Monday, 17 September 2007

Standing for St Austell and Newquay

I am very pleased to announce that I have been selected by Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall to stand in the new constituency of St Austell and Newquay at the next General Election.

It is a great privilege to be a prospective parliamentary candidate for MK and also to be standing in my home area.

I agreed to put myself forward because I believe that it is important that local people have the opportunity to vote for a political party that is 100% committed to Cornwall and will always put the interests of our local communities ahead of any narrow party political advantage.

It is my honest view that the London-based parties have collectively failed Cornwall and that the best way to demand a better deal for Cornwall is to send a strong message to central government by voting for MK.

In the coming weeks, this blog will play an important part in my campaign and will regularly be updated with campaign news.

It's Conference Time!

Mebyon Kernow’s Party Conference will be held this coming Saturday (22nd September) in Fraddon Village Hall.

This year’s event comes at a time of great uncertainty. The Liberal Democrats have turned their backs on their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and conspired with the Labour Government to impose a unitary authority on Cornwall. Elections to a new transitional council could take place as early as May 2008 while the speculation about Gordon Brown calling a snap General Election is only now abating.

The afternoon session will be a forum at which a ‘Question-time’ panel of leading MK councillors and activists will consider the future direction of MK and debate a range of issues with the audience.

This session (1.30-3.30) is open to the general public and one and all are invited to attend.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The Chagos Islanders

Like many people, I have signed a number of e-petitions on the 10 Downing Street website. One which I recently supported called for the return of the Chagos Islands to their original inhabitants.

To those who have not yet heard about the plight of the Chagos Islanders, this community was forcibly evicted between 1967 and 1973 so that the British Government could lease the largest of their islands, known as Diego Garcia, to the United States for the construction of one of the biggest military bases in the world.

The expulsion of this community has been condemned many times as one of the “most shameful episodes in British post-war history” and the consequences of their exile has been very severe. Many families continue to live in terrible poverty in the slums of Mauritius and many have lost loved ones, with suicides being particularly common.

The islanders won a historic victory in the High Court in 2000, which ruled their expulsion illegal. Tony Blair was in a position to end the injustice but showed complete disregard for the very existence of the Chagossians. Instead, in 2004, he invoked a royal prerogative, which did not need the support of the House of Commons, in order to ban the islanders from ever returning to Diego Garcia and the surrounding islands.

The islanders refused to give up and went back to the High Court in 2006 and once again won the right to return home. In a damning verdict, the High Court even condemned the actions of the British government as “repugnant.”

Along with other signatories to the e-petition, I recently received the official Government response. It was less than satisfactory. The Government is continuing to claim that it is not feasible for the Chagossians to return home, that their existence would be precarious and prone to the impacts of climate change.

The Government claims that the latest High Court ruling “raises issues of constitutional law of general public importance that … would adversely affect the effective governance of all British Overseas Territories” and has appealed.

It is awful that the British Government continues to hide behind such mean-spirited legalese and to fight these people who they have so terribly wronged. It is time that the Government does what is right and that is to allow the Chagossians to return home and help them to rebuild their communities.

I will leave the last word to Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the islanders. In 2005 he said: “We have always believed that a human being has the right to live in the place of his birth. Everywhere, the British Government paints itself as the champion of human rights - so what about the human rights of the Chagossian people?”

Sunday, 2 September 2007

The excavation of St Piran's Church 2005

Although this is primarily a political blog, I am going to use it to plug my latest publication which has been produced in partnership with the St Piran Trust.

The Trust is a local charity which is working to protect and enhance archaeological monuments in Perranzabuloe Parish associated with the name of our national saint Piran. These sites include St Piran's Oratory and the later medieval St Piran's Church, both situated in the dunes on Gear Sands to the east of Perranporth, and Perran Round - a well-preserved plen an gwary.

St Piran's Church served as the local Parish Church until 1804-1805 when, due to ongoing problems with the encroachment of sand, a new church was built about two miles inland. Much of the fabric of the Church was removed and used in the new structure and the medieval remains left to the sands which soon covered them.

In 2005, I was very fortunate. through my work as an archaeologist with Cornwall County Council's Historic Environment Service, to lead an excavation on the site. We consider that the excavation to have been a considerable success and local people can once again view and appreciate the remains of the Church that once held the relics of St Piran.

The new 28 page full-colour A4 booklet summaries the findings of the excavation, tells the story of St Piran and explains the history of the three archaeological sites.

It is available from the St Piran Trust at Rosenwynn, Chapel Hill, Bolingey, Perranporth. The cost is £3.50 plus 50p postage and packing. Cheques should be made payable to the St Piran Trust and all monies raised from the sale of the booklet will be used for the upkeep of the excavated Church.