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News Archive > General > The people have spoken

The people have spoken

By Natasha Swift 14th June 2017

The people have spoken
ELECTED: Steve Double is celebrating his win

THERE aren’t too many certainties in British politics following the results of the country’s General Election, but voters in St Austell and Newquay were very clear about who they want to run the show after Cornwall chose to remain true Tory blue.

Voters ensured the Lib Dems were consigned to the political backwaters as Labour celebrated their best election results in more than half a century in a historic night for the St Austell and Newquay constituency.

The party which once dominated Cornish politics - the Liberal Democrats - suffered one of the most disastrous results ever seen by the party in its bid for the seat while the rejuvenated Labour party celebrated unparalleled gains.

Last minute replacement and former MP Stephen Gilbert was drafted in after first choice candidate Joanna Kenny suffered damaged knee ligaments in a skiing accident.

Mr Gilbert was removed from office after the Tories made sweeping changes at the 2015 General Election which saw Steve Double claim the St Austell and Newquay seat with a 8,000 majority.

Fast forward two year’s and the only difference in this General Election was the vote being split three ways after Mebyon Kernow, the Green Party and UKIP did not stand up a candidate to contest the seat.

With the stage set once again for a two-way battle, Labour candidate Kevin Neil was seen as the underdog as Mr Double and Mr Gilbert set about reopening old political wounds.

But as Mr Gilbert set his sights on beating Mr Double, underestimating Mr Neil proved to be his downfall as he came last in the three horse race.

Following a turn out of 65.9 per cent, Mr Double was re-elected by a landslide after securing 26, 856 votes - an increase of 6,606 from 2015 and upping his majority to just over 11,000.

Mr Neil received 15,740 votes - more than tripling support in the constituency for the party compared to two years ago when Deborah Hopkins came fourth with 5,150 votes.

Mr Gilbert was third with 11, 642 votes -  435 less than the number he received in 2015.

The result has prompted claims disenfranchised Lib Dem voters are still punishing the party for going back on pre-election promises which included scrapping tuition fees after crawling into bed with the Tories to form a coalition under Nick Clegg’s leadership.

Mr Clegg was just one among the big names to lose their seats after being ousted from his Sheffield Hallam constituency by Labour’s Jared O’Mara.

Other casualties included Alex Salmond and leader of UKIP, Paul Nuttall, was forced to step down after the party failed to win a single Commons seat.

Brexit was the catalyst for the snap general election, but Theresa May’s gamble backfired when it became clear no party could reach the winning line of 326 MPs.

The Prime Minister announced the snap election in hope of securing a bigger Commons majority, but those hopes were quashed by a resurgent Labour party with promises of reforming the NHS by removing private ownership, abolishing tuition fees and reestablishing nationalised industries, which struck a cord with younger voters who came out in their droves to vote for the party.

Across the country, it is estimated that 66.4 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 turned out to vote, compared to only 43 per cent at the last election in 2015.

In the early hours of Friday morning the exit polls gave a glimpse of what was to be expected as the results predicted a hung parliament.
And just before 6am the prediction became a reality when it was revealed the country was set for a hung parliament.

To automatically stay in power the Tories needed more than half of the votes in the country, but did not achieve this despite having the most MPs.

The Conservative’s won 318 seats - a loss of 13, Labour gained 30 seats taking its total up to 262 and the Lib Dems won 12 - an increase of four seats.

The Prime Minister announced the snap election in hope of securing a bigger Commons majority, but those hopes were dashed by a resurgent Labour party.

The result for the St Austell and Newquay seat was finally revealed just after 8.30am, but Mr Gilbert threw in the towel hours before as the ballot papers piling up behind Mr Double’s name gave the game away.

A tweet was sent from the St Austell and Newquay Lib Dem Twitter page just after 6.15am congratulating Mr Double on his win.

The official announcement was made by the High Sheriff of Cornwall, Sarah Coryton, who revealed Mr Double had been re-elected to the post he has held for the last two years.

Despite losing, Mr Gilbert seemed in good spirits and joked how he had taken the gold, silver and now bronze medal in the election race.

He told the Voice: “This is clearly a very disappointing time for the Liberal Democrat in Cornwall. I’m disappointed not to be able to have retained the seat for the Liberal Democrats at this election. I think we were offering a vision that said we don’t want to see local hospitals closed, we don’t want to see local schools lose money but the people have spoken and I fully respect their choices.

“The Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign on the issue that matter to people here in Cornwall. That is bread and butter stuff. The quality of your local hospital whether it is open or closed, Fowey Hospital is closed under the Conservatives, whether your local schools have sufficient funds to teach pupils properly. Every school in Newquay and St Austell will lose money under the Conservative plans.

“The Liberal Democrats will continue to be one of the main oppositions to the Conservatives across Cornwall as we have been for the last 40 years. If you take this election on a national basis it’s been a disaster for the Conservative party.

“Theresa May called a General Election - she called it as a referendum on herself and then she didn’t turn up and then she’s lost it. Theresa May has taken a Conservative Party that had a majority in the House of Commons and has turned it into a Conservative Party that has no majority in the House of Commons.

“As well as being a disaster for the Conservatives the biggest losers in all of this are the British public and the British economy who face weeks if not months of more uncertainty as we struggle with the maths on the House of Commons as it is to form a Government that is able to lead us through the crucial Brexit negotiations that are ahead and the very difficult times.

“The people have spoken. We have absolutely got to respect what the people have said and what they have said very clearly is Theresa May wanted a referendum on herself and she’s been rejected by the British people.”

Mr Gilbert was asked if he would be the man for the Lib Dems if there was a general election in six months time to which he replied: “Ask me again in six months time.”

Bucking the national trend to increase his majority and reclaim the post he had to relinquish on May 3 when Parliament was dissolved, Mr Double said it had been an incredible night.

He added: “I am incredibly grateful to the people of St Austell and Newquay who have voted for me again after just two years of being a member of parliament for my home constituency and whatever the future holds the one thing they know is that I will continue to be a strong voice for cornwall in Parliament, continue to work hard for this constituency, continue the work I have already begun and deliver what this constituency needs.”

Speaking to the Voice he said: “The hard work begins straight away. We have got some questions we need to answer as a party about the future and Government, but I’m delighted I’m going to be a part of that.”

And the fighting talk continued from Mr Neil, who said the result of the election had “truly been an historic night in Cornwall.”

He said: “Tonight is the night that changes Cornwall for a very long time to come, if not forever, because tonight we have seen the Labour party come through in huge numbers in every constituency across Cornwall.

“We have increased our vote dramatically in every seat. Trust me this is the beginning, it is not the end of that story.

“The result we have achieved tonight the dramatic increase in our vote is testimony to exactly what Jeremy Cobyn has achieved for Labour. He’s achieved it up and down this country, and believe me, there is more to come.”

Mr Neil called on the “loser” of the night, Theresa May to resign because it was “quite clear she has lead her army into a defeat and a defeat that she did not need to lead them into.”

Following the results of the election the Prime Minister announced she planned to do a deal with the The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - a right-wing Northern Irish party - to prop up a Tory minority government.

By Natasha Swift 14th June 2017

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