Monday, 31 December 2007

I am proud to be a Cornish nationalist

As the Leader of MK, I always release a New Year message. To mark the start of 2008, I have appealed to local people to become more politically active and to join Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

The first part of my message considered what it is to be a Cornish nationalist, as follows:

“People often ask me what it is to be a Cornish nationalist. To me, the answer is quite simple. Cornwall is a historic entity with its own distinct identity, language and heritage – it is a nation. Every person who seeks the greater recognition of the nation of Cornwall or campaigns for self-government for Cornwall or promotes the Cornish language, is therefore, by extension, a Cornish nationalist.

“What is important is that the nationalism of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is inclusive and outward-looking. I am particularly proud that we campaign for a better deal for all the people of Cornwall and are never afraid to make a stand on global issues with significance far beyond our borders.

“As we enter 2008, I would like to extend an invitation to the people of Cornwall to join MK and help us to build a strong pro-Cornwall alternative to the London-centred political parties.
“Joining MK is a positive statement of commitment to Cornwall and about making a real difference to our local communities.”

I also took the time to look back over the last twelve months and contrast what has happened in Cornwall to developments in Scotland and Wales.

“2007 was a landmark year for democratic renewal in both Scotland and Wales. The Scottish National Party has formed an administration in the Scottish Parliament, with all parties now actively debating the devolution of extra powers.

“In Wales, Plaid Cymru is in coalition with the Labour Party, with both parties committed to law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly.

“But here in Cornwall, we have had to suffer the undemocratic disgrace of Liberal Democrat county councillors and MPs retreating from their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and forcing an unpopular unitary authority onto Cornwall.

“Whereas the people of Scotland and Wales are progressing further along the path to greater political powers, here in Cornwall we are preparing for the backward step that will be the centralisation of our local government structures and the growing influence of unelected, undemocratic bodies and agencies.

“At the same time, we continue to suffer under-investment from central government, threats to our public services, the growth in inequality in Cornish Society as well as the ever-worsening housing crisis

“We must make 2008 a year of real political activism and fight back against those who have so failed Cornwall over the last 12 months.”

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Unitary get government go-ahead

The official government announcement has been made. In a written ministerial statement, John Healey MP has confirmed that Cornwall County Council’s bid for unitary status will proceed and that the first set of elections will take place in 2009.

Though this is not a surprise, the announcement devalues our democratic system because of the way that it has ignored the views of the majority of the people of Cornwall.

Mr Whalley needs a boat!

On Wednesday, I attended the second meeting of the 24-strong Joint Implementation Committee, which has been tasked with devising the proposed unitary council. Held at the offices of Restormel Borough Council, it was certainly frustrating for me to be there as a member of the public and unable to take part in what the generous amongst us would call the ‘debate.’

I did not go to the meeting in a positive frame of mind and left it very, very concerned about the process.

Rather than try to give a full report of the meeting, I will detail three things that I am sure people will find of interest.

First, it was announced that the Council had signed a contract with a consultancy firm to do the ‘baselining’ data collection work to inform the creation of the new council. The councillors were informed that the cost would by up to £710,000. The Committee did not vote to agree the contract – they were simply told it had been done. Where is the democracy in this?

Second, there was considerable debate around what they called the ‘localism agenda.’ It was noted that because the elections would not take place until 2009, there would be a boundary review and the proposed boundaries of the sixteen suggested area networks would also be reviewed. Lib Dem leader David Whalley pushed hard for some aspects of the networks to be piloted in some areas, even though the geography of all these areas was still to be decided. It led wonderfully to independent councillor Pam Lyne exclaiming in frustration: “With respect, Chairman, if you want to go to sea in a boat, you need a boat!”

And third, the leader of Restormel asked about the forthcoming boundary review which he rightly identified needs to be carried out in tandem with the work on the area networks. He was immediately told by one Lib Dem councillor that the issue that he had raised was ‘irrelevant.’

I don’t know about you, but I am worried for Cornwall, its communities and its public services.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Support the Fire Service

It is good that people power is having some impact on the decision-makers at County Hall. It is to be welcomed that the Council’s Executive plan to recommend an increase in the budget for the Cornish Fire Service and to continue 24 hour cover from Camborne Fire Station.

This would not have happened if it had not been for the widespread anger of communities throughout Cornwall, the petitions, the marches and demonstrations.

The campaign needs to continue however and we must carry on showing our support for the fire-fighters, their unions and in retaining 24 hour cover at Falmouth.

Pictured above are MK councillors recently handing in over 2,000 petition forms opposing the fire cuts proposed by the Lib Dems.

The Cornish Constitutional Convention AGM

This weekend, I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Cornish Constitutional Convention in Truro.

