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A stunning victory for Karen in Wadebridge West 16 April, 2016

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The dust has settled on a keenly fought Cornwall Council by-election in the Wadebridge West electoral division with Karen McHugh pulling off a stunning victory for the Lib Dems. The seat was previously held by Scott Mann for the Conservatives but the Tory vote collapsed (by 40%) while the Lib Dem vote share was up nearly 20%. Th12670732_188175881565153_6178987500279772554_ne Labour, Green and Independent candidates also put in good showings.


The results were:

Conservative: 356 (25.6%)

Independent: 111 (8.0%)

Labour: 222 (16.0%)

Lib Dem: 604 (43.5%) 

Green: 95 (6.8%)

Turnout was 47.85%


I’ve known Karen for about twenty years and I know how strong her values are and how deeply compassionate she is, so I have no doubt she’ll be an excellent representative for Wadebridge as well as being a key contributor to Cornwall as a whole. I’m really looking forward to working with her.

I would also like to make special mention of the other candidates in this election who all fought so hard throughout the campaign. While we may all have had our philosophical differences no one can doubt their strong commitment to the people of Wadebridge and the surrounding area. I applaud anyone who puts themselves forward for election but Wadebridge West was blessed with some particularly good candidates. Well done to everyone.


A post-election rant… 7 May, 2015

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The polls have finally closed and no one’s propaganda can make the blindest bit of difference now. The national campaign seems to have been painfully long and negative, without shedding too much light on the issues that will make the most difference to people’s lives. I’m glad it’s over.

Here in North Cornwall I really hope Dan Rogerson is re-elected – he’s been a fantastic local MP for the past ten years and, in my opinion, fully deserves to carry on the good work.

Nationally – in spite of a really nasty set of exit polls – I hope the numbers work out in such a way that the Tories are nowhere near government this time. Their wilful disregard for the vulnerable and disadvantaged has only been mildly tempered by Lib Dems in coalition and I have no desire to see a repeat.

Regardless of who forms the next government here is my wishlist of the things I hope they remember:

1. Please make sure that any debate about the future of Europe is based on the facts, not emotive propaganda led by tax exile newspaper owners with vested interests.
2. Please stop making scapegoats of immigrants. The vast majority work extremely hard and help provide so many vital services – the NHS, for example – that we take for granted. Be nice, people!
3. Please take a good hard look at whether our ‘First Past The Post’ system and an unelected House Of Lords are really relevant to 21st Century Britain.
4. Please don’t just accept the ‘austerity’ agenda without question. Much harm has been done in the name of deficit reduction and the suffering has mainly fallen on the poor and vulnerable rather than the super-rich speculators who caused the crash in the first place.
5. Please stop playing politics with Scotland and ‘The Union’. I don’t see any reason to be scared of Nicola Sturgeon, and the constant assault of the right wing press will only increase divisions and make a permanent split inevitable.

I leave you with the words of my great political hero, Abraham Lincoln, which I hope are at least partially relevant:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Post-election rant over…

Steve Knightley wins Wadebridge East 6 September, 2013

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Cornwall Councillor Steve KnightleySteve Knightley has won the Wadebridge East by-election for the Liberal Democrats. The vote was triggered by the resignation of the Independent Collin Brewer. In the end, the result was close:

Steve Knightley (Lib Dem) 408
Independent 399
Conservative 217
UKIP 202
Labour 58

It was a particularly disappointing night for UKIP, who slipped back from their result in May, and the Tories, who would have hoped to have made more of an impact given this was on their PPC’s doorstep.

It was a great result for Dan Rogerson MP and the North Cornwall Lib Dems and I am sure Steve will make a great Councillor for Wadebridge and Cornwall as a whole. I’m looking forward to working with him.

Elections 4 May, 2013

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The dust is starting to settle on a dramatic set of elections to Cornwall Council. The authority has lost some good people from all political groups and gained some interesting new faces in their place. The electorate have given those of us who remain a good deal to think about.

In terms of my own division I am truly grateful to the people in the seven rural parishes I represent for returning me as Councillor. It is one of the great cliches of elections, but it is genuinely a humbling experience being elected to represent your area.

