Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Voting MK ... for a change

I am delighted to have found a recent entry on Simon Parker's blog on the Western Morning News website (http://www.thisiswesternmorningnews.co.uk/simonparker/Voting-MK-change/article-1561437-detail/article.html). It reports on MK's recent Conference and our campaign leading up to the next General Election.

Thank you for the kind words, Simon. And for those of you who haven't read it yet, here it is reproduced below.

There’s no getting away from it... within six months we’ll be having a General Election.

For political pundits and party activists it can’t come soon enough. But for the rest of us the prospect of an imminent election, with all the endless posturing and back-biting that involves, is a source of weary resignation.

Of course, it wasn’t always like that. In previous times we, the electorate, had choices. Market forces of socialism. Nationalisation or selling the family silver. Imperialism of internationalism. The list of choices was, if not always to our liking, at least clear-cut.

By contrast, today’s choices are, well, hardly there at all, to the extent that it’s not only impossible to work out what each of the three main parties actually stand for, but that their ability to govern, to lead, is increasingly in doubt. And lads, that’s what you’re there to do – it might be worth remembering it sometimes.

So where does that leave you and I? Can we vote Conservative? No. Never again can we trust a party that presided over the wholesale destruction of our manufacturing base, smashed our traditional industries in the name of dogma, privatised our national assets and derided the very notion of society. They may not have been in power for a dozen years, but don’t be fooled, the same monstrous values still prevail in today’s Tory party.

Labour, then? No. Never again can we trust a party that led us into an illegal and immoral war that has resulted in the documented deaths by violence of at least 102,000 Iraqi civilians, not to mention the servicemen and women from Britain and other countries. New Labour has repeatedly reneged on its principles and it is an absolute travesty that those men and women who worked so hard to make Britain a better place for all after 1945 have been so badly cheated of their legacy. Labour? Clem Attlee wouldn’t recognise it.

OK, the Liberal-Democrats? When undecided on any issue, I find it useful to ask: Would David Penhaligon have voted for it? Sadly, for the unprincipled Lib-Dems – unlike the radical, caring old Liberal Party – I fear the late, lamented member for Truro would not be comfortable with the pronouncements of Nick Clegg’s version of liberalism, either at local or national level.

So that only leaves UKIP, the Green Party, the BNP or a complete boycott of the electoral process.

Only teasing. Of course we have a choice – and, what’s more, one which David Penhaligon would endorse.

It is no exaggeration to say that perhaps for the first time in a generation Cornwall has the opportunity to make a difference to its own affairs by electing a Mebyon Kernow candidate to Westminster.

The calibre of those standing this time is undisputed. At MK’s annual conference, the six candidates – Dick Cole (Newquay & St Austell), Simon Read (St Ives), Loveday Jenkin (Camborne & Redruth), Loic Rich (Truro & Falmouth), Joanie Willett (North Cornwall) and Glenn Renshaw (South East Cornwall) – displayed maturity, coherence, clear policies, confidence and determination. With the Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour in disarray and tainted by the scandal of illegal expenses claims, surely this is the hour for Mebyon Kernow to benefit from the massive unpopularity of the three main parties. After all, it’s always more effective to kick an enemy when he’s already down.

If MK has any chance of scoring what to many seems an unachievable goal, they have to first believe that an MK MP is attainable. Not only that but they have to convince the electorate that they too can believe in victory.

Many will argue that MK cannot hope to compete against the Big Three, whose financial budget dwarfs that of the Cornish party. But perhaps by putting all its efforts and resources into a simple popular slogan (something like VOTE FOR CORNWALL VOTE FOR REAL CHANGE VOTE MK) the party could tap into the frustrations of all those who feel uncomfortable voting Labour, Tory or Lib-Dem.

It would not be a protest vote but instead a positive declaration of support for Cornwall’s self-determination (I’M VOTING FOR CORNWALL I’M VOTING FOR REAL CHANGE I’M VOTING MK).

