Cllr James Mustoe represents Mevagissey on Cornwall Council
Just over three weeks after my by-election victory in Cornwall I find myself looking back at the campaign that saw me elected as County Councillor for Mevagissey, with a renewed hope for the Conservative Party in Cornwall.
From the outset I knew it was going to be a tough job. I first stood for this seat in 2013 and came third, behind Labour and UKIP. The Labour incumbent enjoyed a strong personal vote. The Parliamentary seat, St Austell and Newquay, is currently Liberal Democrat, and has always been during my lifetime.
Going into the election, my feeling was that Labour’s personal vote would be up for grabs and my job was to get this, as well as shoring up the Conservative vote, while dissuading voters from going to UKIP.
In my mind UKIP was clearly the main opposition here, and the word was that they thought this would be an easy win. The Liberals also hoped to improve on their fourth place from 2013.
We had a very clear campaign plan. My candidacy was approved a week after the resignation. In the time between the resignation and the calling of the by-election, I got out two leaflets for the whole area.
This was before the opposition had announced candidates, or got any literature out. We ended up putting out eight full leaflet drops, but I think the head start really helped .
With May 2015 looming, this was an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of our excellent Parliamentary Candidate, Steve Double. Steve’s help and mentorship was invaluable, particularly his branded van!
After getting a jump on the opposition, the next steps were to canvas the entire division and with this information, get a timely postal pledge letter out to all our pledgers, followed by a full knock up of all postal pledgers and from this we hoped we had already secured a good chunk of votes.
Onto the polling day itself, we had run a positive campaign, and this was followed through right to the last phone call. It is really important to motivate your volunteers and the best thing, bar the result, for me on polling day, was to see the really positive atmosphere with the team pulling together, having fun, and making sure everything happened on schedule.
The information pulled in by our great Campaign Manager, Richard Pears, predicted the turnout down to a decimal place, and we had a very accurate idea of exactly how many votes I had by the time we made the last calls that evening. Then it was back to base, (via a last minute stop at a Parish Council meeting) to wait for the count.
In the end, we achieved a 9.5 per cent swing from Labour. UKIP’s vote proportion dropped substantially and the Lib Dems remained stuck in fourth place. This bodes very well for May – in the meantime time to get stuck in with the hard work of representing the people and beautiful area in which I grew up.