Speaking at the event was the leader of Cornwall County Council David Whalley. His presentation was promoted with the strapline - ‘With the unitary authority secured, now for the roadmap to the Cornish Assembly!'

Apparently, the creation of a single council for Cornwall “will be a significant step towards meeting our aspiration for a more radical and ambitious model of governance, with closer integration of all public services at strategic and local level; a shift from a model of local government to one of local governance.” Words from the Convention press release – not mine!

From my perspective, David Whalley rather unconvincingly told us how a unitary authority would lead to greater powers for Cornwall, he talked about “local government” – not regional government – “structured in a different way,” steps in the right direction and bodies which could evolve.

There were also mixed messages a plenty. We were told that the government was listening, that there is an open door and that the people of Cornwall and their representatives need to tell Westminster what Cornwall needs. But that the County Council had only asked for a unitary authority as that was all that was on offer!

I raised a series of points about why I feel that the arguments for unitary local government for Cornwall are flawed and, in particular, that it was more likely to institutionalise Cornish ‘local government’ beneath a South West regional tier than deliver devolution to the Duchy.

The questions largely went unanswered as the Chair of the meeting brought a very truncated debate to a premature close.

One thing is certain however. Mebyon Kernow will continue to fight for a real Cornish Assembly and a democracy for Cornwall that is fit for the 21st century. If you are not already a member of MK – join us and help us in this campaign.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

MK selects fourth PPC for General Election

As the leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, it gives me great pleasure to welcome MK’s selection of Cllr Richard Clark to contest the St Ives constituency at the next General Election.

Presently the Deputy Mayor of Penzance, Richard is pictured above with Loveday Jenkin who herself will be fighting the Camborne and Redruth seat.

Richard is an outstanding campaigner and a passionate advocate for a better deal for Cornwall and its people. I am confident that he will demonstrate to one and all that the only political party worth their support is Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

What is more, this will be the first time we have contested the St Ives seat for many, many years. Richard’s selection sends out the strong message that, when the election comes, everyone will have the opportunity to vote for MK because we will be contesting all six Cornish seats.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Independent report slams LGR

I am quite disappointed that the local press has failed to report the damning findings of a new report from two well-known academics into the local government reorganisation process through which unitary status is being forced on Cornwall.

The report has been produced by Professors Steve Leach (De Montfort University) and Michael Chisholm (Cambridge University). It pulls no punches and finds that:

• The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has completely failed to honour the undertaking given in October 2006 to consult the public. Only one conclusion is possible; Ministers were aware that many unitary proposals would be unlikely to receive public endorsement.

• The process was biased in favour of unitary outcomes. The DCLG has been seriously inconsistent and highly selective in its appraisal of the bids.

• There seems to be scant concern for what ordinary people think. In October 2006, it was stated that bids must conform to the five criteria, including the criterion of a broad cross-section of support for the proposals. By July 2007, this had been diluted to reasonable likelihood after implementation.

• With respect to costs/savings, bidders have been ‘very inventive in compiling their submissions.’

• With respect to the conflicting criteria of Strategic Leadership and Neighbourhood Empowerment, the bids ‘display considerable contortions in trying to comply.’

• In many of the county bids, the proposed size of the electoral divisions presents a risk to councillors’ capacity to engage with the electorate.

• The Secretary of State has chosen to ignore the statutory procedures set out in the Local Government Act 1992. She has, instead, relied upon the expectation of obtaining retrospective powers under a new statute which is, in principle, pernicious.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has written to Cornwall’s five Liberal Democrat MPs calling on them to demand a meeting with the Secretary of State and to do all in their power to stop County Council’s bid for a single unitary authority from proceeding.

I have, so far, received three responses - none of which are very encouraging. I will post details of their views when I have heard from them all.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

More on public funding of political parties

The collapse of the talks between the three main parties on the pubic funding of political parties has meant that the draft document that was under discussion has been published.

It has received considerable publicity and I felt I had to respond to the editorial of the Guardian newspaper on this topic. My letter is printed below:


I cannot agree with the Guardian editorial (The spending game – 6 November) which claims that the Hayden Phillips proposals on party funding are ‘reasonable’ and ‘sensible.’ Under his proposals to qualify for taxpayers’ money, political parties must hold two or more seats at Westminster or in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or European Parliament.

At the last General Election, nearly 98% of votes cast in Cornwall, England, Scotland and Wales were for political parties which would have been eligible for funding. However, over 570,000 votes were cast for parties and individuals that would be excluded from the arrangement including Respect and the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern (both presently represented at Westminster), the old Liberal Party, Forward Wales, Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall and many others.

