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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What is our Local Plan for?

Increasingly it is becoming clear that the Cornwall Local Development Plan is not about delivering local solutions for local needs but more about delivering a Cornish solution to UK need.

Why should Cornwall provide solutions for the problems of the South East of England? Or are we just NIMBYs here and we should all pull together in the UK to solve problems everywhere? I guess the answer to that depends on which side of the Tamar your heart lies.

Whether it's top down imposition of Westminster policy or selective misuse of statistics to prove why the Westminster driven policy is correct we are told that we have to develop a plan for Cornwall which will mean us building houses that local people can't afford and don't actually need.

All the time we are thrown the odd crumb of comfort and told that Westminster truly believes in localism.

After all, it is our democratically elected councillors that are driving the plan and there are lots of mechanisms that allow small communities to drill down into the detail of the plan and shape their own living places.

Except this isn't quite true is it?

Nearly a year ago our democratically elected councillors decided on housing numbers after months of deliberation and debate. The only trouble is our unelected officers have decided that we will never get our plan past London unless we up the numbers dramatically. And so the numbers are endlessly debated and revised until we get the right answer. Very clever because ultimately it will be us that have produced the plan and so how can we blame anyone else?

Those crumbs of comfort? Well there are always Neighbourhood Development Plans. Remember these? NDPs are where we can do our own plan at town or parish level and - as long as we build the number of houses we are told to - we can at least decide where to put all the development that is being imposed on us.

Somehow I don't think that even this minimal local say was acceptable to the profit seeking developers. We now have an 'Allocations Development Plan' which will sit beneath the Local Plan and dictate areas that are to be allocated for development. So much for NDPs. So much for Westminster localism.

I hope that I am wrong and that I have read the 'scoping' consultation wrong - not too optimistic on that though.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

More Westminster Party Hypocrisy

On Twitter we have Tories and Lib Dems arguing about housing numbers for Cornwall and who is responsible for the proliferation of second homes.

The answer is clear - Westminster politicians of all colours!

While Labour are quite open about their plans to concrete over Cornwall, the Tories and Lib Dems offer us 'presumptuon in favour of growth' while mounting NIMBY campaigns in their individual divisions.

The only party with a clear policy on new housing based on local need is Mebyon Kernow. We are demanding a law making Cornish Assembly which would put us in charge of our own planning laws and we have a policy that puts building homes for local need ahead of building houses to 'stimulate the economy' and create headline 'success' stories.

We need jobs more than houses.

On a wide range of issues Cornwall's politicians support their Westminster head office and then try and persuade us that they are working to mitigate the effects of Westminster's lack of knowledge and understanding of Cornwall.

Dick Cole was right - if  your local Westminster politician really wanted to do what was right for Cornwall they would say no to their London bosses and stand up for Cornwall - resign from the party and make the point.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Establishment

It happens all the time.

People fighting for the Cornish cause come up against 'The Establishmen'.

Of course no-one believes that it can be possible in these days of 'freedom of information' and 'democratic accountability'. Conspiracy theorists are always loonies aren't they? That is the lie that continues to lie deep in the black heart of the back corridors of power and influence.

Dr John Kirkhope is beginning to expose this lie.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Does size matter?

You're too small!

Leaving aside the "carry on" doble entendres, is this really true?

Is Cornwall too small to be a viable national unit as the unionits would have us believe?

This is the argument that I strugge to understand more than any other. It really puzzles me when I look around the world.

Do the 'too small brigade' mean population, geographic area, resources, or economy? I'm not sure they know themselves.

In terms of population - Cornwall has around 525,000 people (very approximate I know). The following is a selection of (there are quite a few more) independent countries (and remember that we are not calling for independence) with less than 1,000,000 population.

Cyprus - 866k
Fiji - 858k
Guyana - 785k
Montenegro - 620k
Luxembourg - 537k
Malta - 416k
Iceland - 325k
Lichtenstein - 37k
Monaco - 36k
San Marino - 32k

In addition there are around twenty countries with a population between 1 million and 3 million. Including places like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

I think you would have to agree that a small population doesn't mean that it is impossible to function as a distinct unit.

In terms of geography there are around 25 independent nations which have a smaller area that Cornwall.

Cornwall probably has a lot more going for it than many countries in terms of natural resources.

Cornwall has access to wonderful renewable energy resources.

It has a thriving tourist industry - which could be made more sustainable and which could benefit the Cornish economy a lot more.

Cornwall also has plentiful mineral deposits. The copper and tin (plus many other precious metals) never ran out - we just need to figure out how to mine them cost effectively.

Cornwall is also (just about still) a place of agriculture and is surrounded on three sides by the sea. No wonder we are renowned for our high quality food.

Does size matter? It's probably doess - but what is more important is what you do with what you've got!

Friday, 22 November 2013

We don't have people with the skills to run a national government!

In this blog, forming part of a series of law-making Cornish Assembly entries, I would like to look at whether the people of Cornwall need to rely on experts in Westminster to run their lives.