As far as the raw numbers are concerned there are clearly interesting days ahead: Lib Dems 36 seats, Independents 35, Tories 31, Labour 8, UKIP 6, MK 4, ‘Unspecified’ 2 and 1 Green Councillor. If there’s any message at all in the midst of that it is that we will all have to do a lot more listening this time around.

The days after… 18 October, 2012

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It’s been a busy couple of days…

Much has already been written about Tuesday’s dramatic events at Cornwall Council (you can read the perspectives of Alex Folkes, Jude Robinson and Andrew Wallis and there is more from ‘thisiscornwall’ here). From my perspective it was the most extraordinary day I have seen in local government. Not only did we see a Leader removed by Full Council, there was also the sight of open divisions within the administration parties (Tory & Independent), two competing candidates from the ‘coalition’, security guards stationed behind the Cabinet and four spectacular resignations to round the day off.

What emerged was a ‘new’ administration headed by the former Deputy Leader of the Council, Jim Currie. This in itself was an extraordinary selection, as he was elected Leader by a narrow margin with the support of Lib Dems, Mebyon Kernow, some Indies and some Tories, while the bulk of his own Conservative Group support his Indie challenger, Neil Burden. Interesting times indeed…

Jim has already made clear that he will only be a caretaker until next year’s elections – he will not be standing again. He has also promised a reawakening of democracy at County Hall and a good, hard stare at the previous administration’s privatisation plans. We hope he stands by these promises and, rest assured, we will be holding him to account throughout his time in office.

The new Leader also faces a number of challenges over the coming months, not least the annual Budget. We will listen to what he has to say – we will support him when we think he is doing the right thing and we will oppose when we think he is wrong but, as an opposition group, we will make sure we question all the way. I hope we can help him succeed, as the interests of Cornwall must be paramount.

I have great personal sympathy for Alec Robertson – Tuesday must have been an incredibly difficult day for him, and I and most others would have preferred not to have had to put him through that. But Tuesday has given Cornwall Council a chance to start rebuilding bridges – let’s hope the new administration has learned the lessons of the old one.

David Parsons wins Bude North and Stratton for Lib Dems 27 October, 2011

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Huge congratulations to David Parsons, who has scored a resounding victory in the hotly contested Bude North & Stratton by-election. The Result was: David Parsons (LD) 958 (61.17%), Con 395 (25.22%), Lab 120 (7.66%), Ind 93 (5.94%).

David is a talented campaigner who will be an excellent representative for an area which seems to have been forgotten by Tory-led Cornwall Council. I’m very much looking forward to working with him.

Murdoch: time to break the habit 6 July, 2011

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Labour and the Tories have been vying for the affections of Rupert Murdoch for far too long now (the Lib Dems have never really had a look in but I doubt we’d have been any purer given the opportunity). News International have perpetuated the myth of their importance to the political discourse ever since the 1992 Election and the infamous “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” front page and prospective Prime Ministers have played along as they’ve sought the blessing of the world’s most powerful media baron.

Tony Blair flew around the world to perform in the Murdoch Empire’s living room back in the mid-nineties and David Cameron – horseriding partner of the increasingly toxic Rebekah Brooks – installed the big man’s favourite, and former News Of The World editor, Andy Coulson to the heart of the Tory operation.

Now, with the shocking revelations of the phone hacking of Milly Dowler, the families of the Soham girls, the victims of the 7/7 bombings and the grieving relatives of Britain’s war dead, News International is finally starting to be recognised for the malign influence on our lives that it really is.

Yet the chances are that the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will still unquestioningly grant his approval to Murdoch’s proposed takeover of BSkyB. I desperately hope I’m mistaken. Now is the opportunity for our leaders at Westminster – of all political parties – to finally end their dependence on News International’s consent to govern. The national print media cannot win the ongoing battle with the internet and the influence of Sun editorials will only diminish from here. Hunt – under persuasion from the heart of government – should call Murdoch’s bluff and refuse to allow the swallowing-up of Sky by an organisation which has shown such disregard for the integrity of its profession, not to mention the effect of its actions on innocent, grieving families.

He has the power but I doubt he has the courage.

Maybe it’s idealistic to think that an organisation of the size and influence of News International can be stripped of its belief that it has the right to choose our government, but I’m pretty sure there will never be a better opportunity to try.

