Friday, 21 May 2010

MK and its finances

Radio Cornwall journalist Graham Smith recently blogged about MK and the fact that Stuart Cullimore is recorded as having given significant donations to the Party during the last financial year.

Graham blogged: “Mebyon Kernow's Cornwall councillor Stuart Cullimore appears to have been the party's only donor for most of last year. According to the Electoral Commission, Stuart donated £9,410.90 between 10th April 2009 and 29th December 2009. The Commission records four separate cash donations, ranging from £351.90 to £5,000, and describes Stuart's status as "individual." Nobody else gets a mention.”

The entry can be viewed at:

As a consequence of this, I did an interview with Radio Cornwall at 7.30 this morning. For reasons of accuracy and completeness, I would also like to make the following information known:

MK’s accounts for 2009-2010 have not yet been completed, but these will be submitted to the Electoral Commission by the end of July as required.

At this point however, I estimate that in 2009-2010, MK received donations of around £22,000. As well as Stuart’s generous donation, another member gave MK £5,000. Last year, we also received a donation of £3,000, another of £1,000 and numerous other donations ranging from a few pounds to £500.

We only had to report donations over £5,000 to the Electoral Commission. We did also report the £5,000 donation, but this was not published on the Electoral Commission website as it was not over £5,000.

Last year, four members also loaned MK a total of £7,000 to cover the costs of the General Election we have just fought.

I am extremely proud that MK is funded by the generosity of its ordinary members through member subscriptions – a bargain at £12 a year – and donations and local fundraising. We are truly a political party of and for the people of Cornwall.

Planning Policy Panel

I have today been re-elected as the Chairman of Cornwall Council’s Planning Policy Panel for the next 12 months.

I am grateful for the ongoing support of my colleagues from across all the political groups and hope that I will be able to fully repay the trust that you have shown in me.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Regional Spatial Strategy

The new Government has announced that it plans to scrap the Regional Spatial Strategy. I presume this means that the existence of the ‘draft’ Strategy – calling for 68,200 new properties by 2026 – will no longer be used as a ‘material’ planning consideration by developers wishing to impose inappropriate levels of housing on Cornwall.

It means that Cornwall Council’s Planning Policy Panel, which I chair, now has the important job of investigating the extent of new house construction that would actually be appropriate for Cornwall. It is unclear, at the moment, what constraints we will have to work within, but at least there appears to be an opportunity for some common sense in planning policy.

I am also pleased to be able to report that the ruling Cabinet on the Council will soon start consultation on the Affordable Housing policy document that we have just completed. I will publicise this further when the actual consultation commences.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A new politics?

As everyone knows, I recently fought an election campaign for the St Austell and Newquay constituency, which was won by the Liberal Democrat candidate Stephen Gilbert.

One key element of his campaign was to continuously tell people not to vote for Labour or MK as he was the only candidate who could defeat the Tory.

To quote some of his leaflets at random – “Labour and Mebyon Kernow are out of the race in St Austell and Newquay – a vote for them will only help the Conservative win,” “a vote for Labour or Mebyon Kernow will let the Conservatives in through the back door,” “Labour and MK are out of the race … the only way to stop the Conservatives is to back Steve Gilbert and the Liberal Democrats,” etc, etc.

I am now pretty bemused, to put it politely, to see the Liberal Democrats enter into a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives .

I am already hearing from progressive voters who now regret voting tactically - vote Lib Dem, get Conservative!

Some more thanks

Over the last few days, it has been heartening to have received so many messages of support and encouragement from friends, party supporters and even people who had wanted to support MK but chose to vote tactically (more on that later).

I have spoken to MK members throughout Cornwall and they are upbeat and passionate about continuing our work for a better deal for Cornwall.

I have certainly been very upfront about the election and I have done nothing to hide my disappointment at my own result.

But as Loveday Jenkin has pointed out on behalf of MK, our members found considerable goodwill for our party and support for our policies – such as fair funding for Cornwall.

And though this did not materialise into a large increase in our vote, with many people voting ‘tactically,’ we will be taking many positives from the experience and building on the goodwill we have found.

I, for one, am already ready for the next campaign!

Friday, 7 May 2010

A very disappointing result

The result for the St Austell and Newquay Constituency was announced in the very early hours of this morning, at about 6.10am. The seat was won by the Liberal Democrat candidate Stephen Gilbert, while I polled a total of 2,007 votes (4.2% of those cast). I came fourth, ahead of the UKIP and BNP candidates.

I polled well throughout the Parish of St Enoder, which I represent on Cornwall Council, as well as St Dennis, no doubt due to my ongoing work against the proposed incinerator.

Since then, I have had a little sleep. I spent the afternoon out with my wife and I am now in a position to comment on the result.

The laws of political spin instruct me to point out that my result is the best General Election result achieved by an MK candidate, as we have never before polled over two thousand votes in such a contest.

