Saturday 30 June 2012

Old County Hall in Truro - double-standards

This week’s West Briton reports that Cornwall Council has agreed a deal to sell off Old County Hall to Nigel Carpenter, the owner of St Michael's Hotel and Spa in Falmouth. He has bought the site to create a 40-bedtroom hotel and spa.

The deal is subject to gaining planning permission, which it is reported would also include “20 long-stay suites designed for business people … and 13 homes for sale on the private market” on associated land.

For the record, I opposed the deal at the last Cabinet meeting.

Cornwall Council as the local planning authority expects new housing developments to include affordable housing, But this deal appears to specifically exclude such housing.

It is sending out the wrong message that everyone should deliver local needs housing, except where Cornwall Council wants a capital receipt for the land that is to be developed.

Watch this space, as I will be having a lot to say when the planning application is submitted.  

Friday 29 June 2012

Update on the article in the Observer

Following my complaint to the Observer about the disrespectful article which appeared last week, I have raised concerns with the ‘Readers’ Editor’ at the newspaper.

As a consequence, they have acknowledged the fundamental basis of my complaint. The online version of the article has been modified to, in their words, “better reflect the aims of your party.” Various mentions of "independence" and "separation" have been edited out.

They have also acknowledged that the description of Cllr Dr Loveday Jenkin as a "pixie" was demeaning and it has been removed.

The revised article can be re-read at:

It includes the additional comment: “This article were amended on 28 June 2012 to better reflect the stated aim of Mebyon Kernow to campaign for a devolved Cornwall, rather than an independent Cornwall.”

In the paper on Sunday, I have been told that they intend to include the following statement in it’s For the Record corrections column:

“Contrary to the impression given in ‘Free Cornwall!’ (Magazine, last week) the political party Mebyon Kernow is not seeking full independence for Cornwall but self-government through a devolved legislative Assembly.”

I have told them that I consider the ‘correction’ to be limited and less-than-adequate. I have sent a further letter which I have asked to be published on Sunday.

A tribute to Pam Lyne

This morning, at a meeting of the Planning Policy Advisory Panel (PPAP), we observed a minute’s silence to remember Cllr Pam Lyne, who passed away suddenly this week.

An out-spoken and strong-willed councillor, Pam normally arrived slightly late for the PPAP meetings as she first had to complete her milk round. Following a suggestion from Lisa Dolley, we stood to remember Pam not at the start of the meeting but at ten-past-ten.

There have been many heartfelt tributes to Pam, with which I fully concur. Chairman of the Council Pat Harvey described her as a "true independent,” which she certainly was, and Cllr John Wood, the leader of the Independent group at County Hall, said she was a “tireless and hard-working member of Cornwall Council.” 

Cllr Bert Biscoe meanwhile described her as “the bravest member of any council I have ever met."

"She stood up for the truth and if that meant putting her house and business at risk to ensure the truth, then she would do that. As far as I am concerned, as a member of the local authority and as a human being, Pam Lyne is one of my heroes."

I will remember Pam as an individual who always did exactly what her conscience dictated, regardless of the consequences, and the World would be a much better place if there were more people were like Pam.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

An Gof commemoration – 2012

Today marks the anniversary of the deaths of Michael Joseph An Gof and Thomas Flamank, who were executed in 1497 for leading a Cornish rebellion against the English crown.

Immediately prior to his death, An Gof is reputed recorded to have said that he would have "a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal".

And 515 year on, I was pleased to be able to attend the annual commemoration event at St Keverne tonight that remembered his name, as well as the sacrifice of the Cornish men and women from five centuries ago, who bravely stood up and died for Cornwall.

We should be proud to celebrate our strong and enduring identity, but we also need to ensure that Cornwall has a strong political movement for the future that can win greater self-government for our nation.

If you are not already a member of Mebyon Kernow, why not join up this week. Visit and join on-line.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Comments on the disrespectful article in the Observer

On the Guardian’s website, there are over fifty comments about the disrespectful article which appeared in the Observer on Sunday. Unbelievably, many are both offensive and racist towards the Cornish. Printed below, however, are three comments from people who have taken the newspaper to task.

“A predictably tiresome sneering and patronising piece from the ever-so-liberal (but not when it comes to the Cornish) Guardian … never let a few facts get in the way of a convenient stereotype. “

“I read the Guardian regularly and I have to say I'm quite disappointed in the quality of journalism shown in this article. There is a constant tone of sarcasm and derision of Cornish culture and heritage throughout the article and some of the information presented as fact is completely untrue.

“As other people have stated, Mebyon Kernow is not campaigning for and does not want independence for Cornwall.

“The conclusion that “[Hugh Ridgway] has a global vision and represents the polar opposite of Mebyon Kernow” implies that MK does not have a global vision, which is inaccurate. Have a look at the Global Justice page on their website and you’ll see what I mean.

