31 March 2008

Cornish political nationalism is not a popular take on life here, it lacks credibility on the street and overall lacks success electorally. It is a nanority among the
410 000 adults in Cornwall.

Is the lack of success down to limited publicity? Does a universal darkness in the media of Cornwall bury all nationalism? If people heard, would they not accede? If they saw, would they not love?

All organised political viewpoints struggle to be heard in the local media which is, like its readers and viewers and the national media, more interested in cute babies, rabid corgis, and misdeeds.

The Mebyon Kernow party (MK) stands in general elections and that means its leaflets are sent, post free, to every elector in the constituencies where it stands. Over the past three decades that is a lot of electors and a lot of leaflets. When MK stands in local elections its leaflets are no doubt put through many letterboxes; it has a website too. I should think most people in Cornwall are aware of MK and the claims of Cornish political nationalism.

I have explained in another post, Unfair to Mebyon Kernow, that I think MK in fairness should get money for elections. A different voting system in elections might help MK (and Labour) too.

Is the nationalist failure because there is only one variety of nationalism, a lack of choice, MK, take it or leave it? No, look at the choices.

There is a strand of the Liberal Democrat party here which is…nationalist-lite is the best description I think. It cries up the claims of Cornwall as different, unique, exceptional, duchy, whatever, and always hard done by. These claims are found on websites and in leaflets and in the other media. Much of the Libdem party which does not hold the nationalism seems to share the view that Cornwall is basically hard done by and that view in itself may unintentionally feed political nationalism. It is unclear how far people voting Libdem do so because of this fuzzy nationalism; but increasingly a distance and difference is being publicly established between the Libdems and the nationalists proper; MK and the Libdems will fight one another in every seat in Cornwall in the next general election.

Additionally, there are numerous nationalist groupuscules. Remember the Monty Python satire on the Judean struggle, half a dozen people in an alphabetical soup? It might seem a little like that but I think we should look at it positively. There’s a group specialising in every cornat interest, every nook is explored, every cranny examined, every variety of nationalism is catered for. Their memberships are undeclared and that probably indicates a very, very small proportion of the adults in Cornwall.

Of course this profusion of groups might be a counterproductive embarrass de choix but I don’t think so and the different groups do not obviously contradict one another in public though even semi-formal coordinating arrangements seem nonexistent.

Cornish political nationalism does get an airing and there is ample choice of strands in it. Nowadays the net offers possibilities of publicity and there are nationalist sites about everything including the various cornat takes on history, identity, and Cornwall’s status within the UK. Nationalist claims are made on other online sites too. Several online petitions have appeared advocating explicit nationalist political and governance policies: they receive small support; often miniscule is flattery. Letters and media releases from nationalists are published.

The local papers were full of happy photographs of the recent St Piran day parades with black-and-white Cornwall flags in abundance though the sentiment there is cultural rather than strictly political nationalism; schoolchildren do not take part in political rallies and do not march with political flags but take part in displays of local patriotism and festivals found all over Britain. Nevertheless, pop cultural events like those in Padstow, Helston, and Penzance no doubt help to acquaint some people with a nationalist as well as a local sentiment. For some the popular culture shades off into political nationalism and the sense of a national Cornwall is felt keenly.

Cornish nationalism does get publicity. I think Labour and the Conservatives in Cornwall might say more than they do. It isn’t lack of publicity or monolithic choice that is keeping nationalism a minority take on life.

So what is it?

People in Cornwall, like people all over England, well understand that you can support more local decision-making and self-government without being a nationalist. They understand, what nationalism seems to have difficulty with, the struggle of central government to balance fairly the claims of all the areas and groups in England. They know you can celebrate local culture and achievements without being a nationalist. In Liberating Cornwall and other posts I have explained that the story of a Cornwall always hard done by does not match the reality on the ground.

The people in Cornwall have heard Cornish political nationalism and the vast majority of them don’t rate what they hear. They have seen and do not love. The people have spoken, the bastards.


MK still at base camp
Does MK speak for the people of Cornwall

To see her is to love her,
And love but her for ever
– Robert Burns Bonnie Lesley