy. It would appear that much of his vote went straight across to Cllr Rogerson and one would hope that a lesson is learnt.
I expressed the hope in my commentary that an increased number of candidates might increase the turnout, and it appears that it may have done so. The division has been slightly altered from the old East one but it seems that the 29.6% turnout is slightly up on 2009. Still disappointing though.
Nothing to see here. As predicted, in Cornwall's only two member division, the Lib Dem's Cllr's David Parsons and Nigel Pearce were comfortably re-elected with, between them, 85.4% of the vote. The sole challenger, Conservative (former Independent) Louise Emo managed only 14.6%. Not a good advert for representative democracy, you'd have thought another candidate could have been found.
The only real thing of note is that the turnout was 50.4%, which may be down from last time but it is hard to judge after the boudary revisions. Very nice to see over 50% of the electorate voting.
Well, what can one say - my prediction was "too close to call, for now" and I never called it. As it proved, this was a very tight race and I believed, popular as he was, that sitting Conservative Cllr Keith Goodenough would find it hard to hold against Lib Dem challenger, Rob Rotchell. Cllr Goodenough has always been in tight races but to lose by 7 votes must really hurt - the 'if only my knocking up effort had been good enough' (bad pun intended), but such is democracy.
A disappointing turnout of 28.8%, a slightly larger division casting over 300 fewer votes.
Grenville and Stratton
As predicted, a safe Liberal Democrat hold in a strong division for them. Cllr Dolphin's 68.2% will give her much to shout about, so fulfilling an election pledge. The Conservative's Shorne Tilbey never really had a chance.
The old Flexbury and Poughill division was much more fun.
A 36.8% turnout.
Lanivet and Blisland
One of those seats where the defending party, the Conservatives, failed to put up a candidate to defend. I predicted a Liberal Democrat gain, and so it proved with the now Cllr Chris Batters taking a comfortable 47.5%, almost doubling the Lib Dem share from 2009.
In the absence of the Conservatives, UKIP's Tom Hobbs 36% was very healthy and just short of the Conservative vote in 2009. UKIP don't seem to have been too successful with other party's voters here. The Green's Steve Haynes had every reason to be happy with his 15.5% of the vote, having had to campaign with little help.
A 34.7% turnout, but quite a cut from 2009.
This was never going to be anything but a very safe hold for the Liberal Democrats and so it proved with Cllr Folkes taking 70.8% of the vote, a 7% increase since 2009. His Conservative challenger, Poundstock Cllr Phil Tucker (not sure why he changed to here), saw the Tory vote share more than halved to 17.2%. Bringing up the rear in the third place was Labour's Kris Roberts, who will be delighted to have recorded a Labour vote of 12%.
What explains the vote? I expect that the Lib Dem vote rose partly due to Cllr Folkes having an incumbancy bounce, with Cllr Tucker representing an unpopular local coalition and changing division and losing most votes to the Lib Dems whilst Labour seem to have managed to bring out voters who may normally not vote, have moved some across from the Lib Dems in the general vote churn and even some from the Tories. The low 25.9% turnout is not good.
Launceston North and North Petherwin
As predicted, a safe Lib Dem hold with Cllr Adam Paynter suffering only a 5.5% drop in his vote share against 4 other candidates (as opposed to two in 2009). The Conservatives will undoubtedly be deeply disappointed to have been pushed into a clear third place by UKIP with Graham Ford taking 24.4% of the vote to Bill Sowerby's 13.8%, a shattering drop of over 29% from 2009. The two Independent candidates hardly registered with Max Hailey receiving 5.3% to the gloriously named Krystyna Zdan-Michajlowicz's 4.9%.
This kind of result is one that can offer only a worrying picture to the Conservatives as, even though there is the mid-term blues and the unpopular local administration to take into account, this is a shattering result losing so many votes to UKIP who have some small history in this Division.
A 39.6% turnout, down on 2009.
