Thursday, 27 March 2014

How about some fair television coverage for MK!

Political parties need media coverage to promote their policies and to make electoral headway. Mebyon Kernow members certainly work extremely hard trying to gain publicity and we have numerous successes in the local print media, while I am very fortunate to have a weekly column in the Cornish Guardian.

We also have reasonable coverage on local radio, but struggle to get coverage on either local or UK-wide television.

Over the last ten days, following my appearance on the Politics Show, I have had numerous comments from local people about the coverage. I have noticed this before and it shows how so many members of the public give greater credence to individuals and organisations that receive significant coverage on television.

Then, of course, there was the W1A programme.

And today, by coincidence, MK received a letter from the BBC concerning election broadcasts for the forthcoming European elections.

MK is not standing in these elections because the electoral process is unfairly rigged against Mebyon Kernow (see previous blog post from 11th October 2013) and this was, once again, borne out by the BBC’s guidelines for election broadcasts.

It states that, in Scotland, “political parties which are standing a full list of candidates in Scotland will qualify for a minimum of ONE broadcast in Scotland.”

It also states that, in Wales, “political parties which are standing a full list of candidates in Wales will qualify for a minimum of ONE broadcast in Wales.”

But in England (sic), “political parties which are standing a full list of candidates in each and every region in England will qualify for a minimum of ONE broadcast in England.” 

How unfair is that. To be allowed a party election broadcast, MK would have to stand in all (nine) euro-constituencies in England – an absolute nonsense – whereas “national” parties standing in the (single) Wales and Scotland – such as Plaid Cymru, SNP, Scottish Socialist Party, etc – would be allowed their own broadcasts. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

At tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I tabled my latest monthly report. It covered the period from 21st February to 21st March. It was as follows:

1.         Council meetings

I have attended a range of meetings over the last month. These included: Full Council; Cabinet; Environment, Heritage and Planning Portfolio Advisory Committee (PAC) (plus three associated pre-agenda briefings/meetings); Homes and Communities PAC; Constitution and Governance Committee (plus an associated informal meeting); and the China Clay Area Network.

I also attended a briefing on welfare reforms and a further meeting with the new Chief Executive and the leader of the Council. As Chairman of the Environment, Heritage and Planning PAC, I was present at a Conference event run by the new Local Nature Partnership.

2.         Other meetings

I also attended two meetings of the Clay Country Local Action Group, as well as a meeting of the Community-led Local Development & Leader working group (which I chair), and the local Governing Board of Summercourt Academy.

3.         Extra land for Indian Queens School

I am pleased to be able to report that Cornwall Council has agreed to swap land at a former school site in Camelford in exchange for the field next to Indian Queens School (owned by Ocean Housing).

The report stated:

“Due to an increase in projected pupil numbers, Indian Queens School has been identified as requiring a significant expansion of its built campus and sports facilities. In order to implement this project further, land will need to be acquired which is contiguous with the school campus. The Council has engaged with the landowner, Ocean Housing, and has negotiated a land swap arrangement which involves the disposal of the former Camelford Primary School owned freehold by the council.

“The commercial terms that have been agreed generate a capital receipt for the Council, enable a high priority expansion of Indian Queens School to proceed and bring forward a mixed tenure housing development in Camelford.”

The Cabinet was unanimous in its support for the initiative.

4.         Council tax

At the Full Council meeting on 25th February, the members of Cornwall Council voted to put up council tax by 1.97%. This was just below the 2% threshold which would have forced the Council to put its proposal out to a costly public referendum. I supported the increase because it was my view that the Council needed to do what it could to offset the massive cuts in grants from central government.

5.         Reduction in library opening hours

The ruling Cabinet at Cornwall Council has announced a reduction in opening hours at local libraries in order to meet budget cuts of £400,000, which I have personally contested.

The 12-week consultation on the cessation of all mobile library and mobile one stop shop services is continuing, and I have made strong representations against the loss of the Clay Bus at the most recent China Clay Area Network Meeting and also at Full Council.

6.         Letter from China Clay Area Network Meeting

In co-operation with the Network Manager of the China Clay Area, I recently drafted a letter which addressed local concerns about the inequitable provision of council services across Cornwall. At the meeting of the China Clay Area Network on 24th February, the letter was endorsed by all Cornwall Councillors and parish councillors present, and it was agreed to send it to the Chief Executive, Corporate Directors and the members of the Cabinet.

