30 January 2011

In the House of Lords debate on the Parliamentary voting system and constituencies (PSCV) bill on an amendment to contain constituencies wholly within a county boundary, several members raised points about people’s strong identification with localities. It isn’t just Cornwall, is it?

Here are a couple of them from Labour members:

“I am a Lancashire lad. Going back to my roots in Blackburn in Lancashire, and reflecting on questions of identity, I know that when I was growing up and was asked where I came from, I would say, “I am a northerner”, rather than, “I am English”, even. Beyond that I would certainly say, “I am a Lancastrian”. ( Lords Hansard 24 January 2011 column 695 Alan HAWORTH)

“…if there were any suggestion of taking bits of Lincolnshire and putting them into a constituency with parts of Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire or Leicestershire, there would be the most appalling outcry”.( Lords Hansard 24 January 2011 column 699 Quentin DAVIES)

Unique identities of counties and places and inhabitants were asserted in the Lords not only for Cornwall, as expected, but also for Derbyshire, and in the west midlands, east midlands, northwest England, and, no doubt to the astonishment of Cornish nationalists, within London.

The Liberal Democrat Chris Rennard made an interesting point about being special, the underlying meaning of which I have drawn attention to in other posts:

“I notice that an amendment has been tabled by a noble Lord opposite that Cumbria should be a special case. There is virtually no limit to the number of special cases that you could try to establish.” (Lords Hansard 24 January 2011 column 702 Chris Rennard)

No, it isn’t just Cornwall. Therein lies a major weakness of Cornish nationalism. It is an ideology that cannot seem to understand identities are felt deeply in England and also within England and between different parts of England. England is not the one undifferentiated place of Cornish nationalist fable; the reality is more complex than that and reading this debate should be on the nationalist syllabus. Any semi-devolutionary powers for Cornwall will not come to Cornwall alone; the similar interests and claims of other parts of England must be recognised.