This is hardly democratic, fair or worthy of support.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Government can't do maths

Everyone knows what I think about the proposal to create a single unitary authority and the undemocratic process that is going on around us. But the madness seems to be getting worse.

Today I have been reading the draft statutory instrument to be known as ‘The Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 200[7][8]’ which will set out how a single council for Cornwall is created. It is garbled, confusing and full of holes.

But most all, it shows us that the Government’s bureaucrats cannot even add up. It includes a section on the first election to the new authority to be held in 2008 or 2009 and goes on to say that the number of councillors will be increased from the County Council’s present 82 members to 100. They also say that this coming election will be fought on the County Council’s existing 71 electoral divisions and where one county councillor was previously elected, two will be elected in this new contest.

So let me get that straight. The Government aims to increase the number of councillors from 82 to 100 by doubling the number of councillors. Worried?

I had thought they were ignoring the fact that 80% of people in Cornwall were opposed to the unitary authority – I now realise that they just don’t understand what 80% means!

Monday, 29 October 2007

A unitary council for Cornwall?

Last Wednesday (24th October), the House of Commons agreed all Lords amendments to the Local Government and Public Involvement Bill and passed it back to the Upper House for Royal Assent, which is scheduled for Tuesday 30th October. This bill includes the measures to set up unitary authorities.

Mebyon Kernow has already written to Cornish MPs calling on them to seek an early meeting with Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State, to demand that she does not allow the County Council bid for unitary status to proceed. I have also written to Ms Blears and hope that many others will do likewise. Her address is the Department of Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU.

My own letter was as follows:

Dear Ms Blears


I am writing to appeal to you to not allow Cornwall County Council’s bid for a single unitary council to be implemented. Earlier this year, you told Cornwall County Council that you were "minded” to implement their proposal but would take the “final decisions as to which unitary proposals are to be implemented” if and when the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill is enacted.

Before you take this next step, I hope that you will be able to find some time to reflect on whether the Cornish bid should actually proceed. As a democrat I hope that you will consider the following points.

· One of the criteria for judging whether a unitary bid should be successful was ‘public support.’ In Cornwall, opposition to the plan came from all six district councils, the majority of town and parish councils as well as a range of other organisations and bodies.

· Four district councils carried out postal polls in which a total of 71,722 residents voted – 58,087 were opposed to the unitary proposal while only 13,281 were in favour. In Caradon, 81.6% of valid votes opposed a single unitary authority, in Carrick the opposition stood at 75.9%, in Kerrier 79.3% and in Penwith the level of opposition was a massive 89.1%. North Cornwall District Council had meanwhile surveyed 6,000 residents and found that 82% of respondents were against a single unitary authority. It is wrong that such strong expressions of public opinion should be ignored.

· By contrast, on Tuesday 19th June Cornwall County Council debated whether to proceed with their bid. The Council voted to continue by 32 votes to 28 – a majority of only four. There was one abstention while 21 members were absent from the vote. This means that the proposal was only supported by 39% of county councillors and an unacceptable 25% of members were not even present at the meeting to cast a vote. This is hardly a basis on which to allow a single council to be imposed on the people of Cornwall.

· Towards the end of the Government consultation period, the County Council submitted a ‘supplementary submission’ to your department, which blatantly used spin to fabricate a ‘broad cross section of support’ for their proposal. It claimed that it sought the views of the public through a MORI poll, focus groups and the distribution of information leaflets. It failed however to inform central government that the poll had been carried out in advance of the details for their bid actually being worked up and that 91% of those surveyed stated that “they would like more information on any proposal before making up their mind.” The document also failed to include the full facts about the County Council’s disastrous leaflet consultation which did not even reach most homes and were returned by only 665 households. Interestingly, their incredibly biased leaflet still generated more opposition to the proposal than support for it. But rather than acknowledge such widespread opposition, their submission preferred to note that “the feedback we have received suggests that many people have not fully understood our proposals.” Such misinformation should not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

· I understand that the support of Cornish MPs was always a significant factor in allowing Cornwall County Council’s bid to get this far but, in the last few days, one of these MPs (Andrew George) has made a public statement expressing his opposition to the Local Government Bill.

I would appeal to you to look again, in more detail, at Cornwall County Council’s bid and the nature of the representations from Cornwall before you come to your final decision on the proposal. It is our hope that your view will reflect public opinion in Cornwall and consign the proposal of a unitary council to the dustbin.

There can be no denying that the vast majority of people in Cornwall remain opposed to the bid and there is no evidence that a single unitary authority would command a broad cross-section of support.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Back from my holidays

Thanks to Gordon Brown, the last ten days have been rather wonderful. Instead of having to contest a General Election, my wife and I have been able to enjoy a truly relaxing break in North West Wales.