An afternoon with the CUC Journos 3 March, 2011

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A little over a year ago I was invited to attend the CUC campus at Tremough for a question and answer session with the Multimedia Broadcast Journalism MA students (I blogged about it here). At the time I was impressed by the standard of questioning and the professional approach of our interrogators and reflected that the future was in good shape.

This afternoon, along with my Labour Cornwall Council colleague Jude Robinson, I went back for a second sitting with this year’s intake. Once again the questions were probing, occasionally blunt and always challenging as we covered a range of topics from Supporting People through to the AV referendum via potholes and (inevitably) student tuition fees. I’m happy to note that, under the excellent leadership of CUC’s Charlotte Barry, the high standard is being maintained and there is another generation of bright journalists being nurtured at Cornwall’s own centre of excellence.

We had hoped to be joined by our Independent colleague Andrew Wallis but unfortunately he was tied up at County Hall with the Environment & Economy Committee’s call-in of the Council Cabinet’s parking charge hike. If I’m lucky enough to be invited again next year I hope he’ll be able to join us.

Cornwall Council, Supporting People and another budget 15 February, 2011

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I’ve long been an evangelist for webcasting meetings, but sometimes I look at proceedings in the Cornwall Council Chamber and wonder if it would be better if the outside world never had to look in on the unedifying spectacle of a budget meeting. Today was one of those occasions.

Local authorities up and down the country set their Council Tax rates at February meetings and Cornwall is no exception, although in many respects this was an exceptional meeting. Firstly, the major part of the budget had already been passed by the Tory-led administration at the long ’emergency’ meeting back in December and secondly, the question of setting a Council Tax figure had been rendered academic by central government’s indication that any rise would result in a corresponding cut to the amount given to councils in grants.

The only question therefore is how councils manage the cuts they have no choice in making. Back in December we put forward four fully-costed amendments to the administration’s ’emergency budget’, all of which were defeated. Today we concentrated on the proposed cuts to the Supporting People budget, with an appeal to independent-minded Councillors to vote the measures down and force the Cabinet to rethink and come back with alternative proposals. We made clear that money from the Council’s £127m reserves could be used to protect these valuable preventative services which would save greater costs further down the line. Indeed, Eric Pickles (no friend of local government) has gone on the record to make clear that local authorities save £5-6 in other costs for every £1 spent on Supporting People services.

Such logic was lost on the administration, and at one point one of their Councillors resorted to some unpleasant insinuations about the motives of some of those who work hard to provide these vital services for the authority. Regrettably a number of the Tory Members seemed to derive some perverse enjoyment from this, and the cuts in general, grinning throughout this deeply unedifying spectacle.

In the end the administration’s weight of numbers was enough to see this short-sighted budget through with just one Tory and one Independent joining the Lib Dem, Labour and Mebyon Kernow Members who voted against.

None of us are in any doubt that times are hard for public finances – regardless of whether you blame the banks, the Coalition, the last Labour government or all three – but there is no need to make things harder by the myopic vandalism of important, cost-saving services. This was not a day for Cornwall Council to feel proud of itself, but I fear it will be some time yet before the administration start to realise the cost of what they have done.

Tories drop another ‘safe’ Cornwall Council seat 14 January, 2011

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Congratulations to Jude Robinson, who becomes Labour’s first Cornwall Councillor after winning the previously safe Tory seat of Camborne North. The result of yesterday’s poll was:

Mebyon Kernow 32
Liberal Party 61
Green Party 31
Lib Dems 152
Conservatives 203
Labour 230

This was the second by-election held since the formation of Cornwall Council and the second time the Conservatives have lost a so-called safe seat (last time it was St Austell Bay, won by Lib Dem John Oxenham). Most Tories who were willing to give an opinion at last Tuesday’s Full Council day seemed to feel the result was in the bag, but let’s hope they will soon start to realise that if they do threaten services in Cornwall with their needlessly harsh cuts agenda then there will be more days like this in store for them.

Naturally I had hoped that our candidate, Anna Pascoe, might have won as she would make an excellent Cornwall Councillor. Nevertheless she increased the Lib Dem share of the vote from 2009 and I’m sure she will come back even stronger another day.

In the meantime I wish Jude all the very best in her new role and I look forward to working with her (and no doubt crossing swords from time to time) over the coming months.