So the government has made a u-turn on pasty tax. Of course the home of pasties is Cornwall, which is home to some quite interesting political geography:
|Seat||Party||Majority||Second Placed Party||Vote on Pasty Tax|
|Camborne & Redruth||Cons||
|Cornwall North||Lib Dem||
|St. Austell & Newquay||Lib Dem||
|St. Ives||Lib Dem||
|Truro and Falmouth||Cons||
At the 2005 election, the Lib Dems won all six Cornish seats, yet, in reality, Cornwall is a solidly Lib Dem/Conservative marginal area. As we can see from the table above the largest majority in Cornwall is Sheryll Murphy’s paltry 6.5% in Cornwall South East. In Camborne and Redruth, the Conservative Party’s George Eustice beat the Lib Dem’s Julia Goldsworthy by just 66 votes.
It is worth noting that when given the opportunity all six Cornish MPs voted against the pasty tax, despite it being government policy. Andrew George and Stephen Gilbert have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the proposed tax. In doing so the logical consequence is that Conservative MPs must join in their opposition or risk being undermined by their coalition partners.
The Labour Party is extremely weak in Cornwall – the party has one seat on the council, won in a by-election in January of last year.
Yet there is a potential challenger to the Coalition parties in Cornwall – Mebyon Kernow (‘Sons of Cornwall’), a Cornish nationalist party who currently hold five seats on the council are said to have high hopes for next year’s council elections. They may be capable of taking votes from either Coalition party.
The pasty tax contrasts with the ‘cider tax’ proposed by Labour in 2010. Once again there was large-scale opposition from the Westcountry, with even the Wurzels expressing their outrage at the proposals.
The Labour Party’s seats in the South West at the time were restricted to Exeter, Dorset South, and two seats in Plymouth. The Labour Party had little to lose in the politics of South West England. Meanwhile both Coalition parties are exceptionally strong there and if one of them were able to use pasty tax against the other it could have big ramifications electorally.
It is noticeable that pasty tax was axed, but not other, arguably more significant, unpopular tax changes in this year’s budget, such as the 50p tax change or ‘granny tax’.
Yet isn’t it time that this kind of geographic politics was put to rest? A government should not be able to ignore a whole region of the country as Labour was able to, nor should it give it disproportionate attention to a region of the country. All votes should hold equal weight.