I thought this might be close, but predicted a Lib Dem hold. I was half right - it was a fairly safe hold in the end with Jade Farrington, their new candidate ( Cllr Gillard-loft and her problems having flown to Alturnan), achieving 45.5% of the vote, slightly up on 2009.
I thought it was possible that Independent candidate John Conway (the Conservative candidate in 2009) might run the Lib Dems close, but it was UKIP's James Wonnacott who managed to snatch second place with just over 24% of the vote - I had predicted they would ger a "fairly healthy vote" without winning, but I had thought that Ms Farrington would do somewhat worse and Mr Conway somewhat better.
Labour's Susan Alfar will perhaps be disappointed with 9.2% of the vote, but at least the party had a candidate, unlike the Conservatives. I predicted that "The real issue is how well UKIP will do." I was sort of right, and also wrong.
A 35.1% turnout.
I predicted a close finish in this two horse race between sitting Cllr Stephen Rushworth and Lib Dem challenger Richard Buscombe. The decision of MK-PC and the Greens to not field a candidate was obviously to maximise the chances against the Conservatives but I still believe that MK-PC had as good a chance here of taking the seat and, in a straight fight, I think they'd have beaten the Tories handily. As it happens, now Cllr Buscombe fared pretty well with a majority of 87 which I suggested I was leaning towards in my then post.
38.5% turnout, significantly down on the last elections.
I predicted that, on balance, the Lib Dem's candidate, Nicky Chopak, would gain this seat but it was very close with a majority of only 38 over Conservative Andrew Ades, replacing sitting councillor Phil Tucker who inexplicably moved to the Lib Dem stronghold of Launceston Central. I think he will regret this now as incumbency might well have saved him this seat (of course, he might have been personally unpopular in the area, who knows?). MK-PC's Paul Sousek will be happy to have trebled his party's vote share to 15.7% whilst Independent, former UKIP, candidate Rupert Powell must be filled with "what ifs?" after seeing his former party's advances elsewhere.
36.2% turnout, down by just under 20%.
St. Issey and St. Tudy
In 2009, Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Jeremy Rowe, held his seat by only 76 votes in a straight fight against the Conservatives. On this occasion, on a lower number of votes cast, he won by 75 votes over the spirited Independent Emma Karenza Hambly who campaigned in oppostion to what she described as "inappropriate renewable energy projects" that she believes are "resulting in the desecration of Cornwall's most valuable asset...its landscape". Holding the Liberal Democrats particularly responsible she very nearly achieved a 'decapitation' success that few, myself included, saw coming. Her 46.7% vote share was impressive, obviously making clear a deep sense of unhappiness with the political class.
I predicted Cllr Rowe would hold his seat, I was very nearly wrong.
33.5% turnout, well down on 2009.
St. Minver and St. Endellion
I predicted that this would be a two-horse race between sitting Conservative Cllr Brian Gisbourne and Independent candidate Alan Penny, but I just gave it to Cllr Gisbourne thus showing why I don't bet on horse-races. Mr Penny just gained the seat by 16 votes (1.5%) over the defending councillor.
Liberal Democrat Ed Headley-Hughes, about whom I could discover nothing, garnered 17.2% of the vote and trailed in a distant third.
A decent 42.6% turnout, but down on 2009.
St. Teath and St. Breward
John Lugg was safely re-elected as an 'Unspecified' candidate, although his share of the vote was down from the 65.1% he received in the old St. Teath division to 51.5% on this occasion. Most of this will be down to the intervention of the Liberal Democrats (who didn't have a candidate in 2009), although I would have expected their standard-bearer, Eddie Jones, to have done somewhat better than 31.8%.
For the Conservatives, Henry Hine saw their share of the vote fall to 16.8% from the 34.9% in 2009.
A 38.1% turnout.
Whilst I saw this as an easy Independent hold, I expected that Councillor Neil Burden, as Deputy Leader of the then Council Administration and having had a minor 'mis-speak' concerning children with special needs (for which he unreservedly apologised), might have a bit of a shake-up, but he didn't. Comfortably holding onto the substantially redrawn Division with a hefty 62% of the vote, Cllr Burden had a massive (in UA election terms) majority of 538 over the wonderfully-named Antonia Mary Damaris Willis of UKIP, who claimed 20.8%. The Conservatives (9.5%) and Liberal Democrats (7.7%) trailed in a distant third and fourth.