The full text of the letter, which was in my name, was as follows:

Delivery of Council Services in the China Clay Area

I have been asked to write to you concerning service delivery in Clay Country by the China Clay Area Community Network.

The network consists of the five parishes of Roche, St Dennis, St Enoder, St Stephen-in Brannel and Treverbyn; and it is served by myself and Cllrs Curnow, Greenslade, Luke, Rix and Wood.

The delivery of customer-facing services from Cornwall Council appears predicated on the hub model, where a town often acts as a local service centre for a surrounding rural area.

This may work well in parts of Cornwall where the economy was formerly based on agriculture. But in our area, there is no natural “centre” and communities are smaller and dispersed – reflecting a 19th and 20th century settlement pattern, created at a time of the widespread extraction of china clay and other minerals.

We believe that, through this model, the China Clay Area has lost out and, with the ongoing cuts from central government, it will continue to lose out in comparison with other parts of Cornwall.

Since the creation of the unitary authority, Clay Country has never had a permanent One Stop Shop. A mobile One Stop Shop – combined with an enhanced library provision – was launched in October 2012. But it is clear to local members that this service is now under threat and there is little evidence that the Cabinet or wider Council would wish to retain the service.

Local members would also question whether the China Clay Area – as a result of its distinct demographic and geographic profile – gets its fair share of central expenditure from Cornwall Council.

The five Parish Councils in the area are particularly active and are responsible for a wide range of services, including playing fields and play areas, open spaces, allotments, cemeteries and business units.

But there is a strong perception that service provision from Cornwall Council is limited in comparison. 

We would note that the China Clay Area has had a poor service from Civil Enforcement as officers focus on areas of greater population, while local members receive repeated complaints about issues such as the limited extent of street cleaning and lack of waste bins in local villages – compared to urban centres.

At the same time, local residents are aware of the “double taxation” issue, namely that that they are contributing to Cornwall Council’s share of the council tax, which is being used to provide services in other parts of Cornwall, that are provided by Parish Councils closer to home.

It is view of the Community Network that Cornwall Council needs to undertake a full assessment of how it provides services – geographically – across Cornwall, so that it can identify those Networks and communities, which receive less than average expenditure. This will also allow the Council to be more informed when it makes decisions about future investments, service delivery and the devolution of services.

It is ironic that whilst Cornwall Council Members and officers travel to London seeking from central government a fairer settlement for rural authorities, the unitary authority does not appear to “rural-proof” the distribution of its own services across Cornwall.

After all, council tax is uniform across Cornwall. So it is important that the 26,000 people of Clay Country do receive a reasonable parity of council expenditure.

7.         Patching at Highgate/Gaverigan Roundabout, Indian Queens

In February, I reported that Cormac had carried out some temporary patching of the worst pot-holes at Highgate/Gaverigan Roundabout near Indian Queens, and that the resurfacing of the roundabout was timetabled for May.

I have received the following update from Robert Hancock at Cormac:

“There has been considerable correspondence on this topic over the past few weeks, resulting in the present proposal for the works consisting of:

“24hr closure of the Treviscoe road for 5 days and 4 nights commencing Tuesday 5th May.

“Night time closure of the B3279 from 1900hrs to 0700hrs.

“The B3279 will remain open through the day. However, traffic will be shuttled through the roundabout by means of temporary traffic signals.

“The official diversion route for the closure is via St Stephen to the A3058 to Brighton Cross then north on the B3275 to Fraddon before joining the A30.

“We have been in communication with Sita representatives, Matt Ives and Michael Dobson. They are aware that access to the CERC via Stamps Hill/Gaverigan will not be possible for the period of the closure and are rescheduling their works accordingly.

“The restrictive size of the roundabout and the amount of reconstruction works required does not allow us to provide for traffic whilst these works are undertaken. In an attempt to reduce disruption to a minimum, Cormac intend to double shift our workforce, working day and night for the period of the closure.”

