IS THE MK PARTY OVER?

27 August 2014


A month ago I explained in the post MK stranded in yesterday that Mebyon Kernow (MK), the Cornwall nationalist party, was being left behind in devolution debates and stuck with a medieval model. That post looked at the positive comments on devolution in England from Andrew Adonis of the Labour party.

Labour pushes devolution in England
Now in a letter of 25 August 2014 to local authorities, Hilary Benn has reinforced Labour’s devolution message for England. Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties also support devolution in England. MK’s devolution fox is shot. They are not the party for Cornwall but the party for yesterday.

Benn, the shadow secretary of state for local government, says Labour will “pass power, money, and responsibility” to local authorities who will be expected to work cooperatively with one another. Labour will devolve “£30 billion of existing public spending over the next five years” to local councils and local economic bodies for the funding of growth projects decided by those local councils and bodies. Councils that prove themselves competent will be able to negotiate for more devolution of powers.

Response to asymmetrical devolution
Labour is giving convincing details of its England devolution project. The project is a belated but welcome response to the rising awareness among people in England that their country was disadvantaged by devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The devolution asymmetry has caused unacceptable anomalies such as MPs from Scotland voting on laws that basically apply only to England, the asymmetrical distribution of the Barnett formula and its consequences for public services in the four component countries, the divergent party political support in those four. Labour seems to have come to a commendable understanding that the present arrangements are unsustainable and there must be democratic change for England.

Crossing boundaries
It is especially welcome that Labour’s ideas are not bound up in an inflexible model, the failed regionalisation model. Now we are being offered an elastic and practical scheme that encourages cooperation across boundaries that have often been unhelpfully rigid. This reduces the likelihood that localisation will turn into parochialism and a postcode lottery of provision and opportunities.

How petty and parochial and irrelevant the Tamar obsession seems set against this.

Housing
Incidentally,there is a welcome promise in Benn’s letter to secure the building of more homes – again a contrast with Cornish political nationalism – but no acknowledgement of the last Labour government’s appalling record in this sphere, the worst domestic inaction of any Labour government in Britain, I think. That dismal record reflects the comfortably housed Labour cabinet’s utter failure over thirteen years in government to grasp the importance of house building, especially affordable housing, and I wonder whether the party is yet ready to prioritise housing.

Will it happen?
Of course all parties support devolution in England in opposition but have a less glittering record in office. Will it be different this time? I think it will because there is a keener awareness in central government of its limitations and a more realistic approach to devolution by local government. Localisation in a time of austerity also handily throws responsibilities and flak upon local authorities.

The irrelevance of MK
MK, the party of yesterday, is a failure. It has failed to attract much support for its signature proposal, a Cornish legislative assembly. Since I wrote my last post on this six weeks ago only six more signatures have been added and of course not all are from Cornwall. Remember the failures of political nationalism that I have charted: Campaign Kernow, the Cornish Fighting Fund, the petitions for an assembly, the petitions for a holiday on St Piran’s day. I sense that nationalism is now reluctantly with understandable disappointment and bewilderment facing up to MK as a failed political cause, oh dolor repulsae. I have pointed out several times MK’s dismal electoral record with few seats in local government, no seats in parliament and nowhere near getting any. This political failure continues while cultural Cornishness, even the invented and kitsch pieces, happily flourishes apart from the reconstructed language. See the Piran and Ptolemy post for an account of this discrepancy.

Is MK done for?
MK is not a serious contender party; it is rejected by the people of Cornwall, its ideas ill-developed, its arguments unconvincing, its whingeing tedious, its policies a tabula rasa bereft of details and costings. Its devolution notions have been outflanked. Can MK change, adapt its policies to the new circumstances? As yet it uneasily rests in the mistaken old certainties. If it does not change, and soon, it will wither away. Oh, I expect there will be an occasional flash but an unchanged MK is done for.

Notes

dolor repulsae: see Ovid Metamorphoses, book 3, Echo’s pain of rejection

MK and the grand academy of lagado 11 February 2014

Empowering Cornwall 8 March 2012


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