1 March 2007

On March 12 a project to celebrate St George’s day by taking a “loving cup” around England comes to Truro; Lemon Quay at 9.30 am. The tour is also raising money for three charities, the Women’s Royal Volunteer Service, the Association of International Cancer Research, and the Royal Institute for the Deaf.

Some Cornish nationalists have objected to its being officially welcomed by Truro council.

All right, nationalists say Cornwall is not part of England. Other people in Cornwall say it is. The only reasonable and democratic way to deal with this difference is to live and let live and thrash it out politically in debate and elections, letting all views and their symbols be heard and seen; accepting the democratic legitimacy of all views while not necessarily agreeing with them. Britain is a pluralist country. Cornwall and its public institutions should be pluralist, happily accepting diversity.

Truro council, which, I suppose, in this instance stands for all Cornwall, should represent everyone here, with all their diverse views about Cornwall and England, not just nationalism, not just unionism. In welcoming the loving cup the council is acknowledging pluralism and the fact of diverse views among the people of Cornwall; it is not signing up to the political or credal minutiae that some may attach to the cup. The council is accepting that many people in Cornwall agree with the celebration of England and all that, accepting that it has a responsibility to represent them, but is not necessarily agreeing with them itself. The difference between accepting and respecting an opinion on the one hand and agreeing with it on the other is important to democracy.

The nationalist objections to the loving cup project visiting Cornwall are out of place set against the argument for pluralism and the fund raising for charity and the celebration of diversity in the project. Anyone can join in, you don’t have to be English or Cornish-and-English. It aims to bring together happily everyone who lives in England whatever their ethnicity and creed and to raise money for three charities. A tour of the fifty cities of England with the loving cup has already begun and is proving a great success.

I’m all for celebration days – St Patrick’s, St Piran’s, Chinese new year, all of them – which bring diverse people together in enjoyment. One and all, isn’t it? Everyone should be free to join in; and, as I have said, one does not have to sign up to the political or credal minutiae of all the supporters of these days. The loving cup project is to be warmly welcomed.

There will probably be a flag-displaying demonstration by some nationalists in Truro, but other nationalists will be at work or simply stay at home. We’re a democracy and people should be able to express their views publicly and peacefully. Nationalists should have their demonstration if they wish, not join in the party if they don’t wish to, make their point robustly if they wish.

However, it is difficult to see anything in the nationalist basic argument against the cup in Cornwall beyond We don’t like it therefore you shouldn’t do it. No doubt some of them are offended by the cup – and by the flying of the England flag – in Cornwall. But what has that to do with it? Giving offence and being offended is an unavoidable part of democracy; having other people express views and even doing things one considers obnoxious or abhorrent is trying but part of democracy too.

I think everyone has the right to express his lawful views whether I like them or not; I think everyone has the right to wear the t-shirt or fly the flag of his choice be it the English one or St Piran’s or whatever; and the British government are foolish and wrong to try to restrict flag flying. I think democratic councils should try to represent all the people of Cornwall and their diverse views and symbols.