8.         Closure of road bridge near Perrose and Retyn

In February, I reported that a road bridge near Perrose and Retyn had been undermined by the amount of water in the river beneath it. I have recently received the following update from Cormac: 

“As you are aware, we have closed the road at Retyn Bridge due to it falling into an unsafe condition … unfortunately some of the local residents have been persistently moving the signs and barriers and driving over the bridge.  Therefore, it has become necessary to place concrete barriers at either side of the bridge to prevent unauthorised access and to protect highway safety.”

I am continuing to lobby officers for the repairs to be undertaken as soon as possible.

9.         Corporate Directors at Cornwall Council

The New Chief Executive Andrew Kerr, with the support of the Council’s Cabinet, has decided to reduce the most senior “Corporate Director” posts at the unitary authority from six to three. I have been appointed to the panel which will appoint the individual who will be responsible for issues related to the economy and the environment.

10.       Gypsy and Traveller Strategy

A new Gypsy and Traveller Strategy was agreed at the Cabinet meeting on 12th March. I had made representations at previous meetings of the Homes and Communities PAC, pointing out the disproportionately high provision of residential pitches in the China Clay Area and the former Restormel.

The figures show that, since 2006:

A total of 115 pitches had been consented within Cornwall.

Of these, 71 residential pitches had been consented in the area of the former Restormel Borough Council. This equates to 62% of the pitches consented for the whole of Cornwall – even though the area is approximately one-sixth of Cornwall.

Since 2006, 43 residential pitches had been consented within the China Clay Area. This equates to 37% of the pitches consented for the whole of Cornwall – even though the population of the China Clay Area is less than 5% of that of Cornwall.

As a consequence of the intervention of myself and other colleagues from the China Clay Area, changes were made at the PAC and endorsed by Cabinet. Changes included the following:

“In response to the consultation on the earlier draft Travelling Communities Strategy and Delivery Plan (published December 2012), a number of Parish/Town Councils and individuals expressed concern as to the uneven distribution of existing, approved, or planned sites, in particular with regard to the concentration around the former Restormel area. In preparing the DPD, the Council will need to address local needs and historic areas of need/demand. However account should be taken of the concentrations of recent developments. This should seek to ensure a provision of sites outside of these areas to ensure a reasonable Cornwall-wide spread looking at local needs.

“Further development of Gypsy and Traveller sites outside the towns and villages in the St Blazey and Clay Country Community Network Areas where recent supply has been focused, should be restricted to those with a clear local connection to reduce potential domination of the character of the area.”

11.       Appeal statement on proposed solar farm at Burthy Farm   

As previously requested, I have completed a detailed (3,500 word) statement on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council which was submitted to the Planning Inquiry (written representations) for the above application.

12.       Appeal statement on proposed wind turbine at Chytane Farm  

As previously requested, I have completed a detailed (4,000 word) statement on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council which was submitted to the Planning Inquiry (written representations) for the above application.

13.       Consultation on draft Supplementary Planning Document
            on affordable housing

As previously requested, I have completed a detailed response to the above consultation on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council. It has been submitted to Cornwall Council.

14.       Meetings about Youth Club and Neighbourhood Plan

Along with other fellow parish councillors, I have attended two meetings about progress with the St Enoder Youth Club (which included a get-together with the youth workers Dan James and Laura Kinsley-Potter), and a single meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan working group, where we debated the likely content of a parish-wide questionnaire.

15.       Penare Farm anaerobic digestion (AD) plant

Work on the AD plant started in the week commencing 10th March. The developers are presently agreeing the “pre-commencement” conditions related to the project, which will include details of regular engagement with the local community and the Parish Council. I have been in contact with representatives of the developer and would suggest that an invitation be extended to them to address the next meeting of the Parish Council.

16.       Newsletter

My six-monthly newsletter (dated January / February) has been distributed to around 95% of homes in the Parish. Much of the distribution was delayed because of the bad weather, and I was not able to get around to all the rural parts of the Parish.

17.       Cornwall Council Has (not) Got Talent

Earlier this month, I joined a number of fellow councillors and staff from the Democratic Services section and took part in the annual Cornwall Council Has (not) Got Talent competition, which raises money for Children in Need. Our entry was a troupe of dancers, who performed to traditional Cornish music. Naturally, the boys were dressed as girls, and vice versa, and I have had it on good authority I did not look good in a brunette wig.

