The constituency extends from the Atlantic to the Channel coast of Cornwall. It includes the ports of Falmouth, Penryn in the south and the former tin mining industrial belt around Redruth and Camborne. The mines are closed and the seat's economy relies substantially on tourism. The area is favoured by people migrating from the South East.
The fishing industry, which had been hit by the over-fishing of mackerel, was revived as EC protection rules led to the recovery of stocks.
Following its creation in 1950, Falmouth and Camborne remained Labour until 1970 when the populist Tory David Mudd captured the seat with a majority of just 1,523. He held the seat until 1992, when fellow Tory Sebastian Coe succeeeded him.
Candy Atherton was elected in 1997 with a slender majority of 2,688. The Labour share of the vote was increased by nearly 5% but a substantial number of votes also went to the local Independent Labour candidate, who objected to the all-women shortlist, and to the Referendum Party candidate, the entrepreneur Peter de Savary.