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Pearson's party poopers and Cornish independence

Martyn Oates | 19:49 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

Lord Pearson

The bold new spirit of cross-party caring and sharing on the UKIP kibbutz ran into another snag this week.

Party leader Lord Pearson has been telling the good people of Somerset, in no uncertain terms, exactly who to vote for on May 6. That is, of course, precisely what party leaders are supposed to get up to during an election campaign. But they usually do so from the standpoint that their own party's candidates are, all things considered, the best chaps for the job.

Pearson, though, is cheerfully urging the voters of Wells, Somerset & Frome, and Taunton Deane to vote Conservative. He'd previously asked his own candidates to stand aside in favour of their Tory rivals - a magnanimous gesture they clearly have no intention of making. While expressing "the greatest respect" for their leader, a South West party spokesman said: "To be told to not only stand down but to urge people to vote for another party is frankly beyond belief".

Election fever hasn't quite yet reached the stage where other party leaders are going around telling people to vote for other parties' candidates.

But neither should it be thought that the UKIPers' kindness has gone entirely unreciprocated. In Cornwall, the county's four Liberal candidates have all stood aside in favour of the purple party.

Cornwall is, as we all know, is just the kind of place you'd expect to find those of an independent streak doing their stuff.

On Tuesday, a sizeable chunk of the BBC (including me) descended on the St Austell & Newquay constituency for our final "Town Hall Debate" in the run-up to the election.


The subject of public sector cuts quickly raised its head. That was about as surprising as a party leader telling us which way to vote.

But what the Labour candidate had to say on the matter was at least as surprising as Lord Pearson's campaign strategy in Somerset.

Asked where he would make cuts, Lee Jameson replied that "he wouldn't cut anything". "No cuts?" asked a visibly surprised Gavin Esler, chairing the debate. "No", Mr Jameson assured him.

Alistair Darling (who's warned voters to expect cuts in public spending "deeper and tougher" than Margaret Thatcher's) would probably have something to say about the Jameson take on fiscal policy. But it might well be unprintable.

None of the other candidates went quite so far as to launch their own independent policy initiatives. But, Cornwall being the independently-minded place it is, most of the candidates got a bit, well, personal from time to time.

Not personal in a nasty way, I hasten to add. Indeed, questioned as to whether their respective campaigns had reflected a "cleaner, fairer, more honest style of politics", they all rushed to denounce any slights - real or imagined - which might have sullied the political cut and thrust.

But the debate was shot through with a string of, often highly entertaining, personal references.

Mebyon Kernow's Dick Cole felt pretty sure he'd trumped his rivals' agricultural credentials by identifying himself as the proud owner of a "Certificate in Animal Castration".

Picking up the gauntlet, Conservative candidate Caroline Righton promised to put the "F" back into farming.

She also clamed she'd launched her campaign "in a milking parlour, in her milking suit and got covered in all kinds of things".

As she warmed to her theme, we also learnt that she'd been "taken to market" where she "didn't fetch a very high price".

Based on the 2005 vote share, the Liberal Democrats would be defending the new St Austell & Newquay seat at this election.

But Lib Dem candidate Stephen Gilbert revealed that his foothold in the constituency is aspirational in more ways than one.

Like many of the people he wants to represent, he can't actually afford to buy a house here.

The other candidates standing in St Austell & Newquay are:

Clive Medway - UKIP

James Fitton - BNP


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