15 October 2012

While I was away there was a county by-election on the Lizard and belatedly I look at it now.

The result was a decisive win for the Conservatives. The other parties fighting were Liberal Democrats and Labour. Mebyon Kernow, the Cornish nationalist party which calls itself the party for Cornwall, did not contest the election though it initially had a candidate who withdrew for family reasons.

Since the establishment of the unitary council in 2009 there have been five by-elections. Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour have contested all of them; MK two. The first two parties polled very much the highest proportion of total votes cast: Liberal Democrats about 39 percent, Conservatives 35, Labour 9, MK 8, all others 8. Of course, to a degree the party votes reflect not only how many seats were contested but also the nature of the places where the by-elections fall; a party’s support is not spread evenly through the county; and five is too small to be a pointer to the whole up for election next year.

Nevertheless, how did MK, the Cornish nationalist party, do?

As I have said, it fought only two of the five elections; Labour, not a popular contender party in Cornwall, fought all five seats. A party’s ability to actually field candidates and contest elections is perhaps an indication of its internal strength and reach. MK gained an average of 8 percent of all the votes cast in the five elections; that is, only about 2 percent of electors in those five seats backed the party. MK results in Camborne and Wendron are vastly different so I am not sure that averaging them is convincing. With that reservation, in the two seats it contested MK got the support of about 6 percent of electors.

Despite the capital Wendron result, overall there is no endorsement of Cornish political nationalism or MK by the people of Cornwall. There is no countywide upsurge of enthusiasm for MK and the party is not so far advancing on its overall 2009 result; where it stood, only six in a hundred people entitled to vote turned out to vote for it for the council that runs Cornwall. Cornish political nationalism is not supported by most people in Cornwall. Noise is not numbers.