Another 42.6% turnout. The boundary changes were significant but the number of voters exchanged were about the same, so we can surmise a drop in turnout of just under a fifth.
A bizarre story brewed here when it was discovered that the UKIP challenger, Susan Bowen, who had only joined the party about 6 weeks before the election, had recently been a member of the BNP, something specifically banned by UKIP - it was a sign of the foolishness of not vetting their candidates in the haste to get as many standing as possible. Ms Bowen stopped campaigning but, with her name still on the ballot paper, I speculated that she might still do quite well.
The re-elected councillor, Liberal Democrat councillor Glenton Brown, comfortably increasing his share of the vote since 2009 from 44.8% to 57.1%, will be happy with his 351 majority. Ms Bowen came in second with 26.9% (the Independent main challenger in 2009 not standing this time), perhaps surprisingly under the circumstances but she certainly represented an opportunty to express an 'anti-politics as normal' vote.
In the third place came the Conservative candidate, Paul Charlesworth, whose vote share fell sharply from 27.2% to 15.9%. He was perhaps the victim of those unhappy with Ms Bowen voting for Mr Brown to ensure she was not elected and also an increasingly euro-sceptic electorate voting for UKIP.
A turnout of 36.1%, heavily down on 2009 when it was around 50%.
The most controversial of all of the election battles took place in this division with sitting Independent Councillor Collin Brewer in the centre of a storm after telling a member of Disability Cornwall at a stall in County Hall that "disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down". Finally resigning his seat on 1st March 2013, he decided to defend it again. He faced five challengers, including Sarah Maguire, the young mother who led the local campaign for his resignation, standing in the Independent interest. At the time, I said that the result would be too close to call and didn't call it but asked the question of Councillor Brewer's chances: "will his support stay solid or will the divided opposition allow him to lose a lot of support and still win?" The latter was the case and Cllr Brewer held his seat with 25.2% of the vote, only 4 votes more than Liberal Democrat Steve Knightley. Ironically, Ms Maguire's entrance into the race where she came 6th, garnering a respectable 146 votes (11%) probably saved Mr Brewer.
The results for the UKIP (15.6%), Labour (12.1%) and Conservative (11.3%) candidates were somewhat overlooked in the aftermath, but it was satisfactory for the first two and pretty disasterous for the Tories, who saw their vote share slashed by two thirds.
The national furore surrounding the result was quite astonishing and the embattled councillor resigned from the Authority for a final time after he was found to have breached Cornwall Council's Members' Code of Conduct following a second complaint after the re-elected Councillor had given a telephone interview to the Disabilty News Network. He resigned on 10th July 2013.
At the subsequent byelection, held on 5th September 2013, the runner-up from May, Liberal Democrat Stepehen Knightley gained the Division with 31.8% of the vote and by a tiny majority of 9 over Independent candidate, Tony Rush.
A 42.3% turnout, almost identical to the 2009 turnout, with the interest in the election being very high.
As predicted, an easy hold by defending Conservative Cllr Scott Mann, who took a comfortable 65.5% of the votes cast, a 5.6% increase over 2009 and giving him a very handsome majority of 522; this was surely helped by the lack of a UKIP candidate this time (in 2009, they managed just under 15% of the vote). Former postman Cllr Mann is the Conservative PPC for North Cornwall, so will see this as a good base for him. In a distant second on 24.3% of the vote was the Liberal Democrat's Elliot Osbourne, who managed to maintain the poll share, with it slipping by only 1% since 2009. In the Labour (and Co-operative) Party's interest, John Whitby will have found some satisfaction with 10.2% of the vote.
A 41.6% turnout, again almost identical to 2009, with the interest in the next door election probably having a knock-on effect in turnout here.