18.       Inquiries

Throughout the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance. Issues included flytipping, housing concerns, planning matters, the condition of local roads, etc.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Cllr Andrew Long to fight South East Cornwall

I am delighted to see that my good friend Cllr Andrew Long has been selected to contest the South East Cornwall seat for Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall at the next General Election.

As well as being an experienced councillor – he represents Callington on the unitary authority and he has been a town councillor since 1999 – Andrew has a fantastic track record of winning a better deal for his home town and surrounding areas.

He has been a fantastic champion for South East Cornwall for many years. Andrew would make a great MP and I sincerely hope that local people will throw their weight behind his campaign.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Comment on Coalition budget

My column in this coming week's Cornish Guardian focuses on the recent budget. It will be as follows:

The biggest (political) talking point of the last week was undoubtedly George Osborne’s fifth budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Conservatives initially appeared happy with his budget statement until their Party Chairman launched a poster campaign in a bid to win over working-class voters, which backfired in spectacular fashion.

Focussing on their decisions to halve bingo duty and cut one penny from the price of a pint of beer, the poster exclaimed: “Bingo. Cutting the bingo tax and beer duty … to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.”

Rightly condemned as patronising, this cringeworthy poster showed how certain senior politicians are out-of-touch with ordinary people. The poster even included the pronoun “they” – suggesting the Conservative authors of the slogan were not talking about themselves but “other” people.

And, unfortunately for the Conservatives, a large number of people quickly linked the poster to a famous quote in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, which related to political control of the masses. It stated: “Films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”

Personally I do not think that individuals and families – suffering the consequences of damaging cuts to their public services – will be taken in by one penny off a pint.

Away from the controversy over the bingo poster, I felt that the most compelling critique of the Coalition’s approach to the economy came from the Welsh political party Plaid Cymru.

Their leader, Leanne Wood, warned of the dangers of a “spreadsheet recovery” where the books look better but no improvement is being felt on the ground, while the Party’s economic spokesman pointed out how “growth in the overheating South East of England is masking the extended period of hardship being felt elsewhere.”

Recent government statistics on economic performance certainly highlight this imbalance between the various parts of the UK, and this is especially relevant for Cornwall – as our GVA is only 61.2% of the UK average.

That is why I am backing Plaid’s call for an Economic Fairness Bill to “rebalance the economy on a geographical and sectoral basis,” which would ensure a fairer distribution of investment and economic activity.

I also believe that Plaid was correct to point out that much of current growth is perched on a London housing bubble and a huge rise in personal debt – factors which lead to the economic problems of recent years – and that more should be done to prevent history repeating itself.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

W1A, Mebyon Kernow and my Radio Cornwall interview

This morning, I was interviewed by Ross Ellis on Radio Cornwall, about the W1A programme that was broadcast on Wednesday evening.  The interview can be found at: and starts at just after 8.30.

It was a generally light-hearted interview and I have included a few extracts below. I even tried the odd joke myself.

“You are not going to get any outrage from me. I sat down expecting a bit of gentle leg pulling, that I’d be laughing along to. And I suppose, not unsurpisingly, as someone who has been involved with Mebyon Kernow their entire adult life I didn’t think it particularly funny.”

Ross Ellis: “You weren’t offended by it though?”
“I don’t think I was. It was just poor and I think maybe we need
to send a few Cornish guys up like Kernow King and possibly Johnny Cowling to give them a few lessons in proper comedy.”

”I am going to try and look on this positively. I lobby the BBC quite often to get fair coverage for MK ... next year is the year of the General Election and almost certainly MK won’t be allowed parliamentary broadcasts even though we will be standing in every constituency in Cornwall - which is the maximum we can do. So I may well be contacting them in the next day or two to say – it would be great if you could confirm that you will be giving MK decent coverage and not living up to the spoof mockumentary that you had on TV last night.”

“And I would say that the guy they had playing what they called the ‘Mebyon Kernow bigwig’ wasn't nearly as handsome as any of the Mebyon Kernow front bench.”

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

W1A mockumentary and Mebyon Kernow

Tonight I sat down to watch the new BBC comedy / mockumentary W1A, as I had been forewarned that the programme would mention Mebyon Kernow.

On the BBC’s website, it was promoted as follows:

“Ian Fletcher’s first challenge on arriving at New Broadcasting House, on his brand new and much-improved folding bike, is to find somewhere to sit in a building aggressively over designed around the principle of not having a desk.

