Thursday, 6 May 2010
In case you haven't voted in the Westcountry, here is the Western Morning News leader on why you should
The Western Morning News has always, in its 150 year history, avoided endorsing any political party in an election. Instead, we seek to honour our commitment to stand full square behind the needs of the Westcountry.
And what the region needs today is for every voter from the Scilly Isles to the Somerset Levels to stand up for the place we are lucky enough to call home. The party leaders and their candidates have finished their campaigns. Now they must pause and await our verdict.
We do not seek to tell you how to vote, only that your vote is crucial to deciding how the Westcountry fares in the years ahead.
Life will not be easy. Difficult decisions need to be made. After the years of plenty, pain will come. Whoever finds themselves in power when the dust has settled tomorrow will be forced to wield the axe like never before. Tax rises and deep spending cuts are inevitable.
This is not an election in which the Westcountry can afford to sit on the sidelines.
Too often we have complained, under successive governments of all hues, that the Westcountry has been overlooked. From the decline of rural communities to rising water bills. From the treatment of the elderly in an ageing region to the exodus of young people unable to find work or afford a home in the place they grew up and love.
We have chronicled the rise and fall of industries like tourism, agriculture and fishing on which our economy depends. And we have argued for our fair share in funding for our schools, hospitals and roads.
With the record national debt casting a grim shadow over all of this and more, now more than ever every community needs a strong voice in Westminster.
We can take heart that democracy in the Westcountry seems alive and well. There are 25 per cent more candidates standing in the region than in 2005. The region’s hedgerows, car windows and front gardens are once again sporting the placards and billboards of political activism. The number of hustings, high street stalls and internet campaigns have swelled. Voter registration is up, turnout is expected to increase.
And more parties than ever are fielding candidates. Alongside Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, ballot papers feature a selection from a long list of smaller parties, including the UK Independence Party, the Greens, Mebyon Kernow, the BNP alongside socialist, communist, democrats and independents.
Few could now truly argue there is no-one to vote for, nor that all the parties are the same.
When our London Editor Matt Chorley embarked on his Marginal Mystery Tour, in late March, criss-crossing the region’s election battlegrounds, he encountered an electorate that was angry and disenchanted. Things have changed thanks, in part, to the TV leaders’ debates, which gave the politicians an open platform, and the cynicism and apathy which took hold in the wake of the expenses scandal has been sidelined. Trust in politics may not have recovered, but a belief that each vote can make a difference has returned in the nick of time.
Two thirds of the seats in the region could change hands on a swing of less than seven per cent from one party to another. Given the volatility of the opinion polls, anything can happen. For once, politicians are truly at the mercy of the electorate and we should not overlook this rare opportunity to make our vote count.
The Liberal Democrats go into today’s election as the front runners in the Westcountry. They hold the most seats and are ahead in the regional polls. Their leader Nick Clegg has high hopes that his MPs could be at ministerial desks on Monday morning.
The Conservatives have made no secret of the fact that they need to turn vast swathes of the region blue. Of the 116 seats, David Cameron needs for an overall majority, at least a dozen are in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. We have been inundated with visits by the leader himself and his shadow cabinet. If he manages to cross the line when the results are in, we hope this flirtation becomes a long-lasting relationship and not a hastily abandoned affair.
The Labour party is less represented, holding just four seats in Plymouth, Exeter and South Dorset. But as the party of government for the last 13 years, its influence should not be underestimated and investment has transformed services and lives.
There has been much talk this week of voting tactically to keep one or other party in or out of government. But if the result is inconclusive, the number of votes will matter as much – maybe more – than the number of seats each party has secured. It is worth voting for the outcome you want.
The horse-trading and backroom deals which will follow if the result is close means every MP will matter. But before any of them can take up their seats they need you, the voter, to give them that privilege. And this time your vote – the Westcountry vote – counts.