Thursday 27 January 2011


My latest column in the Cornish Guardian looks at the debate surrounding the Government decision to abolish Education Maintenance Allowance payments. The article is reproduced below:

We are indeed fortunate to live in the United Kingdom, where our standard of living is so much higher than in many other countries around the world.

But is the Government doing enough to tackle inequality in society? And, in particular is it doing enough to help young people from poorer families succeed in life?

A worrying report from the charitable Sutton Trust has shown that children educated at private schools are 55 times more likely to attend Cambridge / Oxford Universities, than children who received free school meals in their youth.

This situation is unlikely to be helped by the decision of the Government to axe the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) last week.

This allowance was introduced by the previous government to encourage young people from less-well-off backgrounds to stay in education after the age of sixteen.

Its aim was to help young people achieve more and better qualifications, so they could benefit from well-paid jobs or get to university.

Depending on the income of their parents, students received payments of £10, £20 or £30 a week. I understand that the allowances were intended to cover the cost of course books, equipment and transport, but could be spent however the student chose.

Prior to becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron made it clear that he had "no plans" to scrap the EMA, but has performed a quick U-turn on that.

The Government is now stating that the scheme is expensive, that the grants were "poorly targeted" and claim that “90% of young people receiving the allowance would continue in education even if the grant was stopped.”

By contrast, opposition spokespeople have described the removal of the grant as an “attack on the aspirations of young people” which "kicks away the ladder of opportunity."

And a survey conducted by the University and College Union with the Association of Colleges found that 70% of EMA recipients said they would have to drop out of their course if the grant was cut.

There has been some stlited talk of alternatives to the grant but none have been agreed, while other reports have suggested that the cancellation of the contract to distribute EMA will cost the Government a £40 million penalty.

I may be a cynic, but isn’t it sad that the new Government (led by a Cabinet mostly educated at fee-paying schools and Oxford / Cambridge) are failing to understand and act upon the needs of students from poorer backgrounds than their own.

Celebrating 60 years

Last weekend, Mebyon Kernow members, councillors and supporters gathered at the Lowenac Hotel in Camborne to celebrate the first six decades of the Party for Cornwall.

It was enjoyable with entertainment from a range of fantastic Cornish musicians and poets, which included Bagas Crowd, An Dysken (above), Kowethas and Pol Hodge / Bert Biscoe.

The event was opened by MK founder member Ann Jenkin, who was recently elected as the Party’s Life President. Ann is the widow of Richard Jenkin, a fellow founder-member and a former Chairman of the Party. She is also the mother of four children – two of whom, Loveday and Conan, have stood as parliamentary candidates and serve as local councillors.

We intend to mark our anniversary year in a number of ways. The commemorative publication is at the printers and should be ready for circulation in a couple of weeks and it is also intended to mark the tenth anniversary of the delivery of 50,000 declarations for a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street.

Thursday 6 January 2011

MK to celebrate its 60th

Today marked the 60th anniversary of the launch of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

MK was founded on Saturday 6th January 1951 at the Oates Temperance Hotel in Redruth. There were thirteen people present at the meeting and a further six sent apologies. Helena Charles was elected the Party’s first Chairman, with Lambert Truran as Secretary and George Pawley White as Treasurer.

The seven original aims of the Party were also adopted at the Redruth meeting. These were:

1. To study local conditions and attempt to remedy any that may be prejudicial to the best interests of Cornwall by the creation of public opinion or other means.
2. To foster the Cornish Language and Literature.
3. To encourage the study of Cornish history from a Cornish point of view.
4. By self knowledge to further the acceptance of the idea of the Celtic character of Cornwall, one of the six Celtic Nations.
5. To publish pamphlets, broadsheets, articles and letters in the Press whenever possible, putting forward the foregoing aims.
6. To arrange concerts and entertainments with a Cornish-Celtic flavour through which these aims can be further advanced.
7. To cooperate with all societies concerned with preserving the character of Cornwall.

Mebyon Kernow certainly had an extremely strong focus on Cornish identity and culture, but it was also openly political. By September 1951, the Party had officially committed itself to Cornish self-government. The fourth aim was modified “to further the acceptance of the Celtic character of Cornwall and its right to self-government in domestic affairs in a Federated United Kingdom.”

To mark the anniversary, MK is producing a booklet containing many historic photographs, which will be published later this month. Details to follow soon.

There is also to be a celebratory party on Saturday 22nd January at the Lowenac Hotel in Camborne. Tickets are still available at £10 per head – further details from