The problems the local Liberal Democrats face are very simple; an overwhelming force, which has almost unlimited financial support, which has, as yet, not tasted defeat and is beginning to sweep to victory in the rest of the West Country.
The party, in Cornwall, has had unrivalled success since the 1997 election, going from strength to strength, eventually winning all five seats by 2005. Potentially it has a great opportunity to stop the Conservative advance in its tracks at the Tamar.
‘But are the Cornish Lib Dems up to the task,’ I hear you say? If you had asked me this question even 6 months ago I would have given you a negative response. The party was fractured in the run up to the elections for the new Cornwall Council, divided or even unaware of the party’s response to the rise of the Conservatives.
In some cases this has not changed and those choosing to listen to themselves, rather than party campaigns experts, will unquestionably suffer at the ballot box next May.
Depending on the press and media in Cornwall may be a very dangerous strategy. About 12 months ago the Liberal Democrat County Council eventually got round to publishing its own community newspaper. Although it was quite well received by the public, it was roundly attacked by the commercial press, mainly because it attracted advertising that had previously been going to them. By this action the media became much more interested in the failures of the Liberal Democrats and has noticeably turned its support to other parties and against the Liberal Democrats.
Those who listen to campaign chiefs, and remember how the party achieved its electoral success in the first place, by campaigning and building up party organisation, might well be able to fend off the wave of anti-Labour feeling that is sweeping other parts of the country and coalescing as support for the Conservatives.
St. Austell and Newquay, in particular, led by Steve Gilbert and Hamish McCallum, and North and South East Cornwall, to a lesser extent, have shown clear evidence that they have re-learnt these old campaigning skills and should be safe from the Conservative campaign, but others may persist in hoping that the fickle media will be their lifeline, not their own hard work through constituency campaigning.