The favourite mantra of Westminster unionist politicians is "Too poor, too small, too stupid". This can be disguised in many ways or just simply put out in a completely overt manner. When it comes to 'too stupid' it is usually fairly subliminal types of propaganda that are used. Perhaps, they don't want to provoke people to reacting against the message that they aren't capable of fending for themselves - just let it wash over and sink in. If you tell a lie often enough it is soon believed as a truth.

On my Facebook page a doughty Cornish patriot has written:

           "Can't is a favourite Anglophile word that is used extensively to subdue the Cornish"

I'm sure that this applies more widely than simply to Cornish folk and politics - and is probably more a reflection of what the establishment do in general everywhere. Certainly though, this is never truer than when political, administrative and establishment body job vacancies are filled.

Time after time Cornwall looks upcountry to recruit people for the top jobs. We are told that there aren't the people in Cornwall who are capable of doing the job. Cornwall can't do it.

There is sometimes talk of conspiracy theories - and how handing out the jobs of leadership, power and influence to non-Cornish folk is part of the plot by the English Imperial State to keep the natives subdued. This kind of thinking usually results in cognitive dissonance for most people who can't bring themselves to think in terms of their government behaving in this manner. Yet we are constantly reminded that many things go on behind closed doors down the dark back passages of the corridors of power. Only last night I saw a documentary which revealed a systematic British army policy of shoot to kill during the Northern Ireland troubles. There were probably a few people in Northern Ireland who aren't too surprised but I bet many in South East England still don't believe that such a thing could be done in their name and that the producers of the documentary probably had some sort of axe to grind - cognitive dissonance.

Whatever your view on conspiracy theories - I can't for one moment believe that there are not people in Cornwall who are capable of holding down positions of leadership and authority and doing a good job to boot. Cornwall has produced people like Trevithick, Davy, Bickford, Tangye and the list goes on and on - probably the greatest innovators and engineers of all time - people who have actually got things done rather than let off a lot of hot air and ended up exactly where they started or worse. Don't tell me that there is no-one capable of the innovative leadership that we need in Cornwall to begin to get the economy and society moving again.

To look at the thing in a negative way - how can we have people that are worse than Cameron, Clegg, Milliband and Farage? If we have no better people, we certainly don't have any worse!

How can someone sitting in an office 300 miles away know better than someone who lives, works and plays in Cornwall?

Cornwall can provide the people needed to make a national government a success - we just have to find them and convince them that it's a job worth doing.

.... and stop saying can't!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Another letter to Nick Clegg


I have written to Nick Clegg again - maybe I will get a reply this time - not really holding my breath!

Dear Mr Clegg,


Constitutional Arrangements Following Scottish Independence


I refer to my letter of April this year concerning the constitutional status of the Duchy of Cornwall and the reply that I received from your Correspondence Officer dated May 1st.


I think that I am correct in the belief that the Rt. Hon. Stephen Gilbert MP recently informed you of the meaning of the Cornish term ‘dreckly’. At the time you had not heard the term before and you did not understand its meaning. I would suggest that, when your Correspondence Officer wrote to me in May stating that - ‘Your letter is receiving attention.’ - what should have been stated was ‘Your letter will be receiving attention dreckly’. I am still waiting for a substantive reply to my letter.


In case my first letter has been lost I have enclosed a further copy for your records and I hope and trust that I will receive a substantive reply in due course. It seems that the issue of the constitutional status of the Duchy of Cornwall will not be allowed to be buried in Government bureaucracy for much longer. More and more issues – such as the recent squabble between the Duchy and the Crown over the rights to ‘Royal Mines’ – are being highlighted in the public arena on a regular basis. Cornwall deserves that the full facts – which have a huge impact on the lives of people living in Cornwall – are fully revealed so that modernising reforms can be planned.


Further, and separately, to the issue of the true constitutional status of the Duchy of Cornwall, I write on behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall concerning the constitutional settlement should Scotland become an independent country next year.


I understand that, along with the vast majority of people in England, your education and upbringing will have meant that you do not have a great understanding of Cornish history, culture or politics.


Mebyon Kernow is a political party which has been established for over 60 years. Given the limited resources, compared to those received by the Westminster based parties, the party ‘punches well above its weight’ in Cornwall. It has seen considerable electoral success in local council elections. In the seats where it stood candidates in May, those candidates received the third highest average vote - ahead of both Labour and UKIP. In the last European elections in 2009 Mebyon Kernow received over 7% of the vote in Cornwall – again beating Labour.


In 2001 Mebyon Kernow collected 50,000 individual declarations from the people of Cornwall in support of a law-making Assembly for Cornwall.


I have provided these brief examples of recent Cornish political history to illustrate the depth of feeling in Cornwall on the issue of Cornish self-determination. As I have previously suggested, this depth of feeling in Cornwall may have escaped your general educational upbringing and a remote Westminster office is unlikely to have highlighted it in more recent times.


To return to the point of this letter, when, as it seems to be daily becoming more probable, Scotland votes for independence, there will not just be one new country but two. The UK will not be the UK any longer but a new country all together. Within the current UK set-up we already have various devolved national governments. Without Scotland the whole basis of the new ‘rump’ UK will need to be reviewed and modernising arrangements agreed between the various national governments.


