Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The European elections ...

My article in this week's Cornish Guardian is on the European elections. It is as follows:


On Thursday, voters will be going to the polls in the controversial elections to the European Parliament, which have, unsurprisingly, been dominated by Brexit.

Along with many others, I am nervous about what a post-Brexit future will hold for Cornwall and whether our communities will be a priority for the Westminster Parliament.

I do worry that powers “repatriated” from the European Union will largely be centralised in London, and there will be no democratic dividend for Cornwall and the other nations and regions of the UK. I would also question whether there will be any appetite from central government to tackle inequality across the UK or to reverse the decades-long under-investment into areas away from the South East.

It has been widely reported that Mebyon Kernow is not contesting the “south west” seat in these elections– not least because it stretches from the Isles of Scilly to Wiltshire via Gibraltar. Because of this, MK members in the St Austell and Newquay Constituency decided to take the opportunity to write to MEP candidates to find out if they support the proposal for a Cornish Assembly.

My colleagues were very disappointed that they did not receive a single reply from candidates representing Change UK, the Conservatives, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats or The Brexit Party.

On a more positive note, the Green Party’s list confirmed that they fully support greater self-government for Cornwall, adding that “Cornwall has a distinct historical and geographical identity” and pledging to support and actively campaign for “the establishment of an Assembly for Cornwall, with similar powers to those of the Welsh Assembly.”

I was pleased that they also criticised the over-centralised nature of the British state and recognised the disproportionate power held at Westminster, and the need to give power back to the regions of the UK.

In addition, one English Democrat candidate said she was supportive of an Assembly, as were two of the independents (Larch Maxey and Neville Seed). One UKIP candidate also replied but did not express an opinion.

It will therefore surprise no-one that I will be voting for the Green Party in the European Parliament elections.

I would add that MK has co-operated with the Greens on a number of occasions during the last 25 years and they sit in the same progressive group in the European Parliament as the European Free Alliance (of which MK is a member along with our sister parties Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Yorkshire Party).

Monday, 20 May 2019

STATEMENT ON EU ELECTIONS FROM MK’S LEADERSHIP TEAM

As Mebyon Kernow is not standing in the 2019 EU Elections, we have been asked on numerous occasions who we will be voting for.

We can confirm that the National Executive of MK has not agreed a formal position on this matter but, in a spirit of openness, we are happy to confirm that MK’s leadership team will be voting for the Green Party.

MK has co-operated with the Greens on a number of occasions during the last 25 years and the Greens also sit in the same progressive group in the European Parliament as the European Free Alliance (of which MK is a member along with our sister parties Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Yorkshire Party).

In a survey of candidates in the “south west” region, the Green Party has also confirmed its continuing support for a Cornish Assembly, while we had no positive responses from Change UK, the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Brexit Party or UKIP.

In addition, MK and the Greens share many goals such as the need for a greater focus on dealing with climate change.

Cllrs Michael Bunney, Dick Cole, Loveday Jenkin and Andrew Long

Sunday, 19 May 2019

WHAT DO EU CANDIDATES THINK ABOUT PROPOSAL FOR NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF CORNWALL?


The St Austell and Newquay Constituency Party of MK recently sent a copy of the MK booklet “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” to all candidates standing in the “south west” seat for the European Parliament.

We requested that the candidates give their personal view – and that of their party – on the proposal for a Cornish Assembly.

We can confirm the following:

- The Green Party has confirmed that they fully support the push for a Cornish Assembly.
- One English Democrat candidate (Jenny Knight) said she was supportive of an Assembly.
- One UKIP candidate (Stephen Lee) replied but was non-committal.
- Two independents (Larch Maxey and Neville Seed) said they were supportive of an Assembly.

Not one candidate from Change UK, Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems or The Brexit Party has replied.

THE GREEN PARTY (TOM SCOTT ON BEHALF OF THE GREEN LIST)

I’m happy to say that I very much agree with the thrust of the proposals for this outlined in the leaflet that you sent, and that for some time now this has also been Green Party policy, as agreed by our members at our party conference. To quote from our policy document on public administration:

“The Green Party recognises that Cornwall has a distinct historical and geographical identity, and supports (and will actively campaign for) the establishment of an Assembly for Cornwall, with similar powers to those of the Welsh Assembly, which will be supported, in turn, by a new local government structure promoting subsidiarity.

“Any such region should be able to decide, via a referendum of the citizens living within it, to create a directly elected regional assembly as an additional tier of government.

“These regional assemblies would take over the powers of region-wide non governmental agencies, and adapt their existing bureaucracies to serve the new Assembly. Funding would, in the initial stages, come from diverting the existing block grant regional funding allocated by central Government.

“The particular form and structure of these regional assemblies set up under will vary from region to region according to regional circumstances. They should be elected by a system of proportional representation. The appropriate form and structure will be determined by regional constitutional conventions drawn from all sectors of society, similar to the Scottish Constitutional Convention.”