“Also, the article noted that ‘Tim Marshall, thinks that Cornwall should cherish its identity, but seems indifferent to Mebyon Kernow, a fairly typical reaction among the locals.’ Maybe it’s because of the mainstream media publishing misrepresentative articles like this that people tend to have that reaction.

“You’re probably thinking I’m a Cornish ‘inbred,’ as some people so politely put it, but I’m not. I moved to Cornwall from Cambridgeshire about ten years ago. I have no family connection with Cornwall (though my Grandmother was evacuated to Cornwall during the war) and I do not consider myself ethnically or culturally Cornish.

“I support Mebyon Kernow because they are campaigning for greater autonomy from Westminster, protection of Cornish culture and identity and they are also campaigning on Socialist principles, something which the three main parties seem to have forgotten about.”

“What a thoroughly condescending article, and predictably it has generated considerable Cornu-phobic racism.

“Observer: I hope you're proud of yourselves. You've let yourselves down badly in terms of your own editorial and journalistic standards.

“It’s not the job of The Observer (or the Guardian) to indulge in stereotyping nor encourage prejudice - that's what the Daily Mail is for. Shame on you.”

Monday 25 June 2012

The Coalition needs to rule out regional pay

Mebyon Kernow has challenged the Coalition Government to make a decisive statement confirming that they have ruled out introducing regional pay across the United Kingdom.

The continuing speculation about regional pay is causing great concern in places such as Cornwall, even though the Government is drawing back from such a disastrous policy.

MK Deputy Leader Cllr Andrew Long has today accused local MPs of hypocrisy. In a statement issued today, he said:

“The Labour Party first came up with the concept of regional pay in 2003 and introduced it into the Courts Service in 2007. Thankfully, Labour was persuaded not to take this further.

“The present Chancellor announced he was looking at regional pay in his Autumn Statement, which had been prepared with the full support of senior Liberal Democrats such as Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander.

“Regional pay is only being considered because of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition, although they are quickly backtracking because of pressure from all corners of the United Kingdom.

“But local Lib Dem MPs are trying to make political capital by campaigning, with maximum hypocrisy, against the proposal of their own Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government, as if it was nothing to do with them!

“We need central government to rule out regional pay for good, and to put an end to the two-faced hypocritical campaigns of local MPs.” 

We need real action on tax avoidance

My article for this week’s Cornish Guardian will focus on the tax avoidance of the super-rich. It is as follows:

The tax affairs of the rich and famous are once again under public scrutiny. This follows the shocking revelation that millionaire TV comedian Jimmy Carr and others have been using a “legal loophole” to dodge paying taxes.

It has been reported that Carr used a “wealth management” scheme called “K2,” in which high earners sign employment contracts with offshore companies that take their earnings. The companies then pay the “employee” a much lower salary each month, but “loan” the individual many thousands of pounds. These loans, which obviously do not get repaid, are written down as liabilities, substantially reducing tax payable to the Government.

It has even been reported that some rich individuals have paid as little as 1% tax on their earnings, while working people struggling to make ends meet are still paying their tax bills in full.

It is unbelievable that such scams have been allowed to continue, with the perpetrators stating that their tax arrangements have been fully disclosed to HM Revenue and Customs.

Put simply, it is a disgrace that individuals such as Carr have been able to divert millions from the public purse into their own pockets. Instead of the money being used to fund public services such as the National Health Service, it was presumably used by Carr for things such as the purchase of his £8.5 million eight-bedroom home with cash – no mortgage needed!

The comedian has since apologised for a “terrible error of judgment” and promised to change his ways. But he has subsequently been exposed as the Director of another tax avoidance scheme called Romangate that was closed down by HMRC in 2009, and cynically he has made no offer to pay back any of the money he has amassed by underhand means.

It is to be welcomed that the Prime Minister has strongly condemned the actions of Carr as “morally wrong.” But it is ridiculous and hypocritical that he has since declined to condemn other individuals, such as prominent donors to the Conservative Party, who have used equally complex schemes to avoid paying tax.

I presume that David Cameron’s inconsistent approach to this issue has been influenced by the fact that his own father was one of the first Britons to move money overseas to avoid tax, thereby increasing the family fortune.

It is simply wrong that certain wealthy individuals, and those with access to well-paid accountants, can be treated differently to the rest of us when it comes to payment of tax.

Now, for once and all, the Government must take decisive action on all tax cheats and it must eradicate all avoidance schemes. 

Sunday 24 June 2012

Disrespectful article about Mebyon Kernow and Cornwall in the Observer

Mebyon Kernow was today featured in an article in the magazine section of the Observer newspaper. Sadly, it is a bad article. It contains errors and badly misrepresents what Mebyon Kernow stands for.

