The 2015 general election has shown clearly that Mebyon Kernow (MK), the nationalist party which styles itself the Party for Cornwall, has minimal appeal here. It has polled 5675 votes, 1.9 percent of all votes cast in Cornwall, 1.3 percent of all electors in Cornwall.

Yes, during the general election campaign period MK did not get the share of free media publicity that other mainstream parties did, especially in television – I think the party should get more television coverage – but the coverage of all parties in the local newspapers I saw was as even handed as possible. Of course, importantly every MK general election candidate had the right to a free-post delivery of a leaflet to all electors in Cornwall, 420 000 electors in all. The party’s messages reached voters. MK has been at this for many years now.

It was not lack of knowledge of what MK nationalism stands for that led to the handful of MK votes, the tiny percentage of all general election votes cast in Cornwall. The party has good candidates in its election forays, but people did not vote for MK because they do not like what it was selling, they do not agree with its incoherent and millenarian policies, they reject MK nationalism.

Let me say that again. The people of Cornwall have rejected MK nationalism. Time for hard thinking.

Salt in wounds, I fear. On May 7 MK also lost all three by-elections for Camborne town council seats it contested; and on the same day came bottom of the poll in the two unitary council by-elections. Even in local elections MK is not making headway.


9 March 2015

“A good sword and a trusty hand!
A merry heart and true!
King James’s men shall understand
What Cornish lads can do!

And have they fixed the where and when?
And shall Trelawny die?
Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!”

That’s the beginning of the Song of the Western Men, a stirring, flag-waving, jingoistic poem/song written by RS Hawker, an Anglican priest, around 1825; it’s usually known as Trelawny. It goes on to say that the Cornish men will march to London and free Trelawny.

Apparently this year in Cornwall St Piran’s Day, 6 March, involved much singing of Trelawny. Like many such songs and anthems it is, I’m afraid, a braggadocio. It claims Cornish people will save bishop Trelawny.

Who was he? Jonathan Trelawny (1650-1721), born in Cornwall, and at the time the Anglican bishop of Bristol.

With six other Anglican bishops he was imprisoned in the Tower of London by king James II, a Catholic, in 1688. They were put on trial for seditious libel, basically for opposing the king’s romanising policy.

Did Cornish men save him? No.

The people of Cornwall did not march to rescue Trelawny; they did nothing to help him. He and the other bishops were saved by a London jury who acquitted them.

A boasting lie and saved by Cockneys: interesting ingredients.

Cornish lads

I think Roger Bryant’s Cornish lads is a much better Cornish anthem. It is musically more interesting, historically accurate and relevant today, and poignant, asking a hard question throughout, giving an answer at the end that pays tribute to the resourcefulness and resilience of the people of Cornwall. Sing it with pride.

…Those damned invisible nationalists

There is a Cornwall Council by-election on 6 November 2014. There are candidates standing from the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and UKIP.

Do you notice the black hole, the empty place, the vacant chair?

Mebyon Kernow (MK) has not put up a candidate. The Cornish Nationalist Party (CNP) has not put up a candidate. Two nationalist parties, no candidate, a double failure. The CNP can reasonably say it is a new political party, still finding its feet, still organising itself. But MK has been around for decades.

All that flag waving, all that scribbling, all those policies, all those petitions – and no candidate. All that chatter of a Cornish assembly – and no candidate.

Listen, listen to rally cry of MK, the self-described party for Cornwall, to its foot soldiers: Go back to your constituencies and prepare for sleep.

‘We seek him here…’ ORCZY Emma The scarlet pimpernel Chapter 12

‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government’  STEEL David, speech to 1981 Liberal Party conference


6 October 2014

Nationalist competition
Remember Monty Python’s Life of Brian with its plethora of Judean People’s Front, People’s Front of Judea, Judean Popular People’s Front, and Popular Front. Well, the Judean scenario of competing obscurities has come to Cornwall.

Nationalists in Cornwall now have two parties to choose from as the Cornish Nationalist Party has been resurrected as a political party. The CNP website is here and there’s an article in the West Briton.

As you know, there already is a small nationalist party, Mebyon Kernow (MK), which contests some elections in Cornwall. I don’t know whether we shall see both MK and CNP contesting the same election.

CNP – the other party for Cornwall
The CNP has only just got political so it is unreasonable to expect too much by way of worked out policies yet. After all, MK has had decades and still has an emmental-and-grikes manifesto. However, CNP will have quickly to get much more detailed if it wishes to be taken seriously as a party.

