12 May 2015
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.
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.
16 October 2014
…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
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?
18 July 2014
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: endchildpoverty.org.uk]. 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].
13 January 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.