Sunday, 9 May 2010

After the Westcountry Lib/Con battles turned nasty, can they really all be friends?

The Conservative / Lib Dem battlegrounds in the Westcountry are not for the faint hearted. This campaign, to put it bluntly, got nasty.

Dozens of Lib Dem posters dumped on Dartmoor; two students arrested for vandalising Tory billboards; rumours of LibDem affairs; a Lib Dem reportedly calling a council worker a Nazi; private financial troubles splashed across front pages; Tories targetted for having second jobs; Lib Dems targetted for having no principles...

All this just in Devon and Cornwall.

In the three and a half years I have worked for the Western Morning News, most days I have had a Lib Dem on the phone tearing into the Tories (either an individual or 'them' as a whole) while Conservatives likewise condemned Lib Den local tactics and national irrelevance.

The scars of the 1980s and 1990s run deep.

On election night Lib Dem careers crashed by the smallest margins. Julia Goldsworthy, once tipped as a Lib Dem leader, lost to Tory George Eustice by just 66 votes. Lib Dem supporters wept, through disappointment, anger and sheer exhaustion. Imagine how they'll be feeling to see the possibility that George could be sharing power with Julia's old colleagues by the end of the week.

Lib Dem hopefuls like Karen Gillard and Terrye Teverson fought tough campaigns but were defeated by Tories. Bitterness reigns.

Others, notably Adrian Sanders, Jeremy Browne and David Heath increased their majorities despite being considered "in the bag" by Tories a week ago. Five years of hard constituency work clearly counting for more than Ashcroft's big bucks.

Others still, like Andrew George in St Ives, saw big majorities dramatically eroded.

Labour was in most areas an irrelevance. This was hand-to-hand, street-by-street combat between the Tories and Lib Dems, which took no prisoners.

And now they must form a government?

The public (or at least those out shopping and suddenly confronted by vox-popping hacks) have often wondered why the parties "can't all just work together". This weekend, we are finding out.

The conflict comes when voters realise that some of the policies they like could be sacrificed as part of the "working with" others.

Even if the leaderships present a tidy deal in Westminster - no foregone conclusion - this will get messy in the bombed out election battlefields of the Westcountry.


  1. Chippenham tories said it all on C4 news.

  2. There were Geoffrey Cox Conservative posters dumped on Dartmoor before any Lib Dem ones appeared in a rather staged photo.

    But if the Lib Dems think that working with the Conservatives is tough then they should consider the electoral consequences of hitching their wagons to the tired out Labour bandwagon.

    One way or another the screechy preachy party is going to find out what accountability is all about. The days of protest politics have ended baby!