For once, I put all thoughts of politics to one side, managed to read a couple of novels and we explored a number of sites including Llyn Crafnant and Llyn Geirionydd, the medieval fortress of Dinas Emrys and the remnants of the slate quarries opposite Llanberis.

We were particularly pleased to be able to visit Cae’r Gors in Rhosgadfan – the childhood home of the Welsh language novelist Kate Roberts (1891-1985). Until recently uninhabited, it has been turned into a heritage centre marking the life of a remarkable woman. It is well worth a visit. See

So it is back to normal life for me now. And you know what that means – work and meetings every single night of this coming week. Great!

Friday, 12 October 2007

More Lib Dem double standards

Make no mistake, Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is delighted that Gordon Brown has chosen not to call a General Election. Like most political parties, we were not prepared for a contest and know that a snap poll would have led to logistical nightmares for all concerned.

Unlike the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, we have no wish to barrack Gordon Brown and keep claiming, very untruthfully, how much we were desperate for an election.

But as in many things, it is the actions of the Liberal Democrats that are the most perplexing.

On the one hand, we have the political bravado of the Lib Dem MPs expressing great disappointment that Brown ‘bottled the election’ and claiming that ‘the Cornish people [should] have their say’ on the choice of successor to Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

But on the other hand, we have the Liberal Democrat controlled County Council arguing that there should not be elections for their transitional unitary authority in May 2008. They want the elections to be delayed until 2009 and the setting up of the new authority to be steered by a ‘Joint Committee’ of appointed councillors with no democratic mandate.

What is more, the Government states that such committees should “reflect the political balance of the area concerned.” Not surprisingly, the Lib Dems are refusing to work to the collective political balance of all seven existing councils in Cornwall. They instead have decided that the only political balance that matters is the make-up of the present County Council – it just happens that this Council happens to be 58.5% Lib Dem (albeit elected via less than 40% of the vote) which would give them a majority on the Committee.

Will the Liberal Democrat MPs join me in condemning the undemocratic and control-freak manner in which the Liberal Democrat administration at County Hall is taking forward the plans for their unpopular and unwanted unitary authority and their cynical manoeuvrings to guarantee a Lib Den majority on the new ‘interim’ Joint Committee? And will they also join me in calling for council elections to be held in Cornwall as soon as possible?

I still cling to the hope that the unitary proposal will not go ahead – but surely the Lib Dems will agree that, if it is to proceed, the people of Cornwall should have their say on who should be in charge of it.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Ten years as Party Leader

Today has been a very important day for me. October 4th 2007 marks the tenth anniversary of my election as the leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

I am extremely proud to have been able to lead MK for this period and I consider it a great privilege to be able to play my part in fighting for a better deal for Cornish communities through the only political party 100% committed to Cornwall.

I would particularly like to take this opportunity to thank Loveday Jenkin and the National Executive for the surprise ‘anniversary’ presentation at our recent Party Conference (see above photograph) and many MK members and supporters for their kind words in recent days.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

A General Election?

The question on the lips of almost all politicians is simply – will there or won’t there be a snap General Election?

There is a real phoney war going on. Gordon Brown appears in the ascendancy but with some leading Tories and Lib Dems calling for an election that they actually do not want. Strange!

I agree with Malcom Rifkind. He has said that "to contemplate a General Election two years after the last General Election when you have a healthy working majority in the House of Commons is a constitutional outrage."

I am a fan of fixed parliaments because I believe that it is simply wrong that the date of polls can be fixed by the incumbent on the basis of narrow political self-interest.

A snap election would also put small parties at a considerable disadvantage to the main political parties and that is also wrong.

But I would say that wouldn’t I?

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.

Monday, 27 August 2007

More on unitary status for Cornwall

It is now over a month since the government gave the go-ahead to Cornwall County Council’s awful bid for unitary status. So what is happening?

There is plenty of worry from employees about their jobs and being able to continue providing quality public services, as well as concern from communities and individuals about what is happening to their local democracy.

We have had many rumours emerging from County Hall. We have heard about their ‘mobilisation phase,’ their ‘ninety day plan,’ their withdrawn ‘ninety day plan,’ various transitional arrangements and the involvement of extremely expensive consultants.

The Department of Communities and Local Government has now launched a consultation on what happens next. It strangely says that “if and when the Local Government and Public Involvement Bill is enacted the Secretary of State will take the final decisions on which unitary proposals are to be implemented,” though I have little hope that the Government will see sense and reverse its decision on the unitary proposal in Cornwall.

