Monday, 20 March 2017

Not on the Daily Politics!!!!!!!


Care-free Dick Cole is not a happy boy tonight.

At 10.00 this morning, I received an invitation to appear on BBC2’s Daily Politics Show to talk about the recent Council of Europe opinion. I drove to the BBC offices in Plymouth, arriving at 12.15, getting into the studio at around 12.30.

There was then an almighty cock-up. The camera that would normally be in the newsroom was not in place, so I was lined up to speak from the main studio. BBC Plymouth thought that I would be interviewed in advance of the studio being needed for Justin Leigh’s news headlines at 1.00. But BBC London had me down as the last item – and before they got to me, I was shifted out of my seat for the “local” news headlines and was unable to take part.

BBC Plymouth did record some film with me on the issue, in case they needed it in the future.

But all in all, what a wasted day.

I left home at about 11.00 to travel to Plymouth and, after apologetic phone calls and grabbing some dinner, I didn’t get back home until nearly 4.00. All that time … to not do an interview.

I have just seen the actual programme on iplayer and I am now really annoyed with how the panellists Eric Pickles and Caroline Flint handled the issue. Flint, in particular, was very disparaging towards MK, wanted to talk about Cornish independence and I was not there to respond!

The programme can be viewed at:
BBC Daily Politics

Looks like there will be yet more calls to the BBC tomorrow.

On the “Cornish 50" List


The Cornwall Live website (for the Cornish Guardian, Cornishman and West Briton newspapers) has just published its “Cornish List,” which gives their take on the top 50 people who “lead the way in campaigning on Cornish issues” and “flying the black and white flag for Cornwall.”

Such lists are always controversial, but it is nice for yours truly to sneak in at number three, just behind Will Coleman (no. 1) and Ed Rowe (no 2).

The full list can be seen at:

MK Spring Conference ... Saturday (25th March)

 
MK’s Spring Conference will be taking place this coming Saturday at Roche, in the heart of the China Clay Area.

The venue will be in the lounge bar of the Roche Victory Hall Social Club in Victoria Road. The lounge bar is to the rear of the main hall and there is also ample parking at the site.

It will be a relatively informal morning event and will focus on the upcoming elections to the unitary authority and town & parish council elections across the whole of Cornwall.

It will give you a wonderful opportunity to meet some of our election candidates and to find out how you can help them in their campaigns.

The doors will open at 9.30 and the event will commence around 10.00. It is anticipated that the Conference will close before 12.30.

The agenda for the meeting will include:

- short speech by Party Leader Cllr Dick Cole.
- introduction of numerous MK candidates.
- discussion of MK pledges for the upcoming elections.
- question and answer session with the MK leadership team.

We hope you will be able to join us and we look forward to seeing many of you at this get-together.

But it won’t just be about talking. In the afternoon, we will be inviting MK members and supporters to join us in some leafleting sessions around the China Clay Area.

Why not come and join us on the campaign trail.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Tory election spending scandal shows we need urgent reforms

Today’s announcement that the “Conservative Party has been fined a record £70,000 for breaking election expenses rules” shows that the rules around election spending need to be reformed.

The BBC has reported that:

“The party broke spending rules by moving campaigners and staff from its national headquarters to boost local party efforts and not properly declaring their hotel bills and expenses.”

“The Electoral Commission found the Conservative Party also failed to correctly report all expenditure on a national battlebus campaign, which helped David Cameron win a majority at the general election.”

“It has referred a possible criminal offence - of whether Simon Day, the Conservative Party's registered treasurer until April 2016, ‘knowingly or recklessly made a false declaration’ - to the Metropolitan Police.”

This links to the ongoing scandal about the “battlebus” which has been linked to at least two Cornish MPs.

It is clear that the Conservative Party spent more than the allowable limits in a number of marginal seats, because much money was spent on local campaigns but was classified as “national” expenditure.

But all the large Westminster political parties habitually target their expenditure into target seats but do it in such a way that the spendng is deemed part of their state-wide messaging.

In addition to the battle buses, and hotel costs of their volunteers, which only seem to appear in target seats, here are a few examples of things that are often not counted as “local expenditure.”

Massive billboards in prominent locations – which do not mention the name of the local candidate – are often deemed “non-local” by the parties. However, the Billboards tend to appear in the seats that particular parties think they could win – and not across the UK as a whole.