Can you please set out what arrangements are being made for the negotiations and discussions concerning new constitutional arrangements that will be required when Scotland becomes an independent nation? Can you also please confirm that, when these negotiations and discussions take place, representatives of Cornwall will be invited? Further, please confirm that arrangements will be discussed for providing a road map setting out a timetable for a referendum of the people of Cornwall on a devolutionary settlement resulting in a national law-making Cornish Assembly.


I would be grateful if, when your Correspondence Officer makes an initial reply and acknowledgement to this letter, they could indicate a time frame within which a substantive reply might be expected.


Yours etc

How will you pay for an Assembly - Cornwall can't afford it!

Next up in my series of blogs looking at some of the myths that the opponents of devolution often peddle is that old chestnut of affordability.

How often do you hear "An Assembly will never work - how can we possibly afford it?" Of course the Westmister parties quite often preface this at the moment with "In these times of austerity ..."

This question and the underlying sentiment shows a woeful lack of knowledge on behalf of the peson posing it.

If you're not really into politics then you might not know why the question is ridiculous - it might even seem quite reasonable. If you are a unionist politician then you probably know why it is ridiculous - and yet you will continue to pose it because it is a great way to pull the rug from under a desire for democratic self-determination.

The way that devoloution works is that a financial settlement is is negotiated and then this settlement becomes the budget of the devolved body. Very simple really.

For Cornwall the settlement will be based on what the UK governement would normally expect to spend on the areas of devolved government in Cornwall. In other words a law-making Cornish Assembly would not cost anybody any more than they already pay.

People across the UK pay taxes and some of the tax is used to pay for government services in Cornwall. Devolution would give the power to Cornwall to decide how best to spend the money that is already being spent - no additional costs for either people who live in Cornwall or those that live elesewhere.

In fact there is a strong argument that devolution would save the UK money in the long term. Westminster has done an awful job of looking after Cornwall's economy. Our GDP is less than 75% of the European average - our economy is similar to that of several Eastern European countries. This is why we qualify for European funding. We believe that a Cornish Assembly could improve our economy as it would understand it a lot better than an assistant to an under-under secretary working from a broom ccupboard 300 miles away in London. If the economy improves then Cornwall would contribute more to the UK pot through a higher amount of tax.

We do need to negotiate a realistic settlement in first place though. Westminster has consistently underfunded Cornwall for decades - to Cornwall's detriment and to the advantage of English regions and cities. We need a fair settlement based on what the UK government should be spending in Cornwall compared to England. Wales received a notoriously unfair settlement and getting a fair amount of funding from Westminster is now proving to be like trying to wring blood from a stone.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Cornwall an independent country?

Mebyon Kernow is on the campaign trail!

We intend to campaign long and hard to make the case for a law-making Cornish Assembly - devolution for Cornwall.

Devolution for Cornwall is Mebyon Kernow's flagship policy. It is the policy which interconnects with every single one of our social justice principles. It is the mechanism through which we will deliver a better social programme than any of the Westminster parties could make a false promise to attempt.

With a law-making Cornish Assembly in the news I wanted to do a brief series of blog entries looking at some of the myths that the 'nay-sayers' would have us believe.

The first issue that I want to address is:

      "Cornwall wouldn't be able to survive as an independent country"

Of course this is a completely misleading and nonsensical argument against the Mebyon Kernow proposal for a law-making Cornish assembly.

The statement is utterly irrelevant to the argument in favour of a Cornish Assembly and is typical of the scaremongering tactics that are used by unionist politicians.

It is irrelevant because I can't think of a single serious and well established organisation that is campaigning for Cornish independence from the UK. Mebyon Kernow's campaign is for devolution of power - not to become a stand alone nation state.

Our ethos is that decisions are best made at the lowest level possible - a principle known as subsidiarity.

We believe that there is a democratic mandate for genuine law making powers to be devolved to the people of Cornwall. Fifty thousand people have signed declarations that they believe that a Cornish assembly is required to set the right democratic priorities for Cornwall - so we are not alone!

Not only do we believe that there is a democratic mandate but we also believe that an Assembly is actually the best way to begin to tackle the distinct social and economic problems that we face here in Cornwall. How can a remote government in Westminster understand the nuances of Cornish culture and blend of economic factors that make up our society.

Let's be clear - Mebyon Kernow is not asking for SS Kernow to be cast adrift from the fleet - we simply want to have a Cornish captain with the power to run his/her ship to the best of their ability.

Cornwall doesn't need to be able to survive as an independent country - but couldn't it do a whole lot better for its people if it were able to look to itself to solve problems?

The Westminster unionist political parties (which have UKIP at the forefront) want to maintain the status quo because it suits them all. They all receive funding from big organisations and corporations who all insist on a political pay back at some stage. The local representatives of the London parties will be hoping to climb the political career ladder and, just like the parties will need to answer to their corporate financiers, so their members will have to toe the party line or face the consequences. They will continue to scaremonger, belittle and criticise and tell us why a Cornish Assembly would be the beginning of the end.