The consultation states that it wishes Cornwall County Council to become a ‘transitional authority’ that will then evolve over the following months into the new unitary council by April 2009.

It states that its preferred option is for existing councillors on the County Council to retire one year early in May 2008 when elections for the new / transitional body should be held. But this would mean that the elections would be held on the present electoral boundaries and there is no guidance as to whether there will even be 82 councillors or double that number as latterly suggested by the County Council and MPs. It does however offer the option that the elections could be pushed back and not take place until May 2009, which means that a review of the electoral arrangements might or might not get carried out.

All in all, with the Parliament in recess until the 8th of October and the Local Government and Public Involvement Bill only then getting to the report stage in Lords, it could be some time before the bill is even enacted.

To me, the whole ‘debate’ about unitary government in Cornwall has been farcical from day one and sadly that farce is set continue.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Support affordable housing petition

I am very pleased to be able to give my full support to a petition which is calling on central government to take action to alleviate the housing crisis in Cornwall.

The campaign has been set up by Kate Tregunna who, in spite of doing important work at Treliske Hospital, is unable to gain access to housing that is affordable.

The petition calls for a range of actions to be taken. These include making sure that all new developments contain 50% affordable housing and introducing planning legislation to address the second homes issue.

I hope that you will also wish to support this campaign. Further information is available on and the petition can be found at

In the coming weeks, it is my intention to comment further on the housing crisis in Cornwall.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

The strange things people say

Recent comments about the ‘unitary council’ bid have left me variously annoyed, amused and just plain confused.

I was less than impressed by Andrew George’s comments in last week’s Cornishman newspaper in which he claimed that Cornish Assembly campaigners had joined in ‘opportunistic’ criticisms of the unitary proposal while not setting out a ‘realistic route’ to show how the objective of a Cornish Assembly might be achieved.

I would remind him that Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has been consistent throughout this entire unfortunate episode, arguing that Cornwall needs devolution – not local government reform.

Perhaps Andrew might like to explain to us exactly how his support for the centralisation of local government in Cornwall will deliver devolution when the Department of Communities and Local Government has already made it clear that there will be no extra powers for the new unitary authorities.

And then there was the Mayor of Newquay, a part-time supporter of the unitary bid who believes that Newquay might be allowed to declare UDI. At a recent meeting of Restormel Borough Council, he stood up and declared that he wished to “devolve power to the lowest common denominator.”

Meanwhile, Bert Biscoe has stayed determinedly positive. Commenting on the success of the County Council’s Bid, he concluded with the following paragraph:

“The Liberal Democrats promised to deliver a Cornish Assembly. This will be done by persuasion with an excellent and compelling case. Posturing gets nowhere in the real world. So, away with the elderflower champagne! Let’s get the collective brain in gear – it’s time to step across the unitary stone and head for the Assembly on the other bank, via the Cornish dispersed city region. The ball is firmly in Cornwall’s and Mr Whalley’s court.”

Elderflower champagne … unitary stone … dispersed city region … Whalley! I would be grateful if anyone could provide me with a translation.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A Cultural Strategy for Cornwall?

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has strongly objected to the latest new strategy document from SW quangoland entitled ‘People, Places and Spaces - A Cultural Infrastructure Strategy for the South West.’

Are you ready for this …

The authors of this document have looked at the 21 Strategically Significant Cities and Towns (SSCT) identified by the South West Regional Assembly (SWRA) in the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) and merged some of the SSCTs in the eastern part of the ‘South West’ to create ten Planning Areas for Culture (PAC). One PAC will see the Plymouth SSCT ‘look after’ South East Cornwall and then there is, of course, the PAC centred on the ‘Truro & Camborne / Pool / Redruth & Falmouth / Penryn’ SSCT.

Not sure how to comment further on that!

We have made the suggestion that that they put their document in the bin and instead support the production of a Cultural Strategy for the historic Celtic nation of Cornwall? That can’t be too complicated!

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Questions on the unitary decision

I have written to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to express concern at the undemocratic way in which the County Council’s proposal for a single unitary authority was given the go-ahead.

The decision letter to the Chief Executive of Cornwall County Council stated "the Secretary of State considers that ... the proposal would command a broad cross-section of support from a range of stakeholders, both public and private sector, as well as some support from the general public. She notes that whilst certain districts carried out polling which came down heavily against the unitary proposal, the climate in which the polls took place suggests that the results need to be viewed with caution."

I have requested to be informed how, in spite of such overwhelming opposition, the Secretary of State was able to come to the conclusion that there was a 'broad cross-section of support' for the proposal in Cornwall. At the same time I have asked to be provided with full lists of those organisations and individuals who supported the unitary bid and those who opposed it.