“Ian finds himself holding the hottest of hot potatoes when Mebyon Kernow activist Nigel Trescott complains that Cornwall and the Cornish are shamefully under-represented on the BBC.

“Things get worse when BBC Spotlight South West presenter Sally Wingate goes public with her feeling that her failure to progress to a national presenting role might be part of the BBC’s institutionally anti-Cornish bias.”

I have a very relaxed view of comedy and I anticipated a bit of gentle mickey-taking, which I could laugh along to. Sadly, I saw no humour in the manner in which Mebyon Kernow was misrepresented.

I have been invited onto BBC Radio Cornwall tomorrow to comment on the programme. I will be on at about 8.20, if want to hear my thoughts.

Greg Clark MP suggests devolution deal for Cornwall - but where is the democracy

Apparently, a Conservative Government minister has told the Western Morning News that there is an “appetite” to devolve powers to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The Cities and the Constitution Minister Greg Clark was quoted as saying:

Cornwall is a place, from the Government's point of view, where there's been a particular appetite to do a deal with. It’s a place that exemplifies par excellence my view that the people that know best what is needed for the area are the people who live and work there.

“It’s obvious if you are based in Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly your ability to say what intervention, what investment is appropriate, is far more accurate and well-informed than if you are an official sitting miles away in London."

There seems little detail related to this statement, other than that it is in the context of “city deals” and city-like deals for non-city areas. I have little faith in what has been suggested - given the Tories record on devolution and so-called localism.

And what is more, there seems to be more mentions of the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership than elected politicians.

Mr Clark. Cornwall needs a proper settlement with democracy at its core.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Priority of Tory grandees is plain wrong

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian, once again focuses on the inequality in British society. In particular, it contrasts the increasing use of foodbanks with the clamour from certain right-wing politicians for a tax cut for individuals in higher tax brackets. The article will be as follows:

The famous socialist Aneurin Bevan once wrote that he was inspired by a “burning hatred” of injustice and inequality, which he described as “capricious, unsanctioned by usage and, most important of all, senseless.”

His determination to build a better and more equal society led him, as Minister of Health in Clement Atlee’s reforming government of 1945-51, to create the National Health Service and play a leading role in the construction of the “modern welfare state.”

One can only speculate what Nye Bevan would think of British society in 2014 but I would suggest he would be alarmed at the growing inequity in the UK today.

The super-rich are getting richer and, over the last couple of years, the number of millionaires in the UK has almost doubled.

In contrast, the wages of ordinary people are not keeping pace with inflation and many are struggling to meet the rising costs of basic staples such as food, fuel and housing.  

Cuts in funding to local government and other public services are also impacting most heavily on the less-well-off and the vulnerable.

The food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, has meanwhile released new figures which show that it provided 600,000 emergency parcels, each containing three days food, between April and December 2013 – a massive increase on the whole of the preceding financial year.

The Bishop of Truro, who is co-chairing a parliamentary inquiry into the rise in food banks has rightly warned central government that it cannot “ignore the reality of this phenomenon,” adding “how is it that in the 21st century in a developed country, we need to have people asking for vouchers which give them access to emergency food?”

Even a think-tank with links to the Conservative Party, the Policy Exchange, has criticised the government’s approach to benefits, pointing out that 68,000 people have their benefits taken away by mistake every year, which they believe has “contributed to the rise in the number of people using food banks.”

Yet last week, I was very surprised and saddened to see a number of politicians, including two former Conservative Chancellors (Lord Lamont and Lord Lawson) and the leadership of UKIP, calling for a tax cut for individuals earning over £41,450.

It is my view that such priorities are totally wrong.

I believe that today’s politicians need to share the values of people like Nye Bevan. They should be working to protect our public services and to improve the lot of the less-well-off – not giving tax cuts to individuals in higher tax brackets.

Cameron promises “more powers to Scotland” – what about Cornwall?

At the Scottish Conservative’s Conference in Edinburgh on Friday, the Prime Minister pledged that the Tories would give Scotland more tax and law-making powers, if they voted no in September's independence referendum.

Among the things he said were:

“We are committed to making devolution work better still, giving the Scottish Parliament greater responsibility for raising more of the money it spends."

