Friday, 26 May 2017

Where do the Westminster parties stand ...

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian addressed the failure of the largest Westminster parties to mention Cornwall in their manifestos and MKs challenge to all General Election candidates. It was as follows:

The decision of Mebyon Kernow not to contest the General Election has been quite widely reported.

This year, our focus was on the local elections and the timing of the announcement during these council contests meant that, with our level of resources, it would have been frankly impractical to put together and finance a meaningful campaign.

MK will not be formally endorsing any other political party though, of course, our individual members will be making their own choices as to how they engage with the election.

As an organization, we will be actively lobbying would-be MPs on those issues which we believe are important for the residents of Cornwall. With this in mind, I have looked at the manifestos of the three largest Westminster parties.

I was very disappointed – but not surprised – that the Conservative Party (even with six MPs in the Duchy) did not once mention Cornwall in its policy document. The Labour Party manifesto likewise failed to mention Cornwall at all, though in both documents there are plenty of references to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, London and a host of other places.

To be fair to the Liberal Democrats, in their manifesto, Cornwall does get a couple of mentions in their sections on constitutional reform. But it is all a bit garbled and mixes up local and regional government – they promise” devolution on demand” and “greater devolution” of powers to “Councils or groups of Councils working together – for example to a Cornish Assembly …”

This week, I have written to all candidates standing in Cornish constituencies and asked what they would do on four key issues if elected.

The first issue is fair funding. It is well known that public services in Cornwall have received less funding than other parts of the United Kingdom for many years. This situation has been worsened by massive cuts from recent governments, and surely local people need to know how would-be MPs and their parties would tackle this issue.

Second, Cornwall’s economic performance is less than 75% of the EU average. Brexit means that Cornwall will lose structural and other funds, causing great uncertainty for local businesses, farmers and others. We need to know which parties will guarantee investment to Cornwall in lieu of the EU funds and not just in the short term.

Third, many people in Cornwall are frustrated at the lack of local control over a host of issues. MK has long campaigned for greater self-government for Cornwall through the creation of a National Assembly, but we have called on would-be MPs to campaign for the devolution of all aspects of planning to Cornwall.

And fourth, in 2014 the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a “national minority” and agreed to a wide range of obligations through the Framework Convention. But sadly, it has since failed to act on these duties and our question to the candidates is simple. What will you do for the Cornwall’s unique identity?

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