I have also raised concerns about the County Council’s ‘supplementary submission’ to DCLG which contained considerable misinformation and have asked how the Secretary of State assessed this documentation and what weight she gave to it.

The response will be posted as soon as I receive it.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Another blow to Cornish democracy

It is a sad day for democracy with the announcement that the Department for Communities and Local Government intends to impose unitary local government on the people of Cornwall.

One of the criteria by which the DCLG claimed it would assess the various bids for unitary status was a 'broad cross-section of support.' So how could they allow the County Council's bid to proceed, when it was opposed by all six district councils, a majority of town and parish councils, over 80% of local people in a series of district polls and a large number of community and political groups?

I simply cannot comprehend how the views of all these people and organisations can have so easily been disregarded in favour of a bid founded on spin and misrepresentation that even Peter Mandelson would be ashamed to promote.

I find it is particularly galling that the Liberal Democrat county councillors and MPs , who have failed to honour their manifesto commitment to fight for a Cornish Assembly, had the gall to co-opt the language of devolution to justify their local government reforms. They have made claim after claim that by shrinking democracy in Cornwall, we will somehow be allowed extra powers. Such claims are nonsense and do a disservice to the whole political process.

Unlike the Liberal Democrats, MK will continue to campaign for the meaningful devolution of political power to a Cornish Assembly.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Fair funding for MK?

Public funding of political parties is a topical issue with the ‘cash for honours’ scandal, but many people will be unaware that a Review has already reported on the issue of political funding.

The Hayden Phillips Review has recommended that donations from individuals should be capped at £50,000 but, to compensate for this, there should be greater funding allocated to political parties from the public purse. The Review recommends that parties should receive 50p a year for each vote cast for them in the most recent General Election, as well as 25p for every vote in elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the European Parliament.

However, only eligible parties will qualify for taxpayers’ money. To be eligible, parties must have two seats at Westminster or the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or European Parliament and therefore Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall and other small political parties will be excluded from the arrangement.

This proposal is manifestly unfair. Why should parties such as the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Greens all receive 50p per General Election vote – but not MK?

It will be a disgrace if the main parties and then parliament accept the report’s recommendations, which will further institutionalise inequality in Britain’s democratic system. The larger political parties already receive public funding through such mechanisms as policy development grants and in-kind support through free media time for political broadcasts – another part of the political process from which MK is excluded.

I have made representations to Hayden Phillips and the representatives of the three main political parties who are already involved in inter-party talks on this matter and I will keep and one and all posted on developments.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Good riddance to SW Assembly

Mebyon Kernow has welcomed the Government announcement that unelected regional assemblies are to be abolished by 2010. But this good news has been well and truly damaged with the Government’s insistence that the Assembly's ‘responsibilities’ will be passed over to the Regional Development Agency.

What is the point in doing away with one unelected and unaccountable quango, only for another unelected and equally unaccountable quango to take over its role! Where is the democracy in this?

If Gordon Brown is serious about putting trust back into the political system, he needs to devolve decision-making on things such as housing, economic development, planning and the environment to democratically elected politicians that are truly accountable to their local areas. In Cornwall’s case, that means working with local people to create a Cornish Assembly and Cornish Development Agency.”

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Spin, spin and yet more Lib Dem spin

Having just read Cornwall County Council’s ‘supplementary submission’ to the Department of Communities and Local Government in support of their bid for a single unitary authority, I have to say I am very disturbed by their blatant use of misinformation and spin to fabricate a ‘broad cross section of support’ for their proposal.

Misleading document

The County Council document states that it sought the views of the public through a MORI poll, focus groups and the distribution of information leaflets. But it fails to inform central government that the MORI poll was carried out in advance of the details for their bid being worked up and that 91% of those surveyed stated that "they would like more information on any proposal before making up their mind."

The document also fails to include the full facts about the County Council’s disastrous leaflet consultation which did not even reach most homes and were returned by only 665 households. Interestingly, their incredibly biased leaflet still generated more opposition to the County Council’s proposal than support for it.

Rather than acknowledge the widespread opposition to their proposal, their ‘supplementary submission’ prefers to note “the feedback we have received suggests that many people have not fully understood our proposals.”

Considerable space in the document is used to rubbish the polls by four of the district councils and the sample survey carried out by North Cornwall District Council, which shows over 80% of respondents are opposed to the unitary bid. The County Council criticises the content of the material distributed by the district councils, though it was much less biased than their own material and they even had the nerve to “call into question the validity of the result.”

Factually inaccurate

The County Council claims that Restormel Borough Council did not vote to oppose the bid. That is completely incorrect and the Borough Council remains opposed to the ‘One Cornwall’ bid. They also claim that “many of the larger town and parish council have reacted positively” but the reality is that the majority of town and parish councils oppose the bid.