In the EU context, subsidiarity – regional and local self-government enabling decisions to be democratically made as closely as possible to the people they affect – is one of the basic principles of the European Union, and one which was strongly restated with the signing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. It is a principle with which with which the Green Party wholeheartedly agrees – we think power should flow upwards from the people rather than downwards from an over-centralised state.

I also agree with you that it would be very much to Cornwall’s advantage at EU level to have a regional assembly with representation at EU level, e.g. in the Committee of the Regions.

In my view, one reason that the Brexit referendum of 2016 went the way that it did is because people do not feel properly represented by our current electoral and constitutional arrangements – and I think the chaos and confusion that has resulted should be an urgent wake-up call prompting a fresh look at these. As Caroline Lucas said earlier this year:

“Brexit shows no sign of giving us back ‘control’ or changing the way we’re ruled. A People’s Vote should be the starting gun on the race to genuinely democratise the UK. Looking anew at the way Britain is governed, not just by the EU but by Westminster as well. We are one of the most centralised countries in Europe, with disproportionate power held at Westminster, and far too little in our regions and local authorities. Powers need to go back to the regions of the UK, where people have a better chance of influencing it.”

JENNY KNIGHT (ENGLISH DEMOCRATS)

I am the English Democrats candidate for the Sth West + Gibraltar in the forthcoming elections. I was asked to record a minute manifesto for local radio which I have to say sounds unnaturally fast due to the time factor! However, I thought you might be interested and please share it as you see fit.

Good Luck with your National Assembly and self determination for Cornwall.

UKIP (STEPHEN LEE)


You sent me your devolution leaflet I assume because I am a Euro candidate for the South West. Bearing in mind I am only 5th on the UKIP list I would not get very excited about my chances of success or my opinion. Hopefully even if I won I will not need to take my seat at Brussels, at least for very long. Even if I were to win a seat, as members of the European Parliament have only a tiny influence either in the UK or the EU I doubt that my opinion on Cornwall having it's own assembly will have much significance.

I am not aware of UKIP policy on the subject - I have no-one to ask today. At the moment we are bogged down with both local and EU elections but I am interested in the subject. On a personal level I am torn between smaller central government and accountability. You might argue that a devolved government is more accountable. My opinion is that can only work under proportional representation to avoid the formation of potentially corrupt cliques forming.

I just looked at our local policies and they do not mention local assemblies. Please see Local Government at https://www.ukip.org/ukip-manifesto.php

LARCH MAXEY

As a Welsh Speaker who'se seen the difference a National Assembly made to Wales I am highly supportive of a Cornish Assembly.

As a Climate and Ecological Emergency Independent my focus is on the Climate and Ecological Emergency. As The UN General Secretary has said, if we do not turn things around by the end of this year, 2019, we risk the extinction of our species. Everything is at stake so we must do everything we can and research and history suggest that means mass participation civil disobedience as politics alone will not be enough..

I welcome the move towards more democracy that a Cornish Assembly offers and have a question which would help me get behind a Cornish Assembly: Is MK willing to commit to using Citizens' Assemblies within the National Assembly - thus allowing people to have a real direct voice and role in democracy?

One of our aims is National Citizen Assemblies on Climate & Ecological Justice

1. The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament must tell the truth and take action to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency.
2. The Emergency Declaration must demand a zero carbon Europe by a date no later than 2030.
3. National Citizen Assemblies on Climate & Ecological Justice must be instituted and have a leading role in shaping a zero carbon Europe.

NEVILLE SEED

I have long thought that more needs to be done and am a supporter of a proposed national assembly similar to that of Wales.

It is a shame you did not peruse this in 2004 when the North East rejected such an assembly. Having grown up in the North East and having family there I understand the differences between the 2 regions and why a rejection there should not dissuade you pursuing a Cornwall assembly.

I have made a reference to this problem on my campaign website in the policies section https://nevilleseed.co.uk/policies/. Your policy booklet is however far superior.

If elected I will do all I can to help bring about a Cornwall assembly as I feel the area is overlooked by the main political parties.

If possible I would like to know your viewpoints on the fishing industry and how you see being impacted by Brexit or the lack of it.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Climate change and the "UN planetary health check"



My article in tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian covers issues relating to climate change. It will be as follows:

At the World Economic Forum at Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in January, David Attenborough declared that “The Garden of Eden is no more.” Addressing the Forum, which asserts to “engage the foremost political, business and other leaders of society,” he issued a challenge for stronger action in the battle against climate change.

Mr Attenborough told the meeting: “I am quite literally from another age. I was born during the Holocene – the name given to the 12,000-year period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm and create civilisations.”

The 93-year-old added: “Global businesses, international co-operation and the striving for higher ideals these are all possible because for millennia, on a global scale, nature has largely been predictable and stable … now in the space of one human lifetime – indeed in the space of my lifetime – all that has changed. The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more.”

