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UKIP hope for change to political landscape

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 03, 2013

Presiding polling officer Sharen Gillick outside a very rural polling station in Shirwell, North Devon Picture: GUY HARROP

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A new-look political map of the Westcountry will emerge today as the results of local elections will reveal whether the UK Independence Party's surging poll rating will translate into electoral success.

After polling stations closed at 10pm last night, the results of all-out elections at Cornwall Council, Devon County Council and Somerset County Council are expected between lunchtime and 6pm.

The Conservatives have held both Devon and Somerset – and led the coalition with Independents on Cornwall – since 2009.

But the Tories are braced to lose hundreds of seats across the country in protest at a mid-term Government and as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) raids its vote.

UKIP's Devon chairman Steve Crowther said voters were flocking to them to "stick up two fingers to the other parties", but warned the first-past-the-post electoral system meant it might struggle to get its candidates elected even its share of the vote increased.

The Liberal Democrats, who consider the South West to be their power base, could also be stung by its involvement with unpopular government policies. The party has targeted the region but Andrew George, a Cornwall Lib Dem MP, admitted the Tories would have to perform "catastrophically" to be the biggest group in the Duchy again.

Millions of people were expected at the ballot box in England and Wales – with a bout of long-awaited sunshine boosting turnout – as 2,300 seats are contested in 27 county councils and seven unitary authorities.

But at the polling station at Truro Methodist Church, officers reported that by mid-afternoon just 84 out of 1,233 people registered had voted – although that excluded postal voters. One voter in Truro speaking to the Western Morning News said they were voting Green Party – which has expectations of winning its first seat in Cornwall – and said: "The Green Party is the only one which actually appreciates and takes a comprehensive approach to the issues surrounding climate change. All the other parties around here pay lip service to it."

In Devon, Labour worked hard in Exeter with a team of up to 18 activists and MP Ben Bradshaw knocking on doors, while the Lib Dems said they were campaigning right up until the polls closed.

Candidates who spoke to the WMN claimed the Conservatives seemed not to have staged a very strong campaign in what is their heartland.

Areas normally "plastered" with Tory posters and placards appeared puzzlingly vacant, one independent activist said.

In East Devon, where some expect a protest vote against the ruling Tory administration, there were signs that recent controversies were encouraging large numbers to vote.

A string of embarrassing stories in the past year saw the district council branded a "one-party state" and according to critics, locals are set to punish the Party in the polling booth. In Feniton, the ward left vacant in March when controversial councillor Graham Brown resigned after being captured on hidden camera boasting of his ability to secure planning permissions, turnout was said to be past 50%. One source said: "This figure was hit mid-afternoon and didn't even include postal votes so turnout could eventually be as high as 60%."

Political watchers will be keeping a keen eye on UKIP. Mr Crowther, chairman of the party in Devon, who is standing in Braunton, North Devon, said: "There is no doubt that UKIP will do well – in Devon, in the South West, nationally.

"What that means in terms of seats we just don't know. UKIP's growth has been consistent across the country, which is a problem because it means we don't get spikes.

"On the doorsteps and on the streets it is clear we are attracting people from all political traditions, even third-generation Liberal activists."

Mr George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives, said: "I don't think for one minute we're going to be the majority party in Cornwall.

"And I don't think, unless the Conservatives do catastrophically, we're going to be the biggest group either.

"Not when we are in a coalition Government and they're throwing everything at us."

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  • Stork  |  May 03 2013, 5:16PM

    We pay in approximately £52 million PER DAY to the EU. We receive approximately £21 million PER DAY in return in the form of various EU grants which are spread around the UK, that's after us begging humbly for said EU grants. We lose £30 million PER DAY to the EU. France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain have been the favoured EU grant beneficiaries for years. It's now the Eastern European countries who are receiving most EU grants. Anyone who thinks that the UK would lose money if we left the EU, doesn't really understand the economics. Whilst the " Common Market" was originally good for UK trade. We have had a trade deficit with the EU for over ten years, ( i.e. they sell more to us than we sell to them. They need us for trade more than we need them, ok)

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  • DipStick  |  May 03 2013, 3:39PM

    Well said JD. @emurfitt: umm, why should any legislation of the kind you describe be repealed if we left the EU? And where do you think the EU gets it's money? The magic money tree??? It comes from US!!!!!!!!!! The EU collects a tenner from us, takes of it's 'admin fee' (say a fiver), then the rest gets spread around the 27 countries in the EU. The CAP gets the lion' share so poor old Cornwall is left with about 5p out of the original tenner. And you want to keep that nonsense? I hope you don't work as an accountant! DS

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  • josdave  |  May 03 2013, 12:34PM

    For every pound of EU funding Cornwall got it cost us the taxpayers two pounds. When are they going to cotton on that the EU is costing us a fortune every day. Thanks to the EU we have no control over our own borders, our own agriculture and fishing, and over 70% of our laws are made in Brussells with our own elected Parliament powerless to do anything about it. And they call that democracy? When a 100,000+ petition on a referendum had to be debated all three main parties brought out the whips to ensure there would be no referendum It's thanks to the blinkered attitude of all three main parties that UKIP is gaining votes. Successive governments have given away our sovereignty to Brussells and are unprepared to do anything to get it back.

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  • BarnstapleMan  |  May 03 2013, 11:29AM

    It would be scary if UKIP ever got into power as they have no policies! They have no clear plan on the economy other than leaving Europe which would end up choosing British business billions, they want to cleanse the country of immigrants but have no idea who would then do they jobs that the English either can't our won't do, they're a clueless party feeding of the fears of the British people during a desperate time by promising all...... Ring any bells???

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  • emurfitt  |  May 03 2013, 11:10AM

    Ordinary British people need the EU legislation that protects workers, women and the vulnerable. Cornwall needs the EU funding we've been getting for years. God help us all if UKIP get their way in the longer term and we lose all that.

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