Monday, 27 July 2020


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the threat of a ”Devonwall” parliamentary seat. It will be as follows:

On Sunday 30th October 2016, campaigners congregated at Polson Bridge on the Tamar to protest against the proposal for a “Devonwall” parliamentary seat.

The “Boundary Commission for England” (BCE) had recommended a Bideford, Bude and Launceston seat, but this had not come about by accident. It happened because of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act (2011), which sought to reduce the number of MPs to 600 and ensure that electorates for individual seats were within 5% of the average seat size. Because the legislation did not protect Cornwall as an electoral area, it was a statistical impossibility for the BCE to propose a whole number of seats for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Westminster did not listen to the protesters, though the proposals of the BCE failed to go ahead because of unrelated political disagreements in London.

The UK Government has now put forward another Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, which will lead to a new review of parliamentary boundaries though, this time, the number of MPs will be kept at 650.

I would acknowledge that it is unlikely that this next review will lead to a cross-Tamar constituency. But the legislation, as presently drafted, states that a fresh boundary review should be carried out every eight years. Given projected population changes, it seems to me that it would only be a matter of time before the likelihood of a “Devonwall” constituency arises once again. 

Cornwall is a historic nation, with its own culture, traditions and language, while the Cornish are recognised as a national minority. This places many obligations on the UK Government. With this in mind, I submitted evidence to the Public Bills Committee and formally requested that MPs ensure the Cornish border, which has been in existence for more than one thousand years, is respected in all future boundary reviews and Cornwall’s territoriality is not breached.

The Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 14th July. One Cornish MP, Cherilyn Mackrory, spoke in the debate (see above) and did make a number of good points. But because Cornwall’s MPs had chosen not to move the necessary amendment, the Bill went through unaltered.

I was anticipating that Cornwall’s MPs would take the opportunity to table an amendment and I am simply dumbfounded that they did not.

This week, the Bill moves to the House of Lords and peers will consider it further in the Autumn. I sincerely hope that they will come together to amend the Bill to Keep Cornwall Whole.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020


In my article in tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian, I have written about the unitary authority’s latest consultation exercise and I have called on one and all to be ambitious and demand our own National Assembly or Parliament. The full article is as follows:

Cornwall Council is presently holding what it hopes will be its “biggest ever listening project.” It is titled “The Cornwall We Want,” and comes at a time of great uncertainty as we face considerable challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is very sad to see enterprises such as the Eden Project laying off so many of their staff and some businesses not re-opening after the lockdown. And it is scary to see projections from economists that suggest between 66,800 and 72,800 jobs in Cornwall are under threat, while a number of Cornish towns have been identified as locations likely to be worst affected by the crisis.

Other worrying statistics show that there has been a 400% increase in applications for free school meals and a 140% rise in requests for council tax support.

It is right that the unitary authority is seeking the views of Cornish residents as politicians and others grapple with what is described as “recovery and renewal.”

The arguments coming out of the Council point out that surveys show “nine in ten people do not want to go back to the old normal” and that there is an “unprecedented level of public demand for change.” It argues that there is a pressing need to “create a more resilient society, where prosperity is truly shared, and is decoupled from ecological and climate breakdown.”

In addition, the leadership of the Council claims that it is “building a strong ‘yes for Cornwall’ case for devolution of the powers and funding” needed to deliver recovery and renewal. They add that we can build a better Cornwall “by giving people a greater say over decisions that affect them” and how “we also need to create a more equal power partnership with Whitehall, with greater local control over the levers and funding for Cornwall to flourish.”

They claim that we need to be bold, but nonetheless seem fixated on Cornwall’s present “unitary governance model” of local government and entities such as the unelected Leadership Board – which isn’t very ambitious at all!

I will be arguing that if people in Cornwall are serious about meaningful devolution, we need to be building the case for a new democratic deal, similar to those enjoyed in Wales and Scotland, with our own National Assembly or Parliament.

I hope you will agree with my perspective on devolution, but whatever your views, please visit to have your say.

Thursday, 16 July 2020


I recently wrote to the Government Minister responsible for the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, Chloe Smith. In the same week that MPs failed to move an amendment to Keep Cornwall Whole, I received a very, very disappointing reply from Ms Smith.

It is clear that the Minister does not understand the Government’s obligations to the Cornish and Cornwall. For information, the reply was as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 1 July and for your thoughts on future boundary reviews in Cornwall. Thank you also for submitting written evidence to the public bill committee scrutinising the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill. I note your request that the Government bring forward an amendment to preclude the possibility of a cross-Tamar seat - essentially creating a group of protected constituencies for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - and your linked idea of a Boundary Commission for Cornwall.

As I made clear during the Committee debates on the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, the Government recognises the distinct culture and heritage of Cornwall and includes Cornwall in its application of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM).

As part of this, under the terms of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), the Government is committed to recognising regional or minority languages such as Cornish and to supporting action to promote the language’. In 2019, MHCLG provided £200,000 to support a range of Cornish language projects, as well as work to tackle barriers to systematic education provision around Cornish language and culture and build cultural distinctiveness into planning and development decisions.

Whilst the Government celebrates and champions the cultural diversity of all parts of the United Kingdom, we are also committed to ensuring equality for all its citizens irrespective of where they live in the UK. Achieving equal constituencies, and therefore votes that carry equal weight, is an important element of this.