“Vote yes – that is total separation. Vote no – that can mean further devolution; more power to the Scottish people and their parliament, but with the crucial insurance policy that comes with being part of our UK.”

Mr Cameron, isn’t it time that the Conservative Party also promised to decentralise political power to other parts of the UK, such as Cornwall, as well?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Sunday Politics Show and devolution to Cornwall

The debate about greater powers for Cornwall on today’s BBC Sunday Politics can now be viewed online at

It starts at approximately 49 minutes and thirty seconds into the programme.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

BBC1’s Sunday Politics - Sunday 16th March

Tomorrow, the regional “South West” slot on BBC1’s Sunday Politics programme will include a feature on the campaign for a Cornish Assembly.

This section of the programme was filmed yesterday. The main guests on the programme were Conservative MEP Julie Girling and Labour Councillor Chaz Singh from Plymouth, while I took part in the debate about greater powers for Cornwall.

It includes a prepared film, based around the Lib Dem’s recent conference motion related to a Cornish Assembly, with contributions from Dan Rogerson MP, Kim Conchie from the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and Will Coleman.

Sunday Politics starts at 11.00 and the regional slot normally kicks in after about half an hour.

Friday, 14 March 2014

St Enoder Parish Youth Club

St Enoder Parish Council will be hosting an important consultation meeting on Wednesday 26th March about the Parish Youth Club. The meeting will take place at the Methodist Church Hall in Indian Queens and it will start at 6.30.

A Youth Club for teenagers in St Enoder Parish was launched in November, with sessions run by two trained youth workers from Cornwall Council.

The main purpose of the forthcoming meeting will be to find more about what young people from St Enoder Parish want to see provided in their locality.

One of the youth workers, Dan James has appealed to local teenagers to attend the meeting and have their say.

“12-19 years old? Nothing to do? Full of ideas on what there could be for you to do in your community? Why not take the opportunity to come along to Indian Queens Methodist Church Hall on Wednesday 26th March to meet local councillors and youth workers and have your say on what you want from your Youth Club.”

Parents are also invited to attend the meeting, as well as anyone who might be interested in helping out at the Youth Club as a volunteer.

Anyone who needs further information about the Youth Club or the meeting should call me on 07791 876607.

The Parish Council is also continuing to raise funding for a modest Youth Club building which will hopefully be placed in the Indian Queens Recreation Ground, providing a permanent base for local young people.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

MK is campaigning for a National Assembly for Cornwall – not independence!

It is my view that “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” clearly sets out the nature of the new democratic settlement that MK is campaigning for.

The document states that:

“Mebyon Kernow has a manifesto commitment to the creation of a legislative National Assembly of Cornwall, with powers broadly equivalent to the present Scottish Parliament, through a “Government of Cornwall Act” … [securing] democratic control over most areas of domestic politics in Cornwall, and associated public expenditure.”

The document further states that:

“The National Assembly of Cornwall would not be independent of the UK – it would be an integral and empowered part of the governance of the United Kingdom.”

I fully appreciate how important it is for campaigners to be careful and precise in the language that they use. And as the leader of MK, I consider myself extremely focused on making sure that MK press statements and publications, as well as speeches, are well crafted and not open to misinterpretation.

I am therefore increasingly saddened at how MK’s campaign for greater self-government for Cornwall is being continuously misrepresented as a thrust for complete independence,

Only last week, a local journalist posted an on-line story which implied MK wanted the same powers as an “independent Scotland.”

And today a news story about MK in the Scotsman referred to us as an “independence party” with a “goal of independence.”

I have also been informed that the latest edition of The Big Issue includes a feature on, what it describes as a “whole host of regional secessionist groups” and “micro-independence movements across the UK,” which includes Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

Is it really too much to ask that MK policy position is reported accurately?

Monday, 10 March 2014

Liberal Democrats to support more powers for Cornwall?

It is my understanding that, at their Spring Conference in York (8th March), Liberal Democrats voted to devolve powers to Cornwall.

Their press release states that:

“It is now Liberal Democrat party policy to introduce a ‘Devolution Enabling Act whereby legislative devolution is available to Cornwall (recognising its historical, cultural and linguistic claim to autonomy).’