Anyway, I had a look at the policies of the CNP – the other party for Cornwall – on their website. They range from public lavatories to Cornwall Council getting more powers and responsibilities. Does that mean upgraded in effect into the government of Cornwall? I think MK has been outflanked on the lavatories as I don’t recall an MK policy on them.

As far as I can see there is a complete absence on the website of any CNP policy on paying for nationalist Cornwall. That’s disappointing. Oh well, I hope it won’t turn out to be the usual nationalist model: we’re not part of England but Cornwall can’t pay for itself so we want UK taxes (okay, in effect England taxes from London and the southeast) and recycled EU funds to subsidise us.

Multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Cornwall
CNP writes of Cornwall as “a Celtic Nation” and of “our Cornish and Celtic identity”. MK talks of the “historic Nation of Cornwall” and “Cornish culture”. Those phrases, meant as describing the present not merely the past, reveal a grave difficulty that Cornish nationalism has.

In the 2011 census 59 percent of people in Cornwall said their national identity was solely English, 10 percent solely Cornish. Most people in Cornwall seem to identify themselves as English not Cornish so the use of “Cornish” carries ambiguities. How does Celtic-nation nationalism see the role of the self-identifying English people in the current “historic Cornish nation”? Well, as far as I can see neither nationalist party has a multi-ethnic-cultural policy that addresses the question of English people in Cornwall. They talk – in English – of Cornish culture and heritage but those seem to exclude English culture and heritage here. What is their official view of English people here celebrating their identity and their culture and heritage and of local councils joining in the celebrations?What is their view of English people here flying their English flag? Honouring their heroes? Learning their history? How far does the nationalist use of “Cornish” include people who see themselves as English not Cornish? What does nationalism say about those who see Cornwall not as a nation, historic or whatever, but as a county of England?

Forms from Cornwall Council include a Cornish ethnic option but not an English one, despite the English majority. What does nationalism think of that?

There have just been two by-elections for Cornwall Council in the last week: in Illogan and in Mabe, Perranworthal, and St Gluvias. I’m focusing on the performance of Mebyon Kernow (MK), the nationalist party that brands itself as “the party for Cornwall”, because of the overblown self-description, the absurd characterisation of other parties, and because it has a political nationalist agenda for Cornwall.

The full results are here.

In Illogan MK came second and got 217 votes. Commendable, but it is only 6.0 percent of the electorate, that is the eligible voters. Last year in the main unitary elections MK got 290 votes, 7.7 percent. In Mabe etc this week MK came fifth and got 58 votes, 1.3 percent of the electorate. Last year it did not contest the seat. In both seats MK had good candidates.

I have used electorate figures because I think they best show the enthusiasm, or lack of it, of people for parties and their policies and offer a perspective on ideas of representativeness and mandate. The Tories have said a trade union should get at least 50 percent of its electorate voting in a strike ballot; neither in Illogan nor Mabe did turnout reach that. Anyway, add these votes up and this month MK has got 275 votes. That’s 3.45 percent of the two electorates. The results are a signal failure to rally people to the nationalist cause, a demonstration that there is not widespread and enthusiastic support for MK, a rejection by the people of Cornwall of the MK agenda. MK may call itself the party for Cornwall but it is the party Cornwall doesn’t want.

Note that the best any party did in share of electorate in these two by-elections was just over 9 percent.

I have been kind to MK. There has been another Cornwall Council by-election since the May 2013 unitary election. This was in Wadebridge. How did MK do? It didn’t. It didn’t contest the seat. I have excluded its 0.0 percent here from the total results; throw that in the pot and MK’s proportion sinks further but let’s gently leave it at 3.45 percent.


14 April 2014

Oh dear, MK still doesn’t get it.

On the MK website I read in a blogpost called We can do better: “Our children should enjoy the same educational opportunities as children up the country – not make do on half the money spent on pupils in the City of London”.

We certainly can do better.

I discussed this absurd comparison three years ago in this post. Shortly, there is only one state school in the City of London, Sir John Cass, a primary with 247 pupils; there about 39 000 primary pupils in more than two hundred primaries in Cornwall.

There are two clear mistakes in the MK whinge. It compares 247 pupils with 39 000, one school with more than two hundred. The City of London is not streets paved with gold, all banks and hedge funds and bonuses; parts of the City are residential and MK should acknowledge that some of those 7000 residents experience deprivation and it is that and costs which give the per pupil funding higher than Cornwall overall. It is the residents’ children who go to the excellent primary school. The school is in Portsoken ward which last month elected a Labour councillor.