We will encourage hope for a brighter future and set out a path to reach it.

We don't have any political masters in London to answer to - we believe in the democratic right of the people of Cornwall to be able to run their own affairs.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Conference 2013 - a positive nod to the future


The Mebyon Kernow conference this year was a very positive one.

Whether it was Dick's wide ranging speech, or the equally wide ranging set of motions that conference approved, the mood was one of going forward.

I had been asked to present feedback from the recent members' consultation on our law-making assembly policy. A review which has provided the basis of a renewed campaign for a Cornish Assembly leading up to the Scottish vote on independence.

Here is an abridged text of my presentation:

Now – I’ve been asked to do two things today. First to provide conference with an update on the review of our Cornish self-government policy. But I’ve also been given the extremely exciting task of announcing a new MK campaign which, with conference’s approval, will take us up to Scotland’s independence vote in September next year and beyond.

2014 is going to be fun!

To start though - I would like to congratulate our leader, Dick Cole, for his excellent key note speech. Keslowena Dick!

The coaltion certainly makes it easy for us to criticise their inability to provide social leadership in difficult times – and Dick clearly highlighted their default position - which seems to be to make life even harder for those who are already suffering the most.

You know - just this morning I saw that David Cameron said that:

“The country is moving forward on the big issues” ….. Yep Dave there’s a lot more people selling them now than ever before!

And the Liberal Democrats are no less out of touch. For example Vince Cable said that the loss of the UK’s triple A rating didn’t actually matter much in the big scheme of things. It was merely symbolic anyway - a bit like Nick Clegg then really don’t you think?

Then there’s the Labour party.

Now sometimes people are so unfair to the Labour Party.

I mean – after all - they’ve got a lot of good ideas and policies that could well bring a brighter future for Britain.

The only problem is that voters seem determined to judge them on their last 13 years of government instead.

I was also going to do a joke about the coalition but then I did a U–turn and deemed it unnecessary.

Of course now, as always - whatever colour the politicians in Downing Street are currently sporting - Cornwall is being hit harder and more disproportionately than anywhere in the English homelands. For Cornwall austerity is a heaven sent excuse for London to continue the chronic lack of investment in Cornwall’s society and to justify a lack of knowledge or interest in the development of our economy.

Now – more than ever – we deserve a law-making assembly of our own. An assembly made up from people who live, learn, work and play in Cornwall. An assembly which understands the unique challenges which face us. An Assembly which will act in the best interests of Cornwall at all times.

Mebyon Kernow is the only political party in Cornwall that will put Cornwall first. You people sitting right here today are the ambassadors for a truly big idea – an idea which offers a democratic way forward for the people of Cornwall. You all know how crucial a law-making assembly is for Cornwall and each one of you is fighting to make it a reality – thank you all very much.

Following the Cornwall Council elections in May, our party has been conducting a review of its self-government policy. The review has been widely publicised within the party and all members have had a chance to participate. The members’ consultation period finished at the end of September and the review team have looked at all of the contributions; put together some draft proposals and these proposals have been scrutinised by the NEC.

In fact, what has emerged from the process is that we already have a robust set of principles and individual policies in place and these principles and policies command a consensus from the membership of the party.

However, an important caveat has also emerged. What we have found is that - while the consensus of the party is actually a strong agreement with existing policy – it is clear that members are not all entirely clear as to what the full extent and detail of our policy is - this is challenge that we will be addressing in the next few months.

The party will be producing a detailed document which will draw together all of the strands of our policy within the self-government and Cornish recognition headings. The intention is that this detailed document will set out our values and ideas. It will encourage communication and consistency within the party and it will be a tool for the branches, spokespeople and our election candidates to use.

We shall also produce a shorter, summary document - and possibly a single page leaflet which can again be used by officers, activists and members to communicate with the public and media.

In the meantime I do have a single sheet hand-out available if anyone wants to see a list of the bullet point policies that will be incorporated into the policy document.

Before I move on I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who took the time and trouble to respond to the consultation. Your responses have informed the action that we will now take - the action that the party needs to take in order to get our flagship message across.

Now for the even more exciting bit of news!

The 18th September 2014 will see the Scottish people vote for independence. …… No that’s not the news even though it is very exciting!

Ultimately this vote for independence will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom, as Scotland heads off into its own thrilling and challenging future. In the meantime we will be left with a ‘rump’ United Kingdom. A brand new entity on the global map. The question is - what plans are being made to provide a modern constitution for the government of the rump UK and for the renegotiation of existing devolution settlements?

Well, naturally, there is a profound silence from Westminster on this issue. The London based parties are burying their heads deep in the sand of the scaremongering ‘better together’ campaign.

Mebyon Kernow believes that, when Scottish independence takes place, Cornwall deserves a seat at the negotiating table. We are the only party that is likely to demand a seat for Cornwall, as an equal, when the talks take place. We should be there alongside Wales, Northern Ireland, England and the Crown dependencies when the future of Southern Britain is laid out. What better time to initiate meaningful devolution to Cornwall – right at the start of a new era!

And this is the exciting challenge that the NEC is asking you all to take up. We have nine months to go before Scottish independence – let’s get our message out there!