But to be brutally honest, I am extremely disappointed with the result. I was pretty gutted last night.

I fought a very positive campaign, focussing on a range of important political issues and my track record as a local councillor and a campaigner for Cornwall. Obviously, I did not expect to win. But during the campaign, the feedback was truly excellent and even my opponents commented on the number of people who were planning to vote for MK. There was also a widespread expectation among my opponents and political commentators that MK could achieve a very creditable third place.

Sadly, this was not to be. My vote was squeezed by a concerted “MK vote is a wasted vote” campaign by the Lib Dems and I can only speculate that the focus on the three main party leaders and the race to be Prime Minister also lead many people to revert to their traditional voting patterns at the last minute.

It is clear that MK votes were squeezed throughout Cornwall, which shows we still have a major credibility issue with voters in parliamentary elections. Many people vote for MK candidates in local elections, but fail to support us in General Elections because they believe we cannot win.

This is an issue of strategy that we will need to address as a Party in the coming weeks and months as we look to continue our campaigns for a better deal for Cornwall.

At this point, I would like to thank everyone who helped with the campaign and the 2,007 people who backed me with their votes. I am most grateful for your support.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Leafletgate - the final postings

Over the length of the election campaign, I have received a number of leaflets from my political opponents. The vast majority were, once again, printed outside of Cornwall.

I have received an addressed mailing from the Lib Dems – it was printed in Bristol. My wife and I also received a direct mailing from the Lib Dems telling us, amongst other things, not to vote MK. This one was printed in London and was accompanied by a further risographed sheet.

Three leaflets arrived from the Tories. Two addressed mailings printed in Guildford and a newspaper hand-delivered to my home – this one was printed in Surrey. I was not pleased to see this newssheet, as my photograph was featured in it without permission.

My parents meanwhile received a further leaflet from the Tories that had been printed in St Austell.

For the other candidates, the Labour leaflet came from Essex, the BNP one from Nuneaton while the UKIP leaflet came from Bodmin!

MK election materials were meanwhile printed in Lostwithiel, St Austell and Falmouth. You can always trust us to support Cornish businesses.

Incinerator latest

It is the day before the election and Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have been criss-crossing the UK today, seeking out every last vote.

By contrast, I have been in Fraddon all day at the Public Inquiry into the incinerator. Today’s witness for SITA covered landscape issues, who I cross-examined for an hour at the end of the day.

I focused part of my cross-examination on the fact that the Waste Disposal Authority had decided to develop the Parkandillick site as early as the middle of 2005, almost 12 months before the Council agreed the Contract and a long, long time before they had the decency to speak to local people.

Tomorrow the next witness will concentrate on historic environment issues. I will be cross-examining again.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The debates

Last week was also pretty busy. Four debates, a number of Council meetings and plenty of leafleting.

The first debate was for Radio Cornwall. It was recorded at the Eden Project on Monday and broadcast the following Wednesday. I was happy with how it went and I was treated as an equal with the other candidates. There was only one question that the UKIP candidate and I were not asked to answer, though sadly, other MK candidates feel they were not treated as well in the constituency debates which took place elsewhere in Cornwall.

At Eden, the politically-balanced audience was very active. Sitting to my left was a phalanx of about ten Conservatives with a similar-sized Lib Dem phalanx to the right. Each time their candidates spoke they bellowed out their approval, while their opponents sat silent. At times, the pantomime jeering and cheering merged into one noise. All great fun.

On Tuesday, I took part in a live television ‘town hall debate’ for the St Austell and Newquay seat, which was broadcast on BBC News 24. Initially, I was not invited to take part and had to lobby hard to be allowed to participate. I was allowed to play a full part in the debate and, from the feedback I have received, it appears that the debate went well for me.

Sadly, I was not treated with the same respect by BBC Spotlight. They also did a feature from Newquay that same day, but only included the candidates from the three main London parties. I have received numerous comments from people about how unfair this was.

Surely by co-incidence, it was at this point that William Hill cut my odds to 12/1.

Debate three was arranged by Churches Together in St Austell. Another enjoyable affair, it featured a wide range of topics such as the economy, housing and education, covered in the earlier debates. There was a large audience of about 70 or 80, who took an active role in the proceedings.

Debate four was at the Keay Theatre and organised by the PCS Union. Caroline Righton was not present, though the BNP candidate did turn up (without an invitation). The meeting was delayed until the Police arrived and, at the Union’s request, the BNP candidate was escorted off the premises.

I thoroughly enjoyed this final debate and found myself in agreement with the audience of about 30 who were very concerned about the need to protect public services.

All in all a good week for the campaign. It was a great pleasure to visit many places across the Constituency, including own Parish, St Dennis, Quintrell Downs, Newquay and St Austell. It was also pleasing to meet many people who were supportive of my campaign, some of whom had already voted by post and many others who were still considering voting for MK.