Likewise, the cost of election poster-boards which do not have the name of the candidate on them – but simply proclaim “Conservative,” “Labour” or “Liberal Democrat” – have, on occasion, also been classed as “national” expenditure, even though the signs inevitably appear in greater numbers in existing or target seats.

And targeted maildrops to individual voters from prominent members of political parties (such as Party Leaders, Prime Ministers or Chancellor of the Exchequer) also often forget to mention the actual names of the local candidates – allowing them to, ridiculously, be termed “national” expenditure.

This is all so wrong and we should all be pushing for really far-reaching and more comprehensive reforms to better control election expenditure, in order to ensure fairer elections in the future.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Update on Fraddon Post Office

Local residents will be aware that planning permission has been granted for a new retail complex at Kingsley Village. The ownership of the site will soon pass from Kingsley Developers to CPG, who intend to redevelop the area for a number of stores including Marks and Spencer. 

St Enoder Parish Council has been informed that the Post Office presently located within Kingsley Village will, as things presently stand, close at the end of April.

When the planning application was being dealt with, I sought guarantees that a Post Office would continue on the site. The company (CPG) which is in the process of purchasing the site agreed that this was acceptable to them and it was even written into the planning consent that: “A Post Office shall remain within the development.”

In addition, the present owners (Kingsley Developers) promised they would ensure that, during the construction of the new retail park, a local Post Office would continue at the eastern end of the Parish. Indeed, it was stated that there would be the provision of a temporary unit within the car parking area at Kingsley Village.

In recent days Amanda Kendall, the Clerk of the Parish Council, and I have had meetings with a representative from the main Post Office Ltd and the present owners, who we have been pressing to make good on the promises they made during the planning process.

The Post Office Ltd has told us that another option, in the short-term, would be “outreach.” This would consist of a temporary Post Office run from a venue such as a local village hall, and we are pushing for further information about how many hours such a service would be open.

We know how important the provision of a Post Office for the Fraddon / Indian Queens and St Columb Road area is, and we are putting a significant amount of pressure on all concerned to make sure that this local Post Office is not lost between now and when the new development is opened.

It is also the case that Post Office Ltd will be consulting on the future of this local Post Office in the near future. Please make sure that you impress on them just how important it is for the local area.

I will report back more when I have further confirmation on what will be happening.

Friday, 10 March 2017

"British Government accused of neglecting Cornish culture"


Yesterday's publication of the Opinion from the Council of Europe (Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities), and the paucity of the Government response, has been covered in an article on the website of the Guardian newspaper.

It features comments from Cornwall Council, Merv Davey and myself.

The headline is: "British Government accused of neglecting Cornish culture" and it can be viewed online at: The Guardian

Hopefully the article will be featured in tomorrow's newspaper as well.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Please support petition against “Devonwall” seat


I have lodged a petition on the UK Government's website, which objects to the creation of a cross-Tamar "Devonwall" parliamentary constituency. Please sign, and please share as widely as you can.

The petition can be located at:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/188271

The full wording of the petition is as follows:

No to a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary constituency

The “Boundary Commission for England” is carrying out a review of the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies. The review follows guidelines in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act. This does not recognise Cornwall as a political unit and the BCE has proposed a cross-Tamar seat.

We demand that Westminster politicians amend the legislation to “Keep Cornwall Whole” and ensure parliamentary seats lie entirely within the historic boundaries of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

It should be noted that the Government has recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and it is evident that the creation of a “Devonwall” seat would be in conflict with the articles of the Framework Convention.

Thank you for your support.

Government ignores recommendations in Council of Europe Opinion

The UK Government response to the Council of Europe Opinion stretches to over 9,700 words, but the Cornish are hardly referenced at all. The document also fails to address the recommendations drafted by the Advisory Group.

 There is a single and inadequate section on the Cornish language which reads as follows:

“The Government recognises the importance to people in Cornwall of their proud history and their distinct culture and heritage, including the language.

“The Government has provided substantial funding of over £650,000 since 2010 to support the development of the Cornish language and is keen to work with Cornwall Council and its partners to encourage the further development of Cornish culture and heritage, complementing the devolution deal already reached with local partners. 