Let’s use the next nine months to run a campaign. A campaign involving everyone - the NEC and the leadership team, MK councillors and most importantly activists and grass-roots members. Let’s state the case for a law-making Cornish Assembly – and let’s make our voice heard from Lands End to John O’Groats.

There are several ideas and plans already being formulated.

We hope to organise a fact finding visit to the Welsh Assembly to learn exactly how a devolved government functions.

Of course we have a new policy document which will be coming on-stream very soon.

We also have a wonderful opportunity for our prospective parliamentary candidates to campaign long and hard on this issue and get some momentum going before May 2015.

But we also need the branches and individuals to get involved. We will be asking you to organise your own local events to highlight the case that MK will make for a Cornish law-making Assembly.

To get the ball rolling Dick Cole, through the NEC, wants us all to get out to the public and to the great and the good of Cornwall. Ask them to sign up their support for our campaign. Dick has produced a declaration similar to that which was used 12 years ago when MK famously collected 50,000 declarations in support of Cornish devolution.

So what do you think? Personally I believe that this is a great idea.

In fact I will formally propose the motion that:

“Conference supports and endorses the launch of the “Cornwall deserves a law-making Assembly” statement and that this will form a significant part of Mebyon Kernow’s core activities over the next 12 months.”

The motion was passed unanimously!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The UK is heading for Victorian levels of inequality

All of the Westminster parties, whether blue, red or orange tories, are guilty of a political ideology that plays on people's fears and panders to their selfishness.

We are told that poor people are to blame for all of our ills and that they are holding us back. If we could just jettison the shirkers we would all be ok.

Take a look at this video and see how fair a society we have today after more than three decades of Thatcherism.

Opportuity for all?

The UK is heading for Victorian levels of inequality

Westminster Imposed Planning

Last Tuesday saw the latest round of officer driven housing target inflation. See here.

Despite the fact that Cornwall Council, in its "Full Council, 123 elected representatives" form has already voted for a housing target of 42,000 new houses to be included in our Local Plan - the officers, cabinet members bamboozled by the officers and councillors with an interest in 'regeneration' want more. It is clear that a Local Plan will not be presented to Westminster until our elected representatives have been browbeaten into agreeing agreed with the unelected officials.

Only the evidence that is robust is allowed to carry any weight and it seems that the definition of robust is whatever supports the imposition of housing in Cornwall to meet the needs of Westminster's planning scheme.

We are told that we have to have some unknown amount of housing or else Westminster will put a red pencil line through our 'Local' Plan.

Of curse the argument that is made to try and persuade your everyday voter is that there is a housing crisis and we need to build our way out of it. We need to build affordable homes.

In Cornwall the average house costs 8 times the average wage. Most lenders will only provide a mortgage 4 times the applicants wage. This means that, to allow an average person in Cornwall to buy an average house, house prices would need to halve or wages would need to double. There is no chance of the latter and not even the gung-ho development brigade will give you any kind of figure as to how many houses would need to be built in order to reduce the cost of a house.

The problem is that the housing market doesn't work that way. If you build more houses you don't simply decrease demand in Cornwall you will increase it. This is because the vast majority of extra properties can't be bought by locals so logically must be purchased by wealthy people from outside Cornwall. Building houses will not have any significant impact on housing people who are in need in Cornwall. It will simply act to keep the average wage down because there will be more people living here without any extra jobs being created. In fact building more houses will make the situation worse.

What about affordables you ask? Well the problem is that 'affordable' in Westminster speak does not mean 'affordable' as you would find it in a dictionary. In housing terms 'affordable' has many different, convoluted definituons which really mean bugger all. And even when a developer agrees to build a small number of affordables this agreement (rarely actually carried out as initially agreed) it just means that open market house prices are inflated further to ensure that a 'reasonable' profit is made.

At the Plaid Cymru conference last week, Leanne Wood denounced the fact that Wales is a net exporter of energy and yet has the highest energy costs in the UK. She said that if the market isn't working for the public then the public should take back the market. This is the only way that Cornwall will be able to sort out its housing challenges. We need to demand control over our own planning system - root and branch. We need a national legislative assembly for Cornwall.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Nick Clegg - Master of Dreckly

Stephen Gilbert MP has attempted to chivvy Nick Clegg on devolution of a few extra powers to Cornwall Council. He has asked a nonplussed Clegg to ensure that the powers are devolved with more speed and not 'dreckly'. Of course the Deputy PM didn't have an idea of what he was talking about.

Good luck with that Steve!

I wrote to Mr Clegg back in April this year. In May I received a reply from his office which stated that my letter was receiving attention. Not heard from them since.

My substantive reply will be dreckly then I guess.

Monday, 14 October 2013

People Power!

Well done to the residents of the Penwrtha estate in Illogan!

Anyone who has visited the area will know that the open areas are kept immaculately maintained. The grass is cut, cuttings picked up and taken away, hedges trimmed and borders kept tidy. Quite simply it is a pleasure to visit and must be great to live there.