Such a campaign has the potential to generate a groundswell of popular support, appealing to a spectrum of voters:

Former supporters of the three main parties who have become disillusioned and feel cheated and want to give their own party a bloody nose.

Floating voters who have become disenfranchised through a combination of policy failures and lies by the three main parties.

Idealistic first-time voters desperate for something to believe in.

Voters who want the best for Cornwall. This is the Joker in MK’s pack and something the other parties don’t have. MK alone appeals to those who don’t love politics but do love Cornwall and feel passionately that Cornwall’s voice needs to be heard in Parliament.

Do the members of MK even realise just how close they are to victory? The notion of Cornishness has grown to a level which was unthinkable even 10 years ago – and it is that sense of distinctiveness that MK can tap into at a time when the popularity of Labour, Lib-Dems and Tories is at an all-time low.

This rise in popularity was demonstrated at this year’s European Parliament when the party polled seven per cent of the votes in Cornwall – beating Labour – and in the Cornwall Council election, which resulted in three seats for MK.

At last week’s conference, Dick Cole announced that the party was “looking forward” to the General Election. That, of course, is a politician speaking; he’s very unlikely to say his members are dreading it. But we knew what he meant.

How many party faithful in the hall truly believed that in a few months the Palace of Westminster would be welcoming its first MK MP? It takes more than hope to elect an MP. It takes confidence, tenacity, an effective campaign and a huge dollop of self-belief – something party leader Dick Cole does possess.

“Make no mistake,” said Dick. “It was a massive achievement for MK to get three councillors elected to serve at County Hall – something not achieved by a host of political parties including Labour, UKIP, the Greens and others. In the European Elections we achieved seven per cent of the votes in Cornwall, even though we were excluded from television air-time and much meaningful publicity. This shows that MK is in a stronger position than ever before.”

Councillor Cole spoke about the “immeasurable damage done to politics” by the Westminster expenses scandal and called on MPs found to have abused the system to be banned from office for life. He told party members that the challenge in the coming months would be to prove to the public that a vote for Mebyon Kernow will breathe desperately-needed fresh air into Cornish and British politics.

“We are involved in politics because we care about our local communities and because we want to win a better deal for Cornwall. Politics to us is about public service – it is about doing what is right. People do not join MK to become an MP in some safe seat or to build a career or to put their personal interest ahead of the needs of local people. Our politics is about hope for the future – not cynicism in the present.”

Another candidate speaking with confidence was Joanie Willett, who will be standing in the North Cornwall constituency in the 2010 General Election. She told the meeting: “Cornwall has been marginalised by the London-based political parties. We have witnessed and experienced the inadequacies of recent Labour and previous Tory governments. Closer to home, it has been staggering to see how the Lib-Dems have run roughshod over the people’s wishes over the past four years. This neglect is compounded by the recession, the continual erosion of public services, the lack of affordable housing and the often damaging roles of quangos. We do not need self-serving politicians not interested in democracy. We do not need overpaid and transient civil servants chasing the next lucrative job. Cornwall needs people who know what they are doing and can make the right decisions – decisions based on the needs of Cornish communities. We have to be brave, bold and be prepared to fight against the odds. When Mebyon Kernow takes to the streets we want people to look and listen and join us. While we need to recognise that we have made great steps as a political party, we need to remain grounded in active campaigning on the issues that affect thousands of ordinary people.”

Councillor Loic Rich, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Truro and Falmouth, added: “The future is in our hands. People are actively voting for us. Not reluctantly and not as a protest. They are excited about our message. They notice how hard we work. We, above anyone else, can make Cornwall a better place to live. We fight for Cornish industries, for Cornish culture, for Cornish housing and for stopping the constant loss of public services across the Tamar.”

So what is to be done? Cornwall can elect the same tired and discredited parties. Or Cornwall can elect MPs who represent Cornwall and Cornwall alone, with no hidden agenda or allegiance to a party machine.

A lot of people have never even considered voting MK in the past – certainly not in a General Election.

But when the 2010 General Election date is finally set, we will all have to ask ourselves: What’s the alternative?

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