Now I can understand that someone in Cornwall, unfamiliar with east London, might have a distorted view of the City of London from the media that talks only of money; however, the facts are readily available to those who look for them and I set out some of them in my 2011 post. It is shamefully unconvincing for Cornish political nationalism to disregard context, which is at the heart of any viable idea of fairness, and write starkly about “the money spent on pupils in the City of London”.

Let me repeat what I said in that post of 2011: “MK does not explain that the difference in funding is not a question of arbitrarily giving more money to the City of London education authority but rather is intended to reflect differences in costs and needs.”

Yes, MK can do better. If it wishes to be taken seriously, it must.

In Cornwall 17 percent of children are in poverty (mid 2012); in the City, Portsoken ward, in which the Sir John Cass primary school is sited, has 37 percent of children in poverty [Source:]. At Sir John Cass school in 2014/15 32.9 percent of primary pupils were eligible for the deprivation pupil premium; in Cornwall 22.5 percent of primary pupils [Source: illustrative figures here].

See these posts too: Stuffing mushrooms and nationalist tosh 5 April 2013 and Cornwall school funding 14 March 2014.

Oh dear, I thought Cornish political nationalism, a nanority pursuit, had learned the folly of petitions. God knows, often enough they have attracted tellingly few signatories from Cornwall. However, one more is around now, a petition calling for a Cornish assembly which is a signature policy of political nationalism.

When I looked last it had 1542 signatures. There are about 430 000 adults in Cornwall, that is people aged eighteen or over. Those signatories are a minute proportion of that population.

In fact they are a smaller proportion than might appear because some of the signatories give addresses outside Cornwall. How many? The site does not enable one easily to work that out but over several glimpses I reckon as many as sixty percent come from outside Cornwall which would mean around six hundred current Cornwall signatories. Of course some of the outsiders may have familial links to Cornwall but many have addresses abroad and distinctly non-British names – when I last looked four of the ten signatories displayed were from France, more than from Cornwall.

It is interesting that some people abroad are moved to support a reconfiguration of England and the UK, a local rearrangement. Incidentally, the referendum on Scottish independence gives the vote only to people resident and registered in Scotland; around 800 000 people born in Scotland but living elsewhere in the UK, mostly England, cannot vote.

Anyway, six hundred is around 0.14 percent of all adults registered in Cornwall, one in 717. At present the petition is advertising what elections also show, political nationalism’s failure to attract people in numbers here.


24 November 2012

You know the dismal story. I put the previous explanatory posts at the foot of this one.

As far as I can see Cornish nationalism has understandably fallen silent on this.

However, reality is not silent and does not stop and the news from the sunny Channel Islands gets grimmer. Read this current article on Guernsey’s financial woes. Note the comment by Richard Murphy about the pretended independence.

Way to go, Cornwall.

Earlier posts

Cornwall and Guernsey 31 August 2011

More for Cornwall to ponder on Guernsey 18 September 2011

Cornwall and Guernsey again 9 November 2011

Cornwall and Guernsey: yet more 4 December 2011

Loophole Cornwall 3 July 2012


18 July 2012

… and other devolutionary issues

The other day I put up the post Who pays for Cornwall? asking nationalists how an autonomous Cornwall would be funded.

Two thousand people in Wales have been polled for the Commission on devolution in Wales. The questions were about what additional financial powers the Welsh assembly should have. You can read the entire questionnaire and responses here (Opinion research on financial powers for the national assembly for Wales, July 2012). There’s much interesting information there such as people’s view of their identity and their large opposition to independence outside the UK and positive support for a more financially empowered assembly.

However, having asked Who pays for Cornwall? I shall focus on those questions and responses around the issue of Who pays for Wales?

At present public spending in Wales is greater than revenue raised in Wales; the shortfall is made up by taxes from the rest of the UK (including Cornwall).

A decisive majority agreed that “public spending must not exceed revenue raised in Wales”.

That seems straightforward and economically sensible, but how should the shortfall be made up in an empowered Wales?