Recently Coastline wanted to replace the contractor who does such a good job and reduce their costs by replacing him with a bigger outfit. Residents knew the value of the service that they were getting as compared with simply haggling about the cost. They have campaigned to make sure that their groundsman is kept in place - even though this means they may pay a little more for the service. For once, ordinary people have taken on anonymous bureacracy and won.

This, for me, is a triumph for community over establishment profiteering. If more people in society were prepared to follow their example and stand up for the good of the community then the world would be a much better place. Well done Penwartha!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Plaid Cymru Conference 2013

As I was packing up my Mebyon Kernow roll-up banner a conference delgate came over and said how much he had enjoyed my speech and that it had challenged his view of Cornwall. If there had been nothing else to take away from Aberystwyth, the 600 mile round trip would have been worth it for those words alone. For me that was one of the objectives of going to Wales, to challenge the false assertion, continuosly ingrained by our English dominated education system that Cornwall is just an administrative county of England.

Yet there was so much more to bring back from Cymru.

There was the sense of purpose and determination that Plaid has a plan and knows exactly where it is going. A plan which is distinctly bereft of Tory principles, in stark contrast to any of the big Westminster parties. A plan for government and leadership of Wales rather than being content with a junior coalition role. A plan to put Wales first - whether it's by Plaid's committment to providing 1000 new doctors or by tackling a failing energy market. A market which has meant that while, in net terms, Wales exports energy, the people of Wales still pay more in proportion than anywhere else in the UK. "How is that fair? .... If the markets are failing the public then it is time that the public take back the markets"

But it's not just Leanne Wood's key note speech or the appearances on national TV. Plaid Cymru is not just a one trick pony like UKIP with their fags and booze leader Nigel Farage.

The breadth and depth of their expertise and experience is growing all the time. Whether it's the headline grabbing, charismatic Rhun ap Iowerth - taking the recent Anglesey bye-election with a staggering 58% of the vote, or the professionals - the businessmen, economists and banking specialists that are joining the party in ever increasing numbers. Plaid is a party built on teamwork and shared responsibility. Building on the bedrock of generations of Welsh nationalism and reaching for the stars.

The message is that the current Welsh government is bereft of ideas and if they don't act to take Wales forward then the next Plaid led government will.

And it's not just Leanne Wood leading from the front that is driving Plaid forward. The backbone of Plaid, the local councillors and activists, are keeping the party grounded and insisting that people are put at the centre of policy. Working tirelessly to make sure that people are put before bureacracy and that doing the right thing is put before party politics. These are the people that are really making the difference.

For me the lesson of #PC13 and the last two years is summed up by Ben Stein when he said:

"Jump into the middle of things, get your hands dirty, fall flat on your face and then reach for the stars."

Saturday, 12 October 2013

My speech at the 2013 Plaid Conference

Below is the text of my speech given at the Plaid Cymru conference in Aberystwyth.





Charles – Prince of Wales - Duke of Cornwall – he received 19 million pounds from the Duchy of Cornwall last year. Let me put that another way for you - whenever His Royal Highness goes to bed he earns over 19 and a half thousand pounds just by getting a solid nine hours sleep – that’s more than either the average Welsh or Cornish person earns for a whole year of hard work – this is something that the people of Wales and Cornwall have in common.

Hedhyw, mall yw genev a vires orth nebes taklow a gevren Kembra ha Kernow.  Keffrys — orth diwedh ow thermyn genowgh — my a vynn govyn orthowgh hwi oll konsydra gul unn dra pur sempel. Neppyth a allsa agan gweres, an werin a drig dhe West a’n Tamar, yn agan kaskyrgh rag digresennans rag Kernow.

Ond yn gyntaf hoffwn ddiolch i chi am adael i mi siarad â chi i gyd heddiw - diolch yn fawr! Diolch yn fawr hefyd i'r tîm sydd wedi trefnu dau ddiwrnod mor ddiddorol a llawn gwybodaeth. Rwyf wedi teithio tri Chan milltir i fod yma ac mae hi wedi bod yn werth chweil. Dw i'n mwynhau croeso cynnes a chwmpeini gwych - diolch yn fawr.