And he went on to cleverly suggest that we are now in the Anthropocene – the Age of Humans, adding that we all need to “move beyond” the “guilt or blame” for the environmental crisis we are in, and to get on with the “practical tasks at hand” to deal with the emergency.

Mr Attenborough has also reached out beyond the “powerful,” who assembled at Davos, with a television programme called “Climate Change – the Facts,” which built on his life’s work as a broadcaster and natural historian. This essential work is being complemented by so many environmental campaigners, including the inspirational 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.

Tackling climate change and safeguarding the global environment are the defining issues of the early 21st century, as borne out by yet another damning report – this time from the UN which has brought together the work of more than 450 scientists and diplomats.

This report warns that “nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely [and] the health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.”

One of the authors of the report, Professor Andy Purvis from the Natural History Museum, has described it as “the most thorough, most detailed and most extensive planetary health check” that has ever been done.

His perspective is so telling. “The take-home message is that we should have gone to the doctor sooner. We are in a bad way. The society we would like our children and grandchildren to live in is in real jeopardy. I cannot overstate it. If we leave it to later generations to clear up the mess, I don’t think they will forgive us.”

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

HAVE YOU WRITTEN TO KEVIN FOSTER (MINISTER FOR THE CONSTITUTION)?


As we mark the fifth anniversary of the recognition of the Cornish through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and five years of inaction from the UK Government – if you haven’t already done so – please write to the Minister for the Constitution Kevin Foster (see picture) and challenge him to take the lead in bringing forward a proposal for a Cornish tick-box in the next census.

His address is: Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, London SW1A 2AS and the email for the Cabinet Office is: publiccorrespondence@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk

Please also write to your local MP on this matter. The address for all MPs is: House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Email addresses can be found from https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

And if you live outside Cornwall, it would be especially helpful if you could write to your MP and show parliamentarians across the UK that there is a very wide demand for a Cornish tick-box.

SOME USEFUL INFORMATION TO HELP YOU MAKE THE CASE FOR A CORNISH TICK-BOX ON THE 2021 CENSUS

The Government White Paper “Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales” does not include support for a Cornish tick-box.

However, this Autumn, a statutory order will be laid before both Houses of Parliament. It will set out the content of the 2021 census and, very importantly, this order can be amended by the UK Government, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

We therefore need to start building a massive groundswell of support for a Cornish tick-box and to lobby Government Ministers and MPs to treat the Cornish in the same manner “as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

Here is some possible points to make in your letter:


• The White Paper, based on recommendations from the Office of National Statistics, states that the “ONS fully recognises the need of the Cornish community for data on the socio-economic, educational, health and housing conditions of those who identify as Cornish” (para 3.116). But in failing to support the inclusion of a Cornish tick-box on the 2021 census, they undermine their own stated commitment to “those who identify as Cornish.”

• In April 2014, the Cornish people were recognised as a national minority through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. This was a landmark decision by the UK Government and the official announcement stated that “the decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status … as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

• It is illogical and wrong that the Cornish would be the only UK national minority to be denied a tick-box in the upcoming census, and to have to “write-in” their national identity.

• If the next census (as in 2011) contains tick-boxes for British, English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish – but not Cornish – there will be significant doubts about the veracity of the data collected on the Cornish. With the Cornish having to rely on a “write-in” option – however energetically that option may be promoted – there will still undoubtedly be a significant undercount in comparison to those groups who have been afforded a tick-box, such as “the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

• There was no tick-box for Welsh on the 2001 census and 14% of the population of Wales “wrote-in” Welsh. Ten years later, with a tick-box, 66% of the population identified as Welsh. In 2011, there was no tick-box for Cornish on the census but 13.8% of the population of Cornwall “wrote-in” Cornish. As shown in Wales, a tick-box is needed to achieve a full count of Cornish people across Cornwall, England and Wales.

• The failure to properly collect data about the Cornish would make it difficult for the UK Government, plus other public bodies such as Cornwall Council and the National Health Service, to meet their obligations under the Framework Convention, and to devise appropriate policy solutions for this national minority.

• The White Paper states that the ONS considers the need for a Cornish tick-box to be “very localised and not strong enough to justify its inclusion in the nationwide census” (para 3.120). But how can the ONS consider the Cornish to represent a localised scenario, and yet do not take a similar view in relation to other groups principally associated with a specific historic territory, such as the Welsh. In the 2011 census, 16.9% of people who identified as Welsh were resident outside of Wales, while 12.3% of people who identified as Cornish were resident outside of Cornwall. However, Cornish people living outside of Cornwall in 2011 would have been less likely to have seen the publicity materials promoting the “write-in” option and remain significantly under-recorded.

• The tick-box issue is one of great significance to Cornish people and their public representatives. There was near-unanimous support for a cross-party motion, seeking a tick-box, which was tabled at a meeting of Cornwall Council in January 2019. Only one member voted against the motion and there was just a single abstention.

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR SUPPORT.