From Wales itself? No. 49 percent disagreed that taxes in Wales should be raised so that public spending in Wales was wholly paid for by money raised in Wales. Where and whom from then? 57 percent thought that funds should be redistributed from the prosperous parts of the UK to Wales. As the title of chart on page 29 bluntly put it: “The books should be balanced but not by higher Welsh taxes, England can pay”. Of course, “England” includes Welsh people living there. About 84 percent of UK income taxpayers are in England (HMRC table 2.20 for 2009/10 and about 88 percent of income tax payments are made from England ( HMRC table 3.11 for 2009/10): see the tables for what income tax comprises; it is not only tax on employment income. HMRC points out that its tax statistics for sub-UK areas should be treated with caution.

Devolution in the UK, underpinned by redistributed UK/England taxpayer money, has gone on so far without any UK government asking people in England how they think the four countries of the UK should be funded and whether they want autonomy for England. That is unacceptable and undemocratic; though there have been some surveys about governance in England, none of the three major UK parties plans to consult people there.

I am happy to see power go to devolved countries and to see UK/England tax revenue spread around according to need. I wonder, however, whether the present disposition of funds is equitable and thereby causes tensions, worry about the consequences of getting to a position where the people spending the money are not the people raising the money, and think England is short changed in governance; and I certainly think people in England should have a chance to consider these matters with their own representatives.

Now back to Cornwall. Let me ask again, Who pays for an autonomous Cornwall?


HMRC table 3.14 shows that for 2009/10 256 000 individual income taxpayers in Cornwall unitary authority area paid a total of £804 million. Remember the HMRC caution about sub-UK tax statistics.

I am returning to the question Who pays for Cornwall? which I last looked at in the post Cornish nationalism and the Rub’ al Khali (11 January 2012). This question is not going away.

One of the difficulties that I have with Cornish political nationalism is that it is too often incoherent and vague. The issue of funding a self-governing Cornwall is an instance. Nationalism has not produced a comprehensive, detailed, viable, and convincing policy that deals with this question.

A recent issue shows the difficulties. The Tory Libdem government is – I think “exploring” is probably the best way to put it as it is a muddle – exploring the possibility of public sector pay and some benefits being moved from national rates, largely identical in Leeds and Bodmin, to local rates based on differing local circumstances. I have explained over several posts since this post in 2009 (Tories eye benefits and wages in Cornwall 6 September 2009) that I oppose this localisation which for Cornwall will mean cuts in pay and benefits.

The other day Cornwall Council voted to oppose cornished pay and benefits. The part about benefits came from the Cornish nationalist party Mebyon Kernow (MK), I believe.

I’m puzzled.

I think Cornwall is a part of England and should not receive unjustified lesser public pay and benefits compared to the rest of England.

However, if Cornwall is self-governing and not part of England, as nationalists desire and claim, on what grounds should it receive the rates applicable in England? Should not a self-governing Cornwall, a nation apart from England, pay its own way: raise its own funds, levy its own taxes, deliver its own public pay and benefits at its own levels?

This takes me to getting and spending, to taxation. As I have pointed out before, the devolution bill that Dan Rogerson (then and now Libdem MP for North Cornwall) put up appeared to see devolved Cornwall funded by redistribution from a common pool, in a Barnett way, that is with its money coming from the UK, in effect mostly from (the rest of) England. I pointed out that the section of the bill dealing with the funding of Cornwall “is very brief — the section dealing with the remuneration of assembly members is twice as long”. That is an unconvincing devolution as I set out here (How should Cornwall be governed? 24 October 2009).

I find MK funding policy unsatisfactory. The party apparently does not see the levying of income and company tax in Cornwall as a responsibility of its desired Cornwall assembly/parliament; it seeks only a “fair share of central government funding” for Cornwall which suggests a Barnett approach rather than a self-financing Cornwall. However, its parliament would be responsible for a range of activities which involve spending. MK should be explicit now about how it sees these matters and what it has in mind; it should share its thoughts with us. Whose money and where it comes from should be spelled out. How much MK considers is needed to fund Cornwall; the funding formula it has in mind, its principle and basis; and any net cost to people outside Cornwall, should be stated by the party now rather than waiting on an improbable commission. “Fair funding” is not serious politics; it’s sloganising.

I have raised this question before and I shall go on with it until nationalism comes up with a satisfactory answer. Who pays? Would a self-governing Cornwall no longer part of England still depend on taxes from people outside Cornwall for its hospitals, schools, roads, public sector pay, benefits, police…? Does Cornish devolution at bottom mean ‘in England for getting the money, out of England for the spending of it’. Oh, what a brave new Cornwall that would be.

About 84 percent of income tax payers in the UK in 2012/13 are people in England: see table 2-2 here and its footnotes.