“It would allow Cornwall to demand and negotiate a package of law-making powers that would be transferred from Westminster to Cornwall. A Devolution Enabling Act would also allow London and other areas in England with a population of a million people or more to bid for their own law-making assembly if they wanted to.”

This is an interesting development, though the Liberal Democrats have been here before.

The Lib Dems contested the 2005 General Election and Cornwall County Council elections with a Cornish Manifesto, which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly. And upon winning control of Cornwall County Council that year, they published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. The Lib Dems did not take this pledge forward and instead pushed through the centralisation of local government in Cornwall.

Mebyon Kernow will be putting pressure on the Liberal Democrats on this issue in the coming weeks and calling on them to fully back MK’s campaign for a National Assembly for Cornwall, with powers broadly equivalent to the Scottish Parliament.

Gordon Brown outlines “power sharing UK” – but what about Cornwall?

The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has today entered the debate on Scottish independence calling for, in the words of the BBC, a “move away from a centralised British system” to “one where nations shared power, risk and resources.”

Gordon Brown has apparently put forward six proposals, which have been reported as follows:

A new UK constitutional law to set out the purpose of the UK as pooling and sharing resources for the defence, security and well-being of the citizens of all four nations.

A constitutional guarantee of the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.

A new division of powers between Scotland and Westminster that gives Holyrood more powers in employment, health, transport and economic regeneration.

A new tax sharing agreement that balances the commitment of the UK to pool and share its resources with the need for accountability to the electors in all the places where money is spent.

New power-sharing partnerships to address shared problems on poverty, unemployment, housing need and the environment.

A “radical” transfer of powers downwards from Westminster and Edinburgh to local communities.

From my perspective, it is disappointing that a senior Labour figure – who was in government when over 50,000 declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly were presented to Tony Blair – is talking about the “defence, security and well-being” of the “citizens of all four nations” – meaning England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and, once again, ignoring calls for the devolution of greater powers to Cornwall.

Western Morning News: “Cornish Assembly deserves a fair and unbiased hearing”

In Saturday’s edition of the Western Morning News, there was an extremely positive editorial comment about MK’s campaign for a Cornish Assembly. For those that didn’t see the article over the weekend, it was as follows:

Most people “east of the border” – as well as residents of Cornwall itself – may have been baffled by Mebyon Kernow’s St Piran’s Day call for a national assembly.

What can possibly be gained by creating a fresh tier of administration just five years after the establishment of the unitary authority?

But the truth is that despite its best efforts to be a one-size-fits-all super-authority, Cornwall Council remains deeply unpopular. Whether these criticisms are justified is almost beside the point: the reality is people feel it is neither representative, accountable or financially efficient.

The idea of a national assembly for Cornwall is nothing new, having been discussed for more than a century. In 2000, when 50,000 people signed a petition calling for an assembly, the move was supported by every MP in Cornwall, as well as Cornwall County Council, the district and borough councils and 28 town and parish councils. It even became a Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge – but we have come to learn how flimsy they can be. 

Perhaps the first reaction to the proposal is: “Surely Cornwall is too small.” But with a population of 536,000, Cornwall is larger than Iceland, Luxembourg and Malta, as well as numerous other semi-autonomous regions across Europe.

The second consideration might reasonably be cost. However, assembly supporters can produce figures to show that by abolishing a large number of unelected bodies and ensuring much of the business of government currently administered in Bristol and London is done in-house, it could actually cost less and create well-paid Cornish jobs in the process.

Under MK plans published in its consultation document, Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall, such a body would control the majority of the public sector, including the NHS and education.

We should not be afraid of looking at alternatives. What MK is suggesting is not some didactic pie-in-the-sky ideology, but simply the possibility of a pragmatic solution to an unpopular status quo. The purpose of its consultation document is to place the idea on the table in the hope that it will be discussed openly and maturely as part of a fact-based debate.

All of us are tired of the cynical rhetoric of London politicians. The least we can do is give the idea of a Cornish Assembly a fair and unbiased hearing.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A new democratic settlement for Cornwall

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian will, rather unpredictably, focus on MK’s latest campaign initiative in support of a Cornish Assembly. The preview is as follows:

On St Piran’s Day, Mebyon Kernow launched a new publication titled “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall.”

The document sets out how the devolution of significant political powers to Cornwall, bringing the majority of the public sector under local democratic control, could work for our local communities.

