19 October 2011

In fancy’s airy land of noise and show …
Like cats in air pumps, to subsist we strive
On joys too thin to keep the soul alive
— Edward Young Satire V

Lacking numbers and persuasive arguments, Cornish political nationalism has noise and show aplenty.

A recent simplistic single-identity flag-ticking show in the Guardian produced a shower of proxy-Cornwall flags. Flags of England and Britain in Cornwall were only a drizzle.

People in Cornwall can distinguish between being Cornish and celebrating it and waving flags on the one hand and being a political nationalist on the other; the former does not necessarily imply the latter as I explained here for example.

Anyway, I have looked again at three extant online petitions about Cornwall.

At the time of looking today, a demand for recognition of the Cornish as a national minority had 684 supporters and a demand for a Cornish assembly had 123 (both on the government petition website; anyone resident in Britain or a British citizen anywhere can sign). New signatures for the recognition one so far this month total twenty six. Even the petition on the Cornwall council website for St Piran’s day as a holiday had only 308 according to the site (only residents or workers in Cornwall should sign). These are woeful figures.

The explanation is that the vast majority of people in Cornwall, by whatever nationality and ethnicity and race they call themselves, think the most important things in their lives are the everyday experiences around home, family, work, friends, neighbourhood, and health, as do people in the rest of England. Appendix 7 to Cornwall Council’s Emergency budget and business plan sets out on pages 4 and 7 what, faced with hard choices, people in Cornwall value most and least in terms of council spending. It makes unpleasant reading for nationalism. Nor are these temporary nationalist hiccups: page 3 says, “Consultation exercises show that issues that are important to people in Cornwall are the same time and time again”.

My advice to nationalists – fas est et ab hoste doceri and all that – would be to cold store the stuff about Edward III and submarines, dump the anti-growth agenda and the unsubtle victimising comparisons, leave Absurdistan, and offer a nationalism that focuses on the everyday issues that matter to people here whatever they call themselves. Credible, feasible, positive,worked-out policies for affordable housing, economic growth for jobs and incomes, and continuing help for vulnerable people – with a detailed and convincing account of how they will be paid for. That’s the way to do it.

Back to petitions. Of course there was the assembly petition of ten years ago. It was numerically exceptional and merits a post of its own.

fas est et ab hoste doceri: Ovid Metamorphoses IV.428 (It’s okay to learn from an enemy)

You can also reach Appendix 7 here: click on report to councillors.