Sunday, 14 February 2016

No to Devonwall Constituency: my Cornish Guardian article

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian covers the upcoming review of parliamentary boundaries. It includes some of the information that I covered in another blog entry earlier today. But it is here for the sake of completeness. It will be as follows:

A few days ago, I attended a meeting at which some friends of mine remarked how all MPs representing local constituencies are keen to publicly display elements of Cornish identity.

I tend to agree. Some of them took their parliamentary oaths in Cornish, certain male MPs seem to wear Cornish tartan ties most weeks, and it often appears that every leaflet has a St Piran’s cross in the corner.

But the question for Cornish MPs is a simple one: are these displays cosmetic or will they really stand up for Cornwall?

Such a challenge is relevant to all manner of cultural, economic and social issues, but one particularly symbolic question on the horizon relates to the very integrity of Cornwall.

The Government has just confirmed it intends to push through a boundary review of parliamentary seats, following the guidelines set out in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which became law in 2011.

Leading Conservatives have also confirmed that they intend to ignore the recommendations of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee that have raised serious concerns about the process.

The legislation states that seats must have an electorate within 5% of the average, and this means that a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” constituency would inevitably be created.

In 2015, I wrote to Cornwall’s six MPs expressing my view that the territorial integrity of Cornwall – a historic Celtic nation – must be protected and that all future MPs should serve constituencies that lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly).

I even pointed out that, as the Cornish people had been recognised as a “national minority” in 2014, it would be inconsistent to treat the historic border of Cornwall differently from those of Scotland and Wales, which the Government intends to respect when it comes to the delineation of new constituencies.

I received four responses, which I found extremely disappointing. One stated that she supported the changes irrespective of the impact on Cornish parliamentary representation, while another said it was too late to change things.

I would question whether that they have bothered to lobby their party bosses on this issue, but that is something that Cornwall’s six MPs can put right straight away.

They are in a position to put pressure on their colleagues in the Conservative Party to ensure the legislation is revisited and to prevent the creation of a cross-Tamar seat.

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