“On 2 February 2017, the Government announced the launch of a Cornish Culture Fund of £100,000 to be paid to Cornwall Council which will encourage the further development of Cornwall’s distinct culture and heritage, including the language. This latest funding is in addition to Cornwall Council’s core spending power of £1.7 billion over four years, from which they can allocate resources to their local priorities, including the Cornish language.”

And it is telling that the section on broadcasting notes “each language included in the Framework Agreement” but then goes on to list “Welsh, Gaelic, the Irish language and Ulster-Scots” – but Cornish is ignored.

 The full text was as follows:

“The new Charter commits the BBC to continued support for the minority languages of the UK with a clearer commitment to each language included in the Framework Agreement. This sets out the need for the BBC to continue to deliver output in Welsh, Gaelic, the Irish language and Ulster-Scots. There is a new commitment for the BBC to continuing their partnership with MG Alba for the next 11 years and arrangements for the continued partnership with S4C are also in place.”

To put it in polite terms, I am totally bewildered at the UK Government’s failure to meet their obligation with regard to the Framework Convention.

Recommendations from Council of Europe report

The fourth Opinion can be found on the Council of Europe’s website at: Council of Europe report

Listed below are the actual recommendations from the report:

Principal recommendation for immediate action:

Take all necessary steps to ensure access to the linguistic and cultural rights provided by the Framework Convention to the Cornish minority, in particular by reconsidering the decision to cut all funding for the Cornish language in view of the disproportionate impact such a measure will have on the delicate process of revitalising a minority language when access to other public financial resources is limited.

Further recommendations (the numbers refer to the paragraphs in the actual Opinion):

19. The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to take all the legal, policy, and financial steps necessary to ensure access to the rights provided by the Framework Convention to persons belonging to the Cornish minority, irrespective of any constitutional set-up.

24. The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to take the necessary measures to include the possibility to self-identify as Cornish, through a ‘tick-box’ in the next census, and to facilitate the expression of self-identification of any other group because data collection is relevant to the application of minority rights.

58. The authorities should reconsider their decision to cut all funding for the Cornish language in view of the disproportionate impact such a measure can have on the delicate process of revitalisation of a minority language when access to other public financial resources is limited.

59. The Advisory Committee also calls on the authorities to engage in a dialogue with representatives of the Cornish minority to ensure that cultural policy is developed in a way respectful of the traditions and identity of the minority.

96. The authorities should take resolute action to ensure that revision of the BBC Charter improves access to the media for persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities, increases funding, ensures a variety of programmes in minority languages, in particular the Irish language, involves minorities in their production and introduces BBC support for the Cornish language.

97. The Advisory Committee also calls on the authorities to establish an independent press regulator, responding to the criteria enunciated by the Leveson Report, and to ensure that training is regularly carried out and there is access to and presence in the media of persons belonging to minorities, including in supervisory organs.

109. The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to take measures to improve the use and visibility of Cornish in public life, and it calls on the UK Government to reinstate immediately the previous level of funding and to consider the possibility of adopting a Cornish Language Act.

122. The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to ensure that, in co-operation with minority groups, curricula, textbooks and other teaching materials reflect appropriately the ethnic diversity and historical presence of all national and ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom. Staff of all schools shall be effectively trained to accommodate diversity in the classroom and promote intercultural respect and understanding in schools.

128. The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to renew and intensify their efforts to develop Irish-medium education and Irish language teaching. They should also engage in a dialogue with the Cornish minority to consider flexible and pragmatic solutions to allow for a more systematic provision of teaching in and of the Cornish language, as well as taking measures to develop the teaching of minorities’ first language.

136. The Advisory Committee reiterates its call to the authorities to enhance opportunities for persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities to participate in public affairs, and this should include measures that facilitate their engagement in broader political processes and mainstream political parties. Similarly, their recruitment into public service, in particular the police at central and local levels, should be promoted to send a clear message that diversity is valued across the UK.

137. The UK Government should continue the good dialogue with the three devolved administrations and ensure that negotiations progress in a transparent and democratic manner. It should establish permanent ongoing dialogue with Cornwall Council and the Cornish people through consultative and advisory mechanisms.

141. The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to intensify targeted initiatives to maximise the participation of persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities in employment, training and career progression, in line with the Vision 2020 targets, and to allocate sufficient funds.