Of course Plaid Cymru has a record of supporting us Cornish nationalists - across the Celtic Sea in Cornwall. Many Plaid members have visited the Duchy of Cornwall and provided encouragement and motivation for the members of the Party for Cornwall.
But there are two people in particular that I would like to take this opportunity to thank in person. First of all - our inspirational leader - Leanne Wood. I only became interested in politics about three or four years ago. I had been living in Cornwall for a couple of years and I joined Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall. In becoming a Cornish nationalist, my eyes were opened to the injustices suffered by the other constituent nations of the UK. I joined Plaid Cymru in early 2012 and one of my first actions as a member of Plaid was to vote in the leadership contest. I voted for Leanne as someone that I thought would be brave and bold and who would challenge the Unionist establishment head on. I have to say that I haven’t been disappointed. Under Leanne’s leadership, Plaid has challenged unionism, tory ideology and red tory hypocrisy in Wales and at Westminster.
My Cornish friends and I will strive to hold the Unionist establishment to account in Cornwall - as effectively as Plaid Cymru is doing in Wales with Leanne at the helm.
Also I must say thank you to Jonathan Edwards. Thank you for taking the time out from a busy schedule as a relatively new MP and making the trip to darkest Cornwall.
Jonathan attended our 60th anniversary conference in 2011 and he also went on to put down an early day motion in the Commons. The EMD noted Mebyon Kernow’s achievement in obtaining 50,000 declarations for a Cornish Assembly in 2001 and Jonathan called on the government to form such an assembly.
I remember Jonathan’s speech at our conference that year - it discussed the crisis facing Unionism. If anything, that speech is becoming more and more relevant as the months go by. Thank you Jonathan.
And talking about the crisis facing unionism - Thursday 18th September 2014 and the days following Scotland’s referendum will be fascinating to live through and remember - and I hope that Wales will get its own chance to vote on independence very soon afterwards.
But, now - to return to my theme – what do Wales and Cornwall have in common.
Well - there is genetics for a start. The Welsh people and the Cornish are cousins - the indigenous peoples of the British Isles who were here long before successive waves of Romans, Vikings and Anglo Saxons plundered their way from the East.
Each has a Brythonic language – Welsh and Cornish are still very similar even though people now using these languages were separated some fifteen hundred years ago.
And we both know that we form a nation in our own right. That we are best served by shaping our own destiny - by making our own way in emerging global communities. Not by being separatist - as unionists would make out – but through close co-operation with others. Close co-operation which is on equal terms and not based on us being dependent.
On a lighter note both Wales & Cornwall have the odd male voice choir, both are extremely good at digging holes whether it’s for coal or for tin – and, of course, both enjoy beating the English at rugby!
But we also face similar challenges. We suffer from a lack of investment. A lack of investment in our health care, a lack of investment in our schools, a lack of investment in our infrastructure, jobs, technology and sport and the list goes on. As a result our GDP is depressed - depressed to the point that we both qualify for support from the European Union as two of the poorest regions of Europe.
However, we both know for sure that we are not to poor, not too small and not too stupid to put these things right for ourselves given the tools to do so.
Another challenge that we share is a lack of opportunity to make our case for devolution or independence to the ordinary woman or man on the street. Biased media and establishment institutions mean that we have to work harder to get the same bang for our buck - to get the same level of information out to the public that unionist politicians do with ease.
Here in Wales Plaid Cymru struggles to get a fair report when it achieves success. Can I just take a moment, on behalf of Mebyon Kernow, to congratulate Rhun ap Iorweth on his stunning victory in the recent Ynys Mon election. Well done Rhun keslowena! A Plaid Cymru candidate achieved 58% of the vote – truly spectacular - yet what do the Unionist press concentrate on - the fact that UKIP came third – that level of bias is quite simply breath-taking.
And we in Cornwall face a similar challenge - but for us Cornish nationalists the challenge is compounded by a media bias which denies that there is even a nation for us to be nationalist about. Our challenge is dealing with unionist institutions which play down - and usually deny - the very existence of the Cornish nation. And this is the point where I want to ask you all to consider doing one simple thing that would help us immeasurably in our campaign for devolution.
What we need is recognition. We need to be able to communicate to the people of Cornwall that we deserve, as of right, to be considered a country separate to England. If we could show that other nations shared our knowledge and belief it would help us no end. This is the simple thing that I want to ask you to do for us.
When you talk to the media about the constituent nations of the Island of Britain – when you talk about Wales, Scotland and England could you occasionally just throw Cornwall into the mix?
Just imagine if the next time that Leanne Wood is on Question Time she mentioned Cornwall alongside Wales and Scotland. Can you imagine the effect that would have on the morale of our members? Can you imagine what questions people, brainwashed by Westminster propaganda, would begin to ask? And just imagine the discomfort that this would cause unionist bigots?
So there you are. Thank you for allowing me to speak here today. Thank you for listening to some of the things that I believe Wales and Cornwall share. And remember - please include Cornwall in the list of countries that are not England.


Diolch.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A Cornish Legislative Assembly - twelve months to get the message across

With just twelve months to go, the subject of Scottish independence and what this might mean for the UK is suddenly becoming very news worthy.

Even Mebyon Kernow has been allowed some air time - which makes a pleasant change to normal!

As you would expect, Mebyon Kernow already has very detailed policies on a Cornish Assembly. Unfortunately we have not always been too good at communicating those details - either to the people of Cornwall or, indeed, to our own members. The current members' consultation will confirm the policies that are in place, codify and clarify them and allow members to update them where necessary. We will then be in a much better position to take the battle to unioinists in this important period before the Scottish referendum.

The final draft of our new and codified policy, based on what the members are saying, will be put before the delegates at our conference on Saturday November 16th (put the date in your diaries). Then, with the members' final approval we can begin to take the battle to oppnents of democracy in a positive, detailed and consistent way. I say opponents of democracy - that is because the Party for Cornwall believes that the golden thread, the thread that runs through all of the arguments surrounding devoltion is democracy. The people of Cornwall, people who work here and live here, should have the right to say how decisions that affect Cornwall are taken. MK believes that those decisions should be taken by the people of Cornwall rather than an office full of suits 300 miles away in Westminster.

