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Get ready for shock results as voters face one of the most open elections

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 02, 2013

By Phil Goodwin

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Voters go to the polls today in the most unpredictable county elections in Devon and CornwalI for many years.

Senior Tory and Lib Dem party officials privately admit they have no idea how voters will react to the policies of the national Coalition.

Meanwhile, UKIP, the Green Party, Labour and a host of independents hope to benefit from any mass protest.

In Devon, Labour hopes to win two seats from the Lib Dems in Exeter, though outside the city they are not expected to prosper.

The tightest Devon race could be in Totnes, where the Green Party bids to retain its first and so far only seat in a victory over the Lib Dems by 17 votes with the Tories 182 votes behind.

In East Devon – dubbed a "one-party state" for its Tory domination – many expect the introduction of UKIP and a string of embarrassments at the district council to produce one or two shock results.

Among those nervously awaiting the result will be former local council leader Sara Randall Johnson, who was dumped from her seat in Ottery St Mary by independent Claire Wright two years ago.

Miss Randall Johnson faces a tough battle to retain her county seat in Honiton St Michael's, where she won with a slender 235 majority, but crucially without the presence of UKIP and the Green Party, who both now oppose her. Analysts believe shock results are most likely to occur where large numbers of candidates split the vote and throw the race wide open.

In Cornwall, Wadebridge East – held by Collin Brewer until he stepped down after apologising for saying disabled children should be "put down" – is seen by many as the most unpredictable of all.

Mr Brewer is re-standing against independent Sarah Maguire, who led the calls for him to resign.

Labour and UKIP are also represented, but, privately at least, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are confident of "stealing" a surprise win.

Further west, UKIP could make a breakthrough in Hayle South, where it faces no challenge from the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats.

Local man Clive Polkinghorne lines up alongside two independents – incumbent John Coombe and fellow town councillor Graham Coad – with Labour candidate Anne-Marie Rance completing the four-horse race.

In Penzance Promenade, previously held by an independent who is not standing, former chief executive of Penwith District Council Jim McKenna could exploit his vast experience of local government to add to the independent tally.

Mr McKenna is up against the Tories, Lib Dems, Labour and Liz Shore, the 85-year-old widow of cabinet minister Peter Shore, for UKIP.

2013 county elections by numbers

3.93 Candidates on average for Cornwall’s 122 electoral divisions

10,000 Average population represented by each councillor in Devon

78% Percentage of current Cornwall councillors who are standing again, with 27 standing down

600,000 The number of eligible voters in Devon

68,652 Postal vote applications received by Cornwall Council

153 Liberal Democrats candidates in Devon and Cornwall

471 Polling stations in Cornwall

1 Conservative candidate for every seat in Devon. More than any other party.

290 Staff who will issue and open postal votes and 470 count assistants who will verify in Cornwall

136 Candidates standing for UKIP as part an assault on seats across both counties

22 Number of Labour candidates for Redruth & Camborne seats. More than any other party

23 Green Party candidates trying to win the party’s first seat in Cornwall

26 Candidates standing for Mebyon Kernow, the Cornish party

91 Independents in Cornwall

4/6 Odds of UKIP winning its first seat in Cornwall

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