146. The Advisory Committee urges the authorities to ensure that any administrative and constituency border reform follows an inclusive process, which takes into account the presence of persons belonging to a national minority in the territory, their meaningful participation and respect for their rights.

150. The Advisory Committee calls on the British-Irish Council to address actively the Cornish language in its work and to endeavour to involve the Cornwall authorities, in part by creating an institutional presence for Cornwall in the Council and by promoting bilateral relations between the Cornwall authorities and other language communities’ administrations.

MK WELCOMES COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPORT ON NATIONAL MINORITY STATUS, BUT CONDEMNS INADEQUATE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE


The Opinion from the Council of Europe on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was published today. Printed below is the press statement issued by MK.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has welcomed the publication of an Opinion from the Council of Europe which includes a number of recommendations which relate to the Cornish as a National Minority.

The Opinion was produced by the relevant Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe which visited the United Kingdom in March 2016 to assess how the UK Government and other public bodies are complying with the articles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

It is the first Opinion on the Framework Convention published since the Cornish were recognised as a national minority in April 2014.

MK Leader Cllr Dick Cole has described the findings of the report as being of “far-reaching significance.”

The report:

-  Recommended that central government reconsider “the decision to cut all funding for the Cornish language in view of the disproportionate impact such a measure will have on the delicate process of revitalising a minority language when access to other public financial resources is limited.”

-  Raised concerns that the present constitutional set-up mitigated against Cornish recognition as “Cornwall is grouped together with Devon and other counties in the Southwest region ...”

-  Called for a Cornish “tick-box” on the 2023 census.

-  Called for a “dialogue with representatives of the Cornish minority to ensure that cultural policy is developed in a way respectful” of its traditions and identity.

-  Recommended that the BBC Charter be revised to safeguard broadcasting in minority languages and to “introduce BBC support for the Cornish language.”

-  Suggested that the UK Government “consider the possibility of adopting a Cornish Language Act.”

-  Recommended that the authorities “engage in a dialogue with the Cornish minority … to allow for a more systematic provision of teaching in and of the Cornish language.”

-  Criticised the ongoing review into parliamentary constituencies at Westminster which would adversely affect the Cornish national minority.

-  Called for the creation of an “institutional presence for Cornwall” at the British and Irish Council (which presently includes the representatives from the UK and Republic of Ireland, plus the governments of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.”

Also published today was the UK Government’s comment on the Opinion Report, but sadly it ignored all the recommendations which related to the Cornish.

Cllr Dick Cole stated:

“The UK Government’s recognition of the Cornish through the Framework Convention was a landmark decision, but the Opinion demonstrates that the Cornish are not being treated in the same manner as the other national minorities within the UK such as the Scots and the Welsh.

“The Opinion shows a great deal of empathy and understanding for the situation in Cornwall, for which we are grateful. But we are bewildered at the response from the UK Government, which fails to address the recommendations produced by the Advisory Group.

“We would challenge Cornwall’s MPs and the UK Government to show due respect to Cornish culture and identity by supporting all the recommendations contained within the Opinion, wholeheartedly and without reservation.”

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Cornish Culture Fund announcement comes with attacks from Conservative MPs

Cornwall’s six Conservative MPs this week issued a press release which confirmed that the UK Government will be awarding Cornwall Council a £100,000 grant (spread over two years) to create a Cornish Culture Fund.

Strangely, this announcement was accompanied by quotes from Conservative MPs which were somewhat confused, contradictory and geared more to election sound-bites than support for Cornish identity.

Sarah Newton MP stated that “Cornwall has a distinct culture and heritage which is vital to our way of life as well as the local economy, jobs and tourism,” but felt the need to slam Cornwall Council by stating that culture monies had “not always been well spent by the council.”

Steve Double MP meanwhile launched an assault on the Cornish language by slamming the unitary authority for “spending money on teaching council officers to answer the phone in Cornish when only 300 people list it as their primary language,” which is a gross distortion of reality.

He then went on to demand that Cornwall Council “spend this money … sensibly on promoting Cornish culture in a tangible way” and “not on one of their madcap schemes or vanity projects, which they are so fond of.”

Not sure what this means and I do not see how the promotion of our national language can be dismissed as a vanity project!