In the meantime I would like to think that we can start to debunk some of the myths that unionist politicians and advocates are keen to peddle when it comes to devolution for Cornwall.

For example it is important that we make it absolutely clear that a legislative Cornish Assembly would not be an expensive extension to local government but a national body capable of making strategic decisions for Cornwall. A body that can map a way forward in these difficult economic times - a map that doesn't have London at its centre.

Also, all too often opponents of devolution ask how much it will all cost. How can poor little Cornwall afford to survive by itself?

This is actually two myths rolled into one.

First, there is a big difference between devolution and independence. It is not Mebyon Kernow policy that Cornwall should be independent from the UK. It is our policy that we should have a devolved Assembly within the UK. Devolution would not mean that Cornwall would be abandoned and left out in the cold - just that there would be a greater degree of democracy in decion making.

Secondly, devolution would not cost either Cornish tax payers or any other UK tax payers anything more than it already costs to administer Cornwall. In fact it would very likely save tax payers money - or better still allow for greater investment. Westminster gathers taxes and spends them. What we are calling for is the ability to decide how to spend the money that Westminster spends for us. Mebyon Kernow has the confidence to believe in the people of Cornwall - in fact we are sure that Cornwall could do a better job than Westminster and that, therefore, an increase in Cornish GDP would raise more revenue for both Cornwall and the UK as a whole.

Cornish Nationalists have a very exciting twelve months ahead of us. We need to make the most of those months to get our message across.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Consultation or rubber stamp for a U-turn?

Less than seven months ago - just before the elections surprisingly enough - Alex Folkes wrote on his blog:
 
Cornish Liberal Democrats are today announcing a budget alternative which would see council tax frozen for a third straight year. 

“Our budget alternative stands in stark contrast to the official budget proposal of the Conservative-led council,” said Cllr Jeremy Rowe, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council.  

“Where they promise a council tax rise, we will freeze it. Where they propose service cuts, we have found the money to reverse many of the harshest.


“Last year, council tax was only frozen because the Liberal Democrats campaigned for it.

What a difference a few months and an election make.

For three years mebyon Kernow have been warning of the black hole at the centre of Cornwall Council's  budget but now Cllr Folkes argues that circumstances have changed and a rethink on council tax levels may now be necessary. Of course it won't be a U-turn because the council are running a series of consultations. Instead of a U-turn we will be told that the council is listening and prepared to consider any proposal.

The funny thing is though - in the middle of the consultation - when the cllr Folkes is keen to listen, he lambasts political opponents UKIP for suggesting that a referendum be held to consider a 5% rise.

The Liberal Democrats have no principles apart from seeking to be elected. The circumstances that we are faced with now were entirely foreseeable. The plan to reduce local government funding (which the Liberal Democrats in Westminster have imposed) was clear three years ago - the problem is that now Liberal Democrats at Lys Kernow are faced with its consequences.

Mebyon Kernow has consistenly argued that the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition is responsible for rapidly destroying the efficacy of local government. Under the disguise of austerity it has cut budgets far beyond those of other categories of government spending. We have argued for small increases year on year and if the local Westminster parties at New County Hall had looked at what would be best for Cornwall in the long term (instead of competing to be the party of lowest taxation) then the council's budget might have been some 8.24% higher next year than the current levels - without any need for a referendum. We would still be facing massive cuts and the loss of front line services but the end result wouldn't have been as dire as the consequences we are facing right now.

Monday, 9 September 2013

HS2

The HS2 railway project is in trouble. Costs are spiralling out of control and more and more evidence points towards there being much less economic benefit evn compared to what was originally claimed - never mind for those of us not really connected with London. Yet the coalition doggedly pursues this white elephant out of stubborn refusal to do yet another U-turn.

This project is another clear example of why Cornwall would be better off with a devolved assembly of its own.

Jonathan Edwards MP, Transport Spokesman for Plaid Cymru, is demanding a £1.9bn payment for Wales if the HS2 project goes ahead. He argues that HS2 clearly has no benefit whatsoever for Wales and that calculations using the Barnett formula (used to adjust spending allocations for devolved governments) would justify extra money for Wales as a consequence of investment in England.

Mr Edwards points out that, just like Albani and Moldova (and Cornwall), Wales doesn't even have any electrified rail lines.

How much better would we be able to organise our own transport system and make necessary investments if we had control over our own budget? Just like Wales, Cornwall will see no benefit from HS2 and yet we will be paying for investment in London's connectivity.

Some people say Cornwall can't afford autonomy. I say a lack of devolution to Cornwall is costing us much needed investment!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Assembly Policy Update

Thank you for all the contributions with regard to our 'Legislative Cornish Assembly' policy review.

The first stage consultation ends on September 30th and work has now begun on drawing together the various strands of policy into a comprehensve draft document for a second stage consultation and debate at the conference.

There is, clearly, still time for you to contribute to the first stage or register an interest to receive the draft second stage document as soon as it is published.

Contact me at starichardson@btinternet.com if you wish to contribute.