Sunday, 22 March 2015

MK Spring Conference

Thank you to everyone who attended the MK Spring Conference yesterday. I hope you all enjoyed the day.

In my address, I called for an end to the “politics as usual” of the “Westminster circus” which “if not challenged – will fail Cornwall in the future – just as it has failed us all in the past.”

I made the important argument that MK is a “political party with a difference,” and I called on people in Cornwall to “reject their habitual association with Westminster parties and back a new progressive politics with MK.”

I also:

· Repeated my call for a new democratic settlement for Cornwall, with the meaningful devolution of significant powers to a National Assembly.

· Demanded a geographical re-balancing of the UK economy away from London and the South East, at the same time securing greater investment in public works to boost local economic activity.

· Condemned the Coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which he said had turned Cornwall into a “developers’ paradise.” I called for all decisions relating to planning to be made in Cornwall.

· Condemned the under-funding of public services in Cornwall and the failure of the Westminster parties to properly address the issue. I demanded a binding Commission to investigate the full extent of under-funding in Cornwall and to guarantee Cornish communities their fair share of funding in the future.

· Re-affirmed MK’s opposition to the privatisation of our National Health Service.

· Demanded concerted action to tackle tax avoidance and tax evasion.

· Condemned the Westminster parties’ focus on austerity, stating clearly that I was proud that MK is part of a wider movement, challenging the consensus around austerity, championing alternatives ways to balance the books of the state, which do not impact on the vulnerable and the less-well-off, through welfare cuts and privatisations.

MK's PPCs taking a short break from the Conference.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

On the hustings

The election campaign is in full swing and I have already taken part in three hustings. The first was on the Newquay campus of Cornwall College on 3rd March, followed by a debate at the Keay Theatre in St Austell on Monday, which was hosted by the St Austell Chamber of Commerce.

The third debate was today, for over 120 pupils at Brannel School in St Stephen. This was also attended by Steve Double (Conservative), Steve Gilbert (Lib Dem) and Steve Slade (Green Party), Brendan Parkinson (Labour) on behalf of their candidate Deborah Hopkins, who was working, and Kernow King, who was described as a professional Cornishman. UKIP were not present.

I enjoyed all the debates, but it was wonderful to see so many engaged young people at Brannel. Four pupils gave outstanding presentations to start the proceedings and the questions were also of a very high calibre.

And I was really chuffed when Kernow King cheekily asked who the pupils would vote for in an election, and I found that I was the most popular choice.

Thank you St Stephen and Clay Country.

No to NHS privatisations

In my article in today’s Cornish Guardian focused on the threat to the NHS from the privatisation agenda of the Westminster parties. It was as follows:

In a well-received speech on St David’s Day, actor Michael Sheen declared that “there has been a systematic undermining of the core values of the National Health Service, no matter who has been in power.”

Addressing a pro-NHS march, he expressed the view that politicians were missing the “bigger picture,” and we were “starting to become a society that we cannot be proud of.”

I share Martin Sheen’s concern about what is happening to our public services, in general, and the NHS, in particular.

During the 2010 General Election campaign, David Cameron claimed he would defend the National Health Service from “Labour’s cuts and reorganisations.” His Conservative Party also promised there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. But they then pushed through the unpopular Health and Social Care Bill, which included measures to force greater competition into the provision of healthcare and opened up the NHS to a hot of private companies.

Here in Cornwall, we have already seen the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust privatise hotel services, such as cleaning, portering and catering. There was also a further attempt to privatise £75 million worth of so-called “non-complex” health services, which included trauma, general surgery and cardiology.

While upcountry, a private company which was running the Hinchingbrooke NHS hospital withdrew from its contract to provide health services because it was not profitable enough. They informed their “investors” that it was “no longer sustainable under current terms.”

And, last week, it was confirmed that the NHS has agreed it’s biggest-ever privatisation. In a deal worth up to £780 million, eleven private firms will be commissioned to carry out a range of operations, scans, X-rays and other diagnostic tests.

This is all extremely worrying and why I fully support the online campaign group, 38 Degrees, in their latest fight to protect this health service.

They are rightly concerned about the number of NHS contracts going to profit-driven private companies, as well as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which could lead to more “US-style privatisations.”

As 38 Degrees state, in this election year: “There’s no better time to try and change the political landscape than when politicians are after our votes. Most candidates are full of warm words about the NHS because they know it’s popular. But our test is the crucial one: will they commit to kicking out privatisation, funding it properly and keeping it safe from TTIP? If they won’t, we’ll know their niceties are just hot air.”

An apology from Greenpeace

In last week’s Cornish Guardian, there was a news story about an event at Mevagissey, organised by Greenpeace (Tuesday 3rd March). The aim of the event was to promote sustainable fishing, in association with local fishermen.

But the headline was: "Anger as all but UKIP snub coastal champions meeting."

Quotes from within the article included: "Greenpeace said it had invited 'all parliamentary candidates and the local MP’,” and "Will McCallum, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: 'It is extremely disappointing that the MP and the majority of the candidates, did not attend the meeting to hear the fishermen's concerns’.”

I was not happy at the coverage, not least because I had not actually received an invitation to the event. And to be fair to some of the other candidates, Steve Double, Steve Gilbert and Steve Slade, were present with me at a hustings event on the Cornwall College campus in Newquay, between 11.00 and 1.00 on the same day. I don't think that they - like me - could be in two places at once.

I am pleased to be able to report that the Cornish Guardian has today put the record straight and published a letter from Greenpeace which confirmed I had not been invited. It also included an apology to me, for which I am grateful.

Western Greyhound routes and Summercourt

Since last Friday, when Western Greyhound ceased trading, a large number of people at Cornwall Council and in other bus companies have worked very hard to ensure that the majority of routes have replacement services.

They should be congratulated on the effective manner in which they worked. I am sure it is much appreciated by so many people.

The loss of the company is also a massive blow to this local area and those poor workers who may end up without jobs as a consequence.

Inevitably, there are still some problem areas with the routes – one of which is in my St Enoder division at Summercourt.

The Western Greyhound services 594 and 594 which previously linked Summercourt with Truro have ceased and the ‘replacement’ is the newish 91, 92 and 93 services from First, which commenced a few months ago.

Unfortunately, this service does not presently stop at Summercourt and I have been in regular contact with the Passenger Unit at County Hall about what can be done. I can report that staff at the Council are in discussion with First about how they might be able to serve the village.

Summercourt Travel’s 497 service – which has a limited number of journeys – is still running, but the Council is also keen that the mainline services from Newquay and Wadebridge to Truro include stops at Summercourt.

I will report back again, when I have more information.