13 September 2008

A few years back Labour existed as a party in Cornwall. It won seats on local councils and even parliamentary seats. Although Cornwall voters tended to vote Liberal (then Liberal Democrat) or Conservative, there was a substantial radical, progressive heart that chose Labour.

What was said about the parrot? Dead, deceased, expired, passed on and over. That’s what has happened to Labour here. The party now gets risible votes in general elections outside Camborne; in local elections it fights only a minority and loses more often than not, coming fourth and last in a recent by-election for a seat on the parish/town council in Camborne. First-past-the-post voting has hastened Labour’s death in Cornwall. While the party structure still exists, active, door-knocking membership is very small and there are only church-mouse funds.

The Labour government has delivered for Cornwall in many ways. This is different and better than the Tory years. The improvements in the NHS and schools can be seen here too, Sure Start works, the A30 is better, inroads have been made into child poverty, higher old age pensions and benefits and the godsend of the minimum wage have improved life for many people in Cornwall, and under Labour EU money has flowed in. The Labour party in Cornwall inexplicably has not cried up these advances. Of course not everything is glowing: people in Cornwall as elsewhere felt the folly of the abolition of the 10p tax rate, and now feel the economic misery of higher energy prices and the government’s weak response; unemployment will rise; many people here will experience keenly the economic recession.

We are past all that now, the good and bad. The Labour party in Cornwall failed to shout loudly enough the progressive successes when it had the chance, letting down its natural supporters, and has withered quietly as its own government succeeded. Locally, although councillors and candidates and the last MP and some members have worked hard and well, the party should have worked more vigorously at evangelism, it never had enough money or resources, it failed to show how it was relevant to people in Cornwall, and it demonstrably failed to enthuse. I get the impression that the national party wrote Cornwall off as Libdem/Tory territory a while ago. Now the national gloom is here. The grave is dug, the corpse is tumbling in. Shovel in the earth. It is over. Labour in Cornwall is dead.

(I would love to eat my hat.)