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Camborne and Redruth: Britain's most mouth-watering election battle?

By GDemianyk  |  Posted: March 11, 2014

  • George Eustice

  • Julia Goldsworthy

  • Michael Foster

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Heard the one about David Cameron's former Press aide, Chris Evans' agent and the ex-Treasury special adviser? They all wanted to be MP for Camborne and Redruth.

Ok, the punchline needs work. But the set-up makes for one of the most intriguing general election battles in 2015, pitting a former MP against the incumbent with a splash of celebrity colour - all set against a majority of 66 votes, the smallest in the country.

The contest came to life last week when Julia Goldsworthy was revealed as the Liberal Democrat candidate. The former MP for Camborne and Falmouth, she lost in the 2010 election in the fight for the newly-formed seat to Tory George Eustice, today the Farming Minister but one-time Cameron spin doctor. Political cliche dictates I should drop in the phrase "unfinished business" here.

Mention the Camborne and Redruth constituency and the typical response is "genuine three-way marginal", which is something unusual in rural Cornwall. The area was once the industrial heartland, and remains a world-leading centre of mining expertise. So, in theory, all three main parties have a chance. And while Labour have cocked a snook at it – Camborne ad Redruth isn't on its list of 100 target seats, chiefly because it trails by 9,000 votes – the party has chosen celebrity agent Michael Foster. Given his roster has included the aforementioned radio DJ, Sacha Baron-Cohen and Anne Robinson, the party are taking it seriously.

Speculation over whether Goldsworthy would run has been bubbling for months. Since the last election, she has been a special adviser to Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury. Still highly-regarded by the party's leadership, her name also still rings of familiarity locally - a major plus as that's often a stumbling block for candidates coming to an area fresh and with just a year from the ballot. Given the size of the Tory majority, and the fact party president Tim Farron reckons the troubled Lib Dems could win seats in the South West, it would be a surprise if resources weren't chucked at her campaign.

And what of the sitting MP? Eustice, who like his Lib Dem foe makes great play of his Cornish roots, has done as good a job as any Westcountry MP in the last four years - making the early running on cutting water bills and championing local issues such as the regeneration of Hayle harbour. A rebellion over the "pasty tax" did not halt his rise to a junior minister's berth in Defra last year. 

It's no secret there's little love lost between Eustice and Goldsworthy. The 2010 campaign, in the shadow of the expenses scandal, was what you would charitably describe as hostile. What election campaign isn't, but given the contest was always on a knife-edge - and the pair were separated by just 66 voters - a pop psychologist would suggest there's still likely to be bad blood.

Who will win? Much will depend on whether the Tories can prevent a Ukip raid on their core vote, and if the Left who have lent their vote to the Lib Dems in recent years will have had enough after the coalition with the Tories. That will be played out across the South West, where the Tory v Lib Dem dust-up is commonplace, but matters most here.

Let battle commence.

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