Monday, 25 April 2011
Labour fighting hard in Torbay mayor election
With less than two weeks to go before the local elections, here in Torbay we have the additional excitement of an election for Mayor.
I have written before about the role and its future, but here I summarise the battle for the second (and hopefully last) elected Mayor.
To set the background Torbay decided in a referendum back in 2005 that we should have an elected Mayor. The turnout was low (26%), but that was still 3% more than voted in the actual Mayoral election in the October!
14 candidates contested the election, all three main Parties and a host of Independents. Many of whom were known Conservatives. The Tory, Nick Bye, won on second choice votes, beating the Lib Dems. Labour had a poor result and we lost our deposit.
Now for something you couldn’t make up. In 2005, Nick Bye was the Tory candidate, this time after being deselected by his Party (he also lost out on the Totnes primary by his Party for the Westminster seat), he is standing as an Independent.
The Tory candidate this time, stood as an Independent in 2005! He is currently the Leader of the Council.
There are seven further candidates including our own Patrick Canavan who is standing as Labour & Co-operative. The first time ever that the Co-op has had a Mayoral candidate. There is also a Lib Dem, Green and four more Independents.
So what are the prospects?
The election has to be wide open. The current incumbent has been very unpopular and his own group (as it was then) has postured against him for several months. I would suggest this is more to do with distancing themselves from someone who attracts widespread criticism than ideological differences.
The Tory candidate has attracted criticism over the years from the business community, especially the all important Tourism sector. He would review the future of the recently established Torbay Tourism Company which is doing well to unite a fragmented sector.
The Lib Dem is likely to suffer the same backlash as any Lib Dem On May 5th!
Many of the Independents are likely to attract Tory leaning voters and therefore weaken the Tory vote.
As for Patrick Canavan? Beating the Lib Dems will send a clear message that Labour can win in Torbay. Obviously we need to attract significant enough first choice votes to get in to a probable run-off with the Tories. Then it will be down to second preferences. If this scenario is achieved, Labour in Torbay would have scored a moral victory if nothing else.
But who’s to say those second preferences won’t stack up in our favour?
We have had a high profile campaign, and were the first to select in late summer 2010. Patrick has had several meetings, especially with the business community, to demonstrate our determination to improve Torbay’s fortunes.
The area has the sixth worst local economy in England, the highest regional unemployment, 24% of children living in poverty and a low wage economy. A third of those in work are in the public sector. We need jobs. We need inward investment. That has been our message.
Patrick’s campaign has benefited from visits by Baroness Royall, Lord Jim Knight and Vernon Coaker (Shadow Police Minister whose visit coincided with the announcement that two of Torbay’s three police stations are to close). He also met with Liam Byrne to highlight the need for a new link road.
We are hopeful of our first councillors since 2001 and are standing 18 candidates in total, covering all 15 wards. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Lib Dems could end up with just two or three councillors. Who knows, Torbay Labour could have more than them!
Our recently launched website has attracted good feedback and indeed one of our candidates was recruited through it. This amply demonstrates the value of every local Party having its presence on the web. Take a look and let us have your feedback at torbaylabour.org.uk or patrick4torbay.com.
Darren Cowell is Chair of Torbay Labour Party.
Posted by Stuart King at 18:51