The Council’s ‘supplementary submission’ is shameful propaganda and I believe that the County Council has no option other than to withdraw it immediately and apologise to the people of Cornwall.

A momentous week in Wales

It is to be welcomed that Plaid Cymru has entered coalition government in the Welsh Assembly with Labour with Ieuan Wyn Jones as Deputy First Minister.

This arrangement, which brings together the two largest political parties in Wales, will firstly mean stable government. But the agreement between the parties also commits Labour to a referendum on law-making powers for the Assembly within this next four-tear term, which it has pledged to campaign for a "successful outcome."

Well done Ieuan. Well done Plaid.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Liberal Democrats are misleading Cornwall

Cornwall needs its politicians and community representatives to show vision and leadership to win greater self-government for Cornwall. But we have been failed by the political lightweights who lead the London-biased political parties in Cornwall. This is especially so with the Liberal Democrats who have reneged on their election pledge to fight for a Cornish Assembly.

We must never forget that in 2005, Liberal Democrat candidates for election to Westminster and Cornwall County Council stood, successfully, on a local manifesto which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly. They had a wonderful opportunity to unite Cornwall, to bring local people and their democratic representatives together in a real crusade to build a democracy for Cornwall that would truly be fit for the 21st century. But they chose to do nothing and have squandered our hopes.

And then on 23rd January, 41 members of Cornwall County Council – exactly half of the Council’s membership - voted to submit a bid to central government for Cornwall to be governed by a single unitary authority. Thirty-six of these councillors were Liberal Democrats, supported by three independents and two Labour representatives. Only five of the Liberal Democrats voted against the proposal.

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) consultation ended on 22nd June - the Government’s decision on whether the bid will proceed will be known in late July.

As a result, over the last few months, the people of Cornwall have had to put up with an inordinate amount of spin, half-truths and misinformation spilling forth from County Hall. We have had to watch as they spend thousands and thousands of pounds publicising their flawed plans for democratic reform.

In it they have continued to claim that they would ‘give local communities more say,’ even though decision-making would be centralised to Truro and democracy would be weakened – not enhanced. They also said that it would ‘create a stronger voice for Cornwall,’ even though the government has already made it clear that no extras powers would be devolved to unitary authorities.

What is more, the Liberal Democrats fronting the push for unitary status know that they are misleading local people on this issue. I attended a recent meeting at County Hall, where we were addressed by Mr David Prout, the Director of Local Democracy at the DCLG. When I pressed him on the issue of greater powers, he confirmed that a unitary authority would not be able to draw down powers from regional and central government. He actually said that a “unitary authority will be a unitary authority” and that there were “no goodies” on offer.

Continuing Liberal Democrat assertions that by shrinking democracy in Cornwall, we will somehow be allowed extra powers are frankly nonsense and do a disservice to the whole political process.

We need devolution to Cornwall – not local government reform

The creation of a unitary authority for Cornwall would be just that - a single unitary authority at the expense of the districts and local democracy. One thing it would not be is a Cornish Assembly.

At the present time, the two principal tiers of local government in Cornwall exist beneath the unelected and unaccountable Regional Assembly, the Regional Development Agency and a whole host of SW-based quangos, over which we have no democratic control.

Under proposals for local government reform, this would stay the same. If a Cornish unitary authority was created, important decisions about Cornwall and its future would still be taken outside of Cornwall; the development of planning policies and the decision about the amount of housing to be built within Cornwall would still be agreed by the SW Assembly; the administration of convergence funding for Cornish communities would still be controlled by the Regional Development Agency in Exeter; and the RDA would still have the powers, for example, to compulsorily purchase South Crofty tin mine and surrounding area without recourse to the democratic process.

What is more; a restructuring of local government in Cornwall at this time would be a major and costly upheaval, which would have no real demonstrable benefit. In fact, it could merit a considerable dis-benefit to Cornwall as it might block any pressure for the meaningful devolution of regional powers and we would still only have a local council in Truro.

No to a single unitary authority

On Thursday 26th October 2006, Ruth Kelly launched the latest Local Government White Paper. Among the proposals was the announcement of a “short window of opportunity for a small number of councils to seek unitary status.”

The Liberal Democrat leadership of Cornwall County Council immediately announced that it would be putting together a bid to become a unitary authority though this had not been debated by the full Council.

It should be remembered that these Liberal Democrats were elected in 2005 on a local manifesto which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly. Upon winning control of the Council, they published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. Somewhat predictably, they have failed to do this. And while they actively promote a single council for Cornwall, they are doing nothing to campaign for a Cornish Assembly.