In order to deliver the “updated and equal constituencies” that we committed to in our 2019 Manifesto, it is important that the Boundary Commissions work within a certain tolerance of the UK electoral quota and balance this with the range of other factors that they may take into account, such as geographical features, local government boundaries and community ties.

We appreciate that the proposal, made during the 2016-18 boundary review, to create a constituency that crossed the boundary of Devon and Cornwall was a controversial one. It is important to note that that review was based on 600 constituencies. We cannot prejudge the proposals that will be made by the next boundary review, but under the provisions of the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, the next review will be based on 650 constituencies and this will give more leeway to the Boundary Commissions and is likely to make the considerations in Cornwall and Devon less challenging.

May I also highlight that the boundary review process includes extensive public consultation (generally 24 weeks over three separate periods) to allow local communities, organisations and individuals to comment and make counter-proposals, and for that feedback to be taken into account. During the 2016-18 boundary review, over 50% of BCE’s initial proposals were adjusted in light of consultation responses and representations.

I hope that the move to retain 650 constituencies, combined with the rigorous and consultative process of the Boundary Commissions, provides some reassurance about the next boundary review. I do not believe that creation of either a separate boundary commission for Cornwall, or a protected group of constituencies for Cornwall, would be advisable. Both would potentially set precedents that could undermine the principle of equal votes and the Government’s manifesto pledge to deliver equal constituencies.

A Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) for Cornwall?

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at BBC cuts and the need for a PSB for Cornwall. It is as follows:

It is bad news that the BBC has taken the decision to cut 450 jobs in its regional news and current affairs television and radio programming. I find this particularly disappointing as it has always been my view that we need broadcasting to be less dominated by London and other metropolitan centres.

This approach to job cuts and the scope of future broadcasting is also worrying from a Cornish perspective. I have been among those supporting the push for a Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) for Cornwall, something that the authorities have yet to act upon.

Wales has the S4C television channel, while Scotland has BBC Alba, and as the Chairman of Cornwall Council’s National Minority Working Group, I recently wrote to a House of Commons Select Committee in support of a Cornwall PSB.

The Cornish were recognised as a national minority in 2014 and the UK Government pledged that we would be treated the same as the UK’s other national minorities. But Cornwall is the only Celtic part of the state without its own media service, while TV content is produced for all of the UK’s Celtic languages – except Cornish!

When the BBC Charter was renewed in 2016, it included a commitment to support the UK’s regional and minority languages through its “output and services and through partnerships with other organisations,” but the Charter defines “regional and minority languages” as being Welsh, Scottish-Gaelic, Irish and Ulster Scots. Unbelievably, the Cornish language is excluded from this list, which demonstrates the BBC is showing significant disrespect towards its own diversity commitments.

The unitary authority has commissioned a study to investigate the potential for a Cornwall PSB and a summary report has just been published by Denzil Monk and Mandy Berry.

A hard-hitting document, it makes the case that Cornwall has been failed by current TV provision and that it has often been “constructed from the outside as a perpetual destination,” while “local” television is delivered through the framework of a “SW region of England.”

The report argues that so many of our national traditions are overlooked, while “divergent realities of contemporary Cornish culture are hidden.”

It adds that, “where visible, Cornishness is diminished to a ‘local curiosity’ to view as part of the commodified ‘picturesque romanticisation’ Cornish lifestyle or visitor experience, a picture postcard world of cream teas, romantic ruined mines and quaint fishing villages.”

It then asks the very incisive question: “But what if our view was wider than a postcard?”

Monday, 6 July 2020


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the recent announcement that the UK Government is about to rip up existing rules for the planning process. It will be as follows:

The Prime Minister has just announced the UK Government’s approach to economic recovery following the present health crisis, which he has branded “Build, Build, Build.”

It includes pushing forward with a range of capital projects, and it is right that we welcome investment in public services and appropriate infrastructure schemes. But it is extremely disturbing that, at the same time, the Government has said there will be a loosening of the planning system.

Government ministers have revealed that they will be bringing forward what has been described as the “most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War.” They are already promoting a range of new “permitted development rights,” which would allow existing homes to be expanded upwards and commercial premises turned into housing without the need for planning permission.

The Government has also confirmed that a policy paper will be published later this month. The housing minister Robert Jenrick has publicly backed a “first principles rethink,” away from the “current plan-led system,” and the Prime Minister’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings is heavily involved. I understand that there is also an advisory panel that includes Sir Stuart Lipton, a powerful property magnate and Conservative Party donor.

As a local councillor, I know how the planning system already favours large developers over communities, and I have been involved in many planning battles where local people have been at a massive disadvantage to the building industry.

Any further relaxing of the planning system would be a disaster for places such as Cornwall and it is disturbing to hear the Prime Minister caricature the planning process as “red tape” and bureaucratic “newt counting.”

A key part of planning should be to protect communities from bad or excessive development and it is good that the chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Victoria Hills, has hit out at the “planner-bashing rhetoric,” condemning any deregulation that would “remove the democratic rights of communities to input to local development.”

Cornwall needs a well-balanced planning system, which protect the countryside while allowing suitable developments that meet the needs of communities, such as proper local-needs housing.

Indeed, we need stronger planning controls, not weakened ones. That it is why I am campaigning for planning to be fully devolved to Cornwall, so that full responsibility for future planning decisions can lie to the west of the Tamar, and for the influence of planning inspectors in Bristol and politicians in Westminster to be eliminated.