It is all a bit distasteful, and Cornwall Council was right to have pointed out that the level of funding, while welcome, was less than adequate, and to have criticised the MPs for their negative attacks on Cornish identity,

At this time, it is worth pointing out that the Opinion from the Council of Europe on how the UK Government and other public bodies are meeting the articles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (including the Cornish) will be published this week..

There will undoubtedly be a range of recommendations. And I would challenge Cornwall’s MPs to show they really care about Cornish culture and identity by supporting all the recommendations contained within the Opinion, wholeheartedly and without reservation.

Monday, 6 March 2017

395 council candidates for a PEB - fair or unfair?


Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall regularly lobbies the BBC and other broadcasters for fair coverage.

This includes our frequent request for the right to have a Party Election Broadcast (PEB) – something allowed to most other political parties. And yet each year, I receive a letter from the BBC’s Chief Adviser (Politics Editorial Policy & Standards) setting out the criteria for a PEB, which are unachievable for a Cornish political party.

I have just received the latest letter which informs me about the criteria for May’s council elections.

Basically, in order to get a PEB in England, Wales or Scotland, “a registered political party must stand candidates in a minimum of one sixth of the seats being contested …” in one of those “nations.”

In this process, the BBC does not respect Cornwall’s nationhood and has informed MK that it would need to field candidates in 395 different divisions in “England” to get a broadcast. There are only 122 divisions in Cornwall.

If you agree this is unfair, why not help MK in the upcoming local elections to get our message across.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Cornwall on the march!


Cornwall was on the march last weekend. There were numerous St Piran’s Day processions where people came together to celebrate Cornwall’s unique national identity. It is great to see the growing confidence in all aspects of our modern Cornishness, and to reflect how vitally important this is to our sense of place and the very well-being of our local communities.

But there were also a number of marches in towns such as Falmouth, Penzance and Truro, in support of the National Health Service. This was part of a wave of events, which also took place across much of England.

These protests came at a very important time. The British Medical Association has made it clear that the NHS “is at breaking point” and desperately needs additional funding, while the crisis in social care is making the situation far worse.

Much has been written about the protests and, for me, one of the most telling comments came from environmentalist Larry Sanders.

Mr Sanders said that he was “unwilling to stand by and watch” while the UK Government dismantled “public healthcare.”

He further added that: “The government tells us there isn’t enough money but this isn’t true. We are the fifth richest country in the world – we have the money to stop our health service turning into a humanitarian crisis, and to care for people when they grow old: in hospitals, the community and homes. We have the money for a fully funded public health service. If Theresa May is to keep her promise to ‘work for all, not just the privileged few,’ she must not let the NHS and social care crumble on her watch.”

He is right. Politicians in Westminster need to prioritise the NHS in their political choices, but this is not happening.

Reports have already shown that the NHS will have a funding “black hole” of £22 billion within five years, while a prominent committee of MPs has demanded additional emergency funding for social care. Meanwhile, the STP reforms proposed for Cornwall would leave the local NHS underfunded by £246 million.

And yet, when faced with such massive problems, leading members of the UK Government continue to be dismissive of these concerns.

Just look at the attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who was interviewed in advance of this week’s budget statement. He acknowledged that councils were under significant pressure because of social care, but went on to make crass comments saying it was "not just about money" before confirming there would be no "spending sprees" in the near future.

This is unacceptable and shows that the NHS is not safe in the hands of Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt and the present Westminster Government.

[This will be my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].
[Thanks to Cllr Lance Dyer for the above photograph].

Gool Peran Lowen! Happy St Piran’s Day!


As Party Leader of Mebyon Kernow, I would like to wish everyone the very best on St Piran's Day!

It is fantastic that St Piran’s Day is becoming an increasingly important part of our calendar as, each year, more and more people come together in the name of our national saint to celebrate Cornwall’s unique identity.

Cornwall has a powerful national identity, reflected in the Cornish language, our 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.

And as we celebrate the distinctiveness of Cornwall today, I believe it is important that we also commit ourselves to taking political actions to make a stand for Cornwall and its people.

Such actions can take many forms. It could, for example, be about pushing for a more powers for Cornwall through our own National Assembly, supporting Cornish territoriality by opposing a Devonwall constituency, joining protests against the proposed £264 million cut to the local NHS through the STP, or joining campaigns to demand fair funding for Cornwall and its public services.

The important thing is that we do all we can to make Cornwall’s national interest the key political issue in the coming weeks, months and years.