Over-egging the content of the White Paper to a ridiculous extent, the leader of Cornwall County Council David Whalley described it as a “once in a lifetime opportunity to design an improved structure for public services in Cornwall.” He also had the brass neck to tell the people of Cornwall to “have the vision and the courage to come up with 21st century solutions …” It is a shame he does not have the vision and courage to fight for his own Party’s commitment to a Cornish Assembly.

There has also been a lot of disinformation or wishful thinking coming out of the Liberal Democrats. Andrew George MP has made the claim that the White Paper is a “golden opportunity” to create a body to “draw down decision-making power from Government quangos, boards, agencies and other unelected departmental bodies.” Matthew Taylor MP meanwhile claimed that local government reforms would “get some powers back to Cornwall from the South West Region and central government.” Their claims do not stand up to scrutiny while Colin Breed’s assertion that a unitary authority would be “akin to a Cornish Assembly” is palpable nonsense.

The reality is that the so-called devolutionary measures contained in the White Paper are very limited indeed and there is no evidence that meaningful political powers would be decentralised to a Cornish unitary authority.

Welcome to my blog

Mebyon Kernow is presently working on an improved presence on the internet and we will soon be launching a new and improved website to publicise MK activities and our policies.

As a first step, I am very pleased to be launching this blog as Party Leader. I hope you will enjoy the read and it is my intention to post news and views on at least a weekly basis.

About me

My name is Dick Cole and I have been the leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall since 1997.

I joined MK in 1988 and was elected Press and Campaigns Officer four years later. Since then I have been involved in many campaigns for a better deal for Cornwall, which include fighting for fair funding for our public services such as hospitals and schools, protecting the environment and winning local institutions to serve local people.

I have played a leading role in the campaign for greater self-government for Cornwall. I produced the ‘Declaration for a Cornish Assembly’ which was signed by over 50,000 people and, in recent months, I have been heavily involved in the fight against a single unitary authority.

Since 1999, I have also served my local community of St Enoder on Restormel Borough Council and the local Parish Council. In my time on the Borough Council, I have focussed on affordable housing, planning and economic regeneration, particularly in the China Clay Area. I chair Policy and Scrutiny 4 (planning policy committee) which is working to develop more ambitious targets for affordable housing and I also sit on the taskforce set up following the announcement of the forthcoming job cuts at Imerys.

As a local councillor, I am actively involved with a large number of organisations within my ward. I am extremely proud that I have personally been able to raise over £185,000 through grant applications for a range of projects, including a new bandroom for Indian Queens Band.

Brought up just outside Indian Queens, I now live in Fraddon with his wife Ann. I worked in agriculture during the 1980s before going to university in Wales. I work as an archaeologist for the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council.

Friday, 13 July 2007

About Mebyon Kernow

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is a modern and progressive political party. It is a party of principle, campaigning for a better deal for Cornwall and a fairer, more equitable World.

We exist to fight for ALL the people of Cornwall, with a political programme that puts Cornwall first and offers an alternative to the London-centred parties.

It is our belief that the historic nation of Cornwall, with its own distinct identity, language and heritage, has the same right to self-determination as Scotland and Wales. We should have more say in how our lives are run and Mebyon Kernow is leading the campaign for the self-government of Cornwall, through the establishment of a legislative Assembly.

We will play our part in building a confident and outward-looking Cornwall, that has the power to take decisions for itself. To achieve this, our detailed policies are founded on the core values of prosperity for all, social justice and environmental protection.


• Mebyon Kernow is committed to a society based on real equality of opportunity, helping people to achieve their full potential in life. We want Cornwall and its communities to be successful, with all residents sharing equally in that success through thriving businesses, worthwhile and secure employment, decent wages, access to genuinely affordable housing and good quality public services.


• The Party for Cornwall is committed to a just and fair society. We believe that effective public intervention is needed to combat poverty, tackle social deprivation and fight for the disadvantaged. We will strive to build strong inclusive communities with free and equal access to well-funded education, healthcare and welfare services, run for the benefit of everyone.


• Safeguarding the environment is central to Mebyon Kernow’s policies. The World faces severe environmental crises, which require radical action on a worldwide basis to promote real sustainability. Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall will not shirk from difficult decisions to protect and enhance the environment for future generations.

Mebyon Kernow is international in outlook. Our vision for Cornwall and the World is underpinned by respect for the diversity of the planet, both its human cultural traditions and its natural environment. We believe that nations and regions must work together to promote greater understanding, foster peace and help reduce global inequality, so that all peoples, families and individuals can live their lives free from conflict, poverty, exploitation and environmental degradation.