The document dispels the common misrepresentation that such an Assembly would somehow be independent of the UK, clearly stating that “it would be an integral and empowered part of the governance of the United Kingdom.” It also dismisses the claim that devolution equates to nothing more than local government reform.

Devolution has already led to the establishment of a Scottish Parliament, Assemblies for Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as an Assembly for London. These devolved institutions have certainly grown in stature and authority in recent years, and constitutional change is rightly rising up the political agenda.
But the reality for the people of Cornwall is that democratically elected and locally accountable politicians presently have limited say over vast amounts of public expenditure in our area.

Westminster retains control over most political decisions of real significance while, all too often, government bodies and quangos which develop key strategies and policies are located outside of Cornwall. They inevitably fail to recognise the strengths of Cornwall or understand the special needs of our communities.

Make no mistake, the United Kingdom – even taking into account the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – is an over-centralised state, dominated by London and the South East of England.

The Coalition’s Business Secretary Vince Cable has even warned that London was fast “becoming a giant suction machine draining the life out of the rest of the country.”

I believe that the unequal constitutional relationships between the various parts of the UK need to be addressed, and action taken to combat the centralising influence of London.

I also believe that there should be a respectful and wide-ranging debate about the future governance of the whole of the United Kingdom, with our call for a National Assembly of Cornwall at the very heart of that debate.

If you want to find out more, MK’s new document can be downloaded from or a paper copy requested from MK, Meridian House, Heron Way, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 2XN.

MK is seeking the views of local residents and there is a consultation period until 30th June 2014. Comments on the document can be sent to the above address, or by email to 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

St Piran’s Oratory on St Piran’s Day

Last week, I agreed to join the Board of the St Piran Trust which is masterminding the present re-excavation of St Piran’s Oratory near Perranporth.

I could not think of a better place to be this St Piran’s Day and, following the launch of “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” in Truro, I joined the volunteers on the site of the dig.

It is great to see this great building being uncovered once again, and the members of the St Piran Trust should be congratulated for their tenacity over the last fifteen years, in negotiating with a range of statutory bodies, to ensure that the excavation could take place.

Let us hope that this excavation is the first step towards the full re-emergence of this most iconic structure, a vital element of Cornwall’s historic past and also a significant symbol of Cornishness today and into the future.

Launch of “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall”

Thanks to everyone who helped out at the launch of Mebyon Kernow’s “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” document in Truro, today.

In particular, I would like to thank Cllr Loveday Jenkin, who compered the event, and congratulate Cllr Andrew Long, Cllr Rob Simmons (prospective parliamentary candidate for St Ives) and Cllr Stephen Richardson (prospective parliamentary candidate for Truro and Falmouth) for their impressive speeches and for making it such a professional event.

It was disappointing that more journalists did not attend the launch of such an important document, though it was great that a camera crew from the Welsh language television channel S4C were present.

The document can be downloaded from or a paper copy requested from Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall, Meridian House, Heron Way, Truro, Kernow/Cornwall, TR1 2XN.

It is a consultation document for MK members and the wider population of Cornwall. The consultation period is open until 30th June 2014 and comments on this document can be sent to the above address or by email to:

Happy St Piran’s Day

Cornwall has a powerful national identity and a wonderful heritage. It includes the Cornish language, music, dance, sport and a range of traditions – all of which are vitally important to our sense of place and the very well-being of our local communities.

It is great to see a growing confidence in Cornwall and its identity, and it is my hope that one and all will be celebrating the distinctiveness of Cornwall today.

But I would like to repeat a key message that Mebyon Kernow makes around every St Piran’s Day.

The promotion of Cornish distinctiveness is not something that should be restricted to once a year in March. We should be doing all in our power, each and every day, to promote and enhance our identity and heritage.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

MK to launch “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall”

“Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” (pictured above) will be officially launched tomorrow and pdf copies of the document will be posted on the MK website during St Piran’s Day.

There has been some early media coverage on the document. This included an unfortunate / ill-informed news story in the Western Morning News and a similar article on the website, which both claimed that MK wanted an Assembly with the same powers as an independent Scotland.

Journalist Rob McNamara has meanwhile posted an article about MK on the Huffington Post website. See:

More news to follow tomorrow.