Desired by some, perhaps many, the decision to put the Cornish in the Council of Europe national minority scheme is nevertheless at this time largely a party political gimmick. It owes much to Liberal Democrat election anxieties. In practice nothing significant will change.

Those who confidently see themselves as Cornish will rightly continue confidently to do so and cheerfully celebrate their identity. They have known all along they are Cornish. Those who think that unconvincing will still think it. The reconstructed Cornish language will continue to be admired but spoken fluently by next to nobody. The distinctive Cornish culture will continue to be happily celebrated and claims for uniqueness will continue to bewilder those who see distinctive cultures everywhere in England and wince at Darkie Day while they celebrate well dressing and the Lambton Worm and street dancing. Cornish place names will continue to be celebrated and in the rest of England so will every thorp and by and thwaite and law. The claims for a distinct ethnic/racial group will continue to struggle with our commonality, the knowledge that we are all migrants from Africa, and qualms about making racial markers. In short, we shall all continue to rub along with one another.

The people of Cornwall, however they see their identity, still won’t vote nationalist in any numbers. The arguments against a nationalist and separatist assembly still remain.

There are assurances – from politicians – that there will be no additional money involved. However, it will be interesting to see whether there are over time calls upon British taxpayers for funds for promoting a thousand and one things that will no doubt be called identity heritage.

What matters most in Cornwