Interesting times in Cornwall

Arwen Folkes reports from North Cornwall where the battle rages between Lib Dems and Tories

It is going to be interesting down here in Cornwall. The proposed unitary authority is a recent issue down here, as proposed and driven by our Lib Dem run County Council and I am particularly interested to see how the issue will affect turnout ... will less people vote because they believe the District Councils won't exist in two years time or will they turn out in their droves to protest at the abolition of such institutions?

If the truth be known, it seems only to be a big issue to people who are already involved in politics themselves. Certainly on the doorstep I have received more questions about fortnightly rubbish collections than I have the unitary authority!

And yet because politics is led by politicians, all of our opponents have tried to make the unitary proposals a real issue throughout their election campaigns.

Although the Tory campaign began with great gusto, seemingly fielding an impressive slate of candidates, the truth is a large proportion of them are actually paper candidates and little visible activity has been taking place cross the county. I'm not sure that Cornish Conservatives are quite on the same wavelength as David Cameron.

Traditionally in Cornwall it is effort that is rewarded, the Cornish like to see candidates on the doorstep and working hard for their seats and we hope that this stands true for this election. That is also the reason that so many hard-working independent candidates also get elected.

My own authority (North Cornwall) is led by an independent administration. The Lib-Dem campaign has been positive and highly visible and we are fielding 20 out of a possible 36 candidates. The Tories are fielding 21, a majority of them paper candidates. Control will be difficult to obtain but to increase our number whilst keeping the Tories low will be a good thing.

The most interesting ward up here has to be Poughill & Stratton (nr Bude) where our organizer and agent has been the sitting councillor for the last term. This is where the BNP candidate has appeared and also where the Conservatives have decided to place their own organizer - perhaps in the hopes of keeping our boy busy, but the scarcity of her campaign has not achieved this.

Down in Carrick, which is largely considered the heart of Liberal Democracy in Cornwall, we are fighting to retain control of the District Council and we have fielded 35 out of 47 seats for this election. The campaign "Let's keep Carrick working" has largely focused on the Environment (Carrick has impressive recycling rates), Affordable Housing and "Axe the Tax".

There is assumed to be strong Tory pockets in this area of Cornwall but again their visible campaign has been minimal (in fact one of our MP's has described it as the worst he has seen) and whilst the telephone canvassing will be under way there is little excuse in the electorate's eyes for not being on the doorstep with the beautiful weather we have been having here in Cornwall this month.

Do you notice what's missing? The Labour Party has never made much of an impact in Cornwall and Tony Blair has only been to the South West three times in the whole of his 10 year term. Apparently he has visited Japan more times than Devon or Cornwall.

Arwen Folkes, 30, is a currently defencing her district council seat in Cornwall. She also runs two businesses and is mother to two boys.
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To heal Britain’s cracks, it’s time for us northern graduates in London to return home

Isn’t it time for people like me, who’ve had privileges and experiences not open to everyone, to start heading back to our local communities, rather than reinforcing London’s suffocating dominance?

I’m from Warrington. The least cultured town in the UK. My town.

I moved to London almost exactly five years ago. Not because I particularly wanted to. Not because I wanted to depart the raucous northern town that I still call home. Because it was my only choice, really. I’d done my stint in the call centres and had some fun. But that couldn’t, surely, be my lot?

After university, I’d already started feeling a little weird and out of place back in Wazza. There were fewer and fewer people who didn’t look at me like I’d just fallen off a futuristic space flight that’d given me a different accent and lofty ideals.

Of course, that’s because most people like me had already skipped town without looking back and were all in the capital trying to strike beyond the ordinary.

The young, the cities, the metropolitan elite are still reeling after last week’s vote and wondering how people, half of our people, have got it so horribly wrong. We’re different, divided, done for.  

One thing I’ve clung onto while I’ve been in London is the fact that I’m from Warrington and proud. It might not be a cultured town, but it’s my town.

But I wasn’t proud of the outcome of the EU referendum that saw my town vote 54.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent to leave.

To be fair, even in my new “home” borough of Hackney, east London, the place with the third-largest Remain vote, one in five people voted for Brexit.

Yes, in one of London’s hottest and most international neighbourhoods, there are quite a lot of people who don’t feel like they’re being taken along to the discotheque.

Perversely, it was the poorest places in the UK that voted in largest numbers to leave the EU – that’s the same EU that provides big chunks of funding to try to save those local economies from ruin.

In many ways, of course, I understand the feelings of those people back in the place I still sometimes think of as home.

Compared to many suffering places in the UK, Warrington is a “boom town” and was one of the only places that grew during the last recession.

It’s a hub for telecoms and logistics companies, because, ironically, its good transport links make it an easy place to leave.

But there are many people who aren’t “living the dream” and, like anywhere else, they aren’t immune from the newspaper headlines that penetrate our brains with stories of strivers and scroungers.

Warrington is one of the whitest places in the UK, and I’m sure, to many locals, that means those immigrants are only a few towns away. There’s already a Polski sklep or two. And a few foreign taxi drivers. Those enterprising bastards.

We have never seriously addressed the economic imbalance in our economy. The gaping north-south divide. The post-industrial problem that politicians in Westminster have handily ignored, allowing the gap to be filled by those who find it quick and easy to blame immigrants.

When schemes like HS2, which is plotted to smash right through the place I grew up, are pushed against all of the evidence, instead of a much-needed, intercity Leeds to Liverpool investment to replace the two-carriage hourly service, it’s like positively sticking two fingers up to the north.

But I am also a big problem. People like me, who get educated and quickly head off to London when things aren’t going our way. We invested in ourselves, sometimes at state expense, and never really thought about putting that back into the places where we grew up.

There weren’t the right opportunities back home and that still stands. But, rather than doing something about that, people like me lazily joined the gravy train for London and now we’re surprised we feel more kinship with a 20-something from Norway than we do with someone who we used to knock on for when we should have been at school.

That’s not to suggest that our experiences in the capital – or mine at least – haven’t made us a thousand, million times better. 

I’ve met people who’ve lived lives I would never have known and I’m a profoundly better person for having the chance to meet people who aren’t just like me. But to take that view back home is increasingly like translating a message to someone from an entirely different world.

“You know, it’s only because you live in a country like this that a woman like you is allowed to even say things like that,” assured one of my dad’s friends down at the British Legion after we’d had a beer, and an argument or two.

Too right, pal. We live in what we all like to think is an open and tolerant and progressive society. And you’re now saying I shouldn’t use that right to call you out for your ignorance?

We’re both Warringtonians, English, British and European but I can increasingly find more agreement with a woman from Senegal who’s working in tech than I can with you.

It’s absolutely no secret that London has drained brains from the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world, to power its knowledge economy.

It’s a special place, but we have to see that there are many people clamouring for jobs they are far too qualified for, with no hope of saving for a home of their own, at the expense of the places they call home.

It’s been suggested in the past that London becomes its own city-state, now Londoners are petitioning to leave the UK.

But isn’t it time for people like me, who’ve had privileges and experiences not open to everyone, to start heading back to our local communities, rather than reinforcing London’s suffocating dominance?

We can expect local governments to do more with less, but when will we accept we need people power back in places like Warrington if we want to change the story to one of hope?

If this sounds like a patronising plan to parachute the north London intelligentsia into northern communities to ensure they don’t make the same mistake twice... Get fucked, as they say in Warrington.

It was Warrington that raised me. It’s time I gave something back.

Kirsty Styles is editor of the New Statesman's B2B tech site, NS Tech.