2 November 2008

Unless there’s a miracle, the histrionically named Cornish Fighting Fund (CFF) will fail. With eight weeks to go to the cut-off at the end of the year, it has raised less than a third of its target and is about £70 000 short. The most eager have already pledged. Who is left in any numbers?

There are about 430 000 adults in Cornwall. We still do not know how many of those (or people from elsewhere) have promised money to the Fund but, on the assumption that triumphs are trumpeted, I think it is likely to be an unimpressive number. Their identity and number should be public. Why doesn’t the CFF website publish the names and numbers of pledged supporters?

The coyness about the numbers and names of supporters contrasts unfavourably with the openness of, for example, the recent atheist bus fund raising where names and thus numbers of supporters (and amounts actually paid over) are published continually. A current online petition for formal recognition also gives names and the number of signatories, which makes the CFF site more puzzling. When I last looked at the petition site the number signing, including those from outside Cornwall, worked out as about one for every two thousand adults in Cornwall.

I suppose St Piran may yet appear disguised as a rich foreigner with ancestors from Tresomewhere, but frankly I don’t think anyone is going to hand over £70 000 to fight a court case with, at best, an uncertain outcome. I suppose nearly three thousand people might yet give twenty five pounds each but it’s unlikely, isn’t it? We shall see. Candidly, though I disgree with them, I think they have done well to have got this far.

What will happen when the project reaches 31 December and falls short? Pledgers will be understandably angry and disappointed and there will be wailing and the gnashing of teeth. An internecine insultfest-and-blamefest, which Cornish nationalism does so well, may break out. There is a risk that the failure to meet the target, assuming that is what happens and that meeting the target is a sine qua non for further action on FCPNM recognition, will be seen as damaging Cornish nationalism by showing the very public exposure of nationalism’s limited appeal. But negativity will not help; let us reflect on why it has failed.

No, it isn’t apathy or miseducation. It isn’t because Cornish people have been brainwashed or celtwashed. It is because people here – including people who describe themselves as Cornish rather than anything else and who value their being Cornish – do not see the world as the pledgers do; they consider that they have the recognition they desire and are confident in their identities.

Claims of suppression and forced assimilation and adjectival genocide are ludicrously wrong and most people in Cornwall can see that plainly.

People who see themselves as Cornish can stand up freely and say so without difficulty. They and anyone else in Cornwall can learn the language in all its varieties (most don’t), read nationalist books and tracts (most don’t), vote nationalist (most, oh, much the most, don’t), and enjoy Cornish events; they can freely be Cornish but they do not in numbers subscribe to the sillier nationalist ideas. They do not believe the tale that the duchy of Cornwall is an independent state established in 1337. They are not separatists wishing to break away from England. They do not see political nationalism as a practical force that will keep them secure, pay the bills, build the roads, and employ the doctors and teachers.

And they are right.

What it means to be Cornish has changed and I shall explore that in another post.

The real pro-Cornish agenda, as I have explained before, the real hope of all the people here, is about practical measures to enable people in Cornwall improve their daily life and working out a localism that maximises genuine democracy and that avoids difficulties like the post code lottery and narrow parochialism. Historical fantasies are not pro-Cornish; they are anti-Cornish because they risk diverting effort away from improving everyday life for all the people in Cornwall.

Additamentum 4 November 2008
The question of recognising the Cornish under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorites (FCPNM but more usually FCNM) of the Council of Europe was raised in the Commons on two recent occasions: see Hansard 6 March 2007 columns 1871W-1872W and Hansard 3 November 2008 columns 116W-117W. Note in the minister’s 2007 reply: “The fact that some groups may not meet the definition of racial group from the Race Relations Act 1976 has not been a barrier to the UK’s many communities being able to maintain and celebrate their distinct identities.”

Previous post on the Cornish Fighting Fund Cornish minority recognition challenge: update

Last post on the Cornish Fighting Fund Cornish Fighting Fund misses target by miles 2 January 2009