It was written by Robert McCrum, but he clearly chose to ignore what I told him when he visited Cornwall.

In our interview, I explained to him, in considerable detail, that MK was not campaigning for independence, but greater self-government / devolution through a National Assembly for Cornwall.

I am angry that he chose to ignore this and base large parts of his article around vague and unsubstantiated notions of “separation,” “independence,” and an “independent Cornwall.”

I am also appalled that in writing about the director of the St Moritz Hotel at Trebetherick, for example, McCrum states that: “he has a global vision and represents the polar opposite of Mebyon Kernow.” I find it objectionable that he infers MK is not an outward-looking political party.

For the record, he is also disrespectful about the Cornish language and writes that “the inconvenient truth … is that it is about as lively as Monty Python’s parrot.”

And in what century is it acceptable to describe Cllr Dr Loveday Jenkin, a respected professional woman, as “a charismatic MK pixie.”

I could dissect the article in even more detail, but have chosen not to. If you wish to read the article on-line, it can be found at:

In recent months, MK has had positive publicity through a wide range of UK-wide newspapers including the Independent, Telegraph and Times, as well as the Observer’s sister paper, The Guardian.

I have to say, it therefore saddens me greatly (as someone who has read the Guardian / Observer newspapers for most of my adult life) that it is the Observer that has done a hatchet job on the Party that I am proud to lead.

I will be buying the Observer next week to see if they publish my letter of complaint. After that …who knows?

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Cornwall Council refuses to rethink approach to waste

Earlier today, the Cabinet at Cornwall Council voted to proceed with the purchase of land from Imerys for the construction of a land for an access road to their preferred site for an unsustainable 240,000 tonne waste incinerator. 

It should be noted that the ‘option’ to buy the land was due to run out on 28th June, but it would not been known until July whether the latest challenge from local campaigners would be upheld. At the meeting it was noted that Imerys had allowed the option to be extended by one month.

I once again challenged the Cabinet to step back from their support for the incinerator and to commit to a more sustainable form of waste management.

I also raised a number of concerns on behalf of local people that included the mismanagement of the road issue, concerns about the accuracy of information within the report, a lack of information about a necessary traffic regulation order and impact on public rights of way, outstanding planning and legal matters, the lack of consultation with the local community, etc.

I also challenged members of the Cabinet to instead attend the next meeting of the Waste Panel on11th July, when campaigners would be presenting an alternative (Plan B) to incineration.

But it was to no avail. There were limited and inadequate responses to some of my queries, while others were dodged or ignored. And then the Cabinet voted unanimously to push ahead with their support for incineration.

UDB win seat in French Parliament

Great news! Paul Molac of the Union Democratique Bretonne (UDB) has been elected to the French Parliament. He is the first Breton autonomist to be elected to the Parliament and will represent the Ploermael / Kistreberzh / Ar Roc’h Bernez constituency in Morbihan.

Mr Molac stood on a joint UDB-Greens-Left ticket and is a well-known campaigner for the Breton language. He is the chair of the Breton bilingual schools organisation Div Yezh and former Chair of the Breton Cultural Council.

Well done Paul. A fantastic first for the UDB.

The UDB, MK, Plaid Cymru and SNP are all constituent parties of the European Free Alliance.

Monday 11 June 2012

Waste: More revelations from Cornwall Council

The issue of waste continues to make the headlines in Cornwall, with new revelations about Cornwall Council’s plan for a massive and unsustainable waste incinerator at St Dennis.

Last month, the Council admitted it is responsible for 90 per cent of SITA’s legal costs in dealing with the legal challenges brought by local campaigners (£130,000). This is set out in the “Integrated Waste Management Contract” agreed between the former County Council and SITA in 2006.

The Supreme Court will announce in July whether the latest challenge will be allowed to proceed to court.

But at a meeting on 20th June, Cornwall Council’s ruling Cabinet will be deciding whether to exercise its option to purchase land (from clay company Imerys) for the access road to the proposed incinerator site.

This was discussed at last week’s Waste Panel, when it was announced that the option must be exercised by 28th June or it will expire. The cost of the land would be a massive £3,550,000.

As someone who opposed the incinerator at the 2010 Public Inquiry, I know that the former County Council was determined to dump the incinerator in the China Clay Area at St Dennis. They were not interested in other locations, and studies to “identify” the best sites for the plant were carried out after the Council had already decided on their preferred location.

Evidence presented at the Inquiry demonstrated that Cornwall Council had “chosen” the St Dennis site at an early stage and throughout 2005 were looking in detail at the site.

The contract was agreed in October 2006 and specifically included the construction of an incinerator at St Dennis.

But at last week’s meeting, one of the officers (who had been involved with the project for many years) admitted that it wasn’t until after the Council has signed the contract that they realised the road access was unacceptable. It was only then that they decided to find a new way to access the site with land purchase costs alone of over three and a half million pounds.

This is yet another example of the issue of waste management has been mishandled at County Hall. Shocking!

Friday 8 June 2012

Ed Miliband wants to talk about England … but continues to ignore Cornwall

In the same week as the Jubilee barge Gloriana (below) proudly flew the Cornish flag alongside the national flags of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Labour’s Ed Miliband delivered a speech on identity.

He spoke out against Scottish independence and stated that Labour “should not be afraid to talk about England’s national identity.” But unlike Gloriana, he continued Labour’s tradition of ignoring Cornwall.

Some his statements were as follows:

“Now more than ever, as we make the case for the United Kingdom throughout the United Kingdom, we must talk about England."

“In Scotland, the narrow nationalists of the SNP pose a false choice. They ask: are you Scottish or British? I say you can be both. And here in England there are people like Jeremy Clarkson who shrug their shoulders at the prospect of the break-up of the Union.” [Clarkson apparently said the break-up the Union “would be as sad as waving goodbye to a much loved, if slightly violent, family pet.”]

“It’s a mistake wherever you find it. Having to say: Scottish or British, Welsh or British, English or British. I don't accept any of that. It’s always a false choice.”

He also spoke out against the possibility of a English Parliament, stating: “I don't detect the demand that there was in Scotland, for a Scottish Parliament, in England. I don't feel that. I feel like people want an appreciation and a recognition of English identity.”

I would remind Ed Miliband that it was a Labour Government that failed to engender a truly mature, respectful and wide-ranging debate about the future of the United Kingdom after the creation of the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.

It was Labour that disgracefully ignored the demand from 50,000 declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly and then destroyed local government in Cornwall by imposing a unitary authority on us.

Mr Miliband, there is a need for the London-based parties to address the unequal constitutional relationships between the various nations and regions of the UK, and to tackle the centralising influence of London and the South East of England.

But that is not just about England and Scotland. It is also about Cornwall. Mr Miliband, will you join with me to make the case for the meaningful devolution of political powers to Cornwall?

Refreshed, back in circulation and my latest Cornish Guardian column

It has been a considerable time since I last blogged. The reason for this is quite simple – I have been away for ten days, on holiday in Ireland. It was a great break and I feel somewhat refreshed for fray …

My latest column for the Cornish Guardian – published on Fridays from now on – is on the “Pasty Tax” and the Coalition u-turn. It is as follows:

Congratulations to everyone who played a part in the campaign against the introduction of the “Pasty Tax.” It is fantastic news that the Government has changed its mind and decided not to impose this new tax, which has been described as “half-baked” and “unenforceable.”

Local MPs and activists from the Coalition parties are clearly relieved and are merrily trotting out the line that we are lucky to have a Government which “listens to what people have to say” and doesn’t always “plough on regardless.”

I am delighted with the u-turn, but I see it somewhat differently to supporters of the Coalition. It is my view that the Government has badly mishandled this issue.

Let us not forget that the “Pasty Tax” appeared as a fully-fledged proposal in a Government budget, even thought it had not been properly thought through. There was no prior consultation and it would be accurate to state that bakers, pasty-makers and local communities were taken by surprise.

Senior Coalition politicians then lined up to defend and justify the unfair tax-hike.

Prime Minister David Cameron claimed he loved a hot pasty, but then got into considerable difficulty remembering when he last ate one.

The Chancellor George Osborne was ridiculed by the Sun newspaper for “heartlessly” telling “hard-pressed Brits” to “avoid his VAT hike on hot food by buying cold pasties.” They branded him a “modern-day Marie Antoinette.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also gave Liberal Democrat support to his Conservative colleagues, making it clear that all proposals in the budget, including the “Pasty Tax,” had the full support of his party.

Worst of all, when Coalition MPs had an opportunity to vote down the tax in April, following a debate in the House of Commons, only 15 Coalition MPs took the opportunity to oppose the “Pasty Tax.” It was backed by 295 Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs.

I therefore consider the climb-down to be especially humiliating for the Government, given that over 95% of their MPs gave their full support to the “Pasty Tax.”

It is important that Cornwall celebrates this u-turn, but we must look forward and continue to campaign for more u-turns in the future. And I believe there are plenty of areas where u-turns are necessary.

Isn’t it time that central government (i) rethinks the nature of its austerity programme which has plunged the UK into a double-dip recession, (ii) reduces the depth and speed of its cuts to the public sector which is causing great hardship, (iii) scraps the tax break for millionaires contained within the budget, (iv) reverses its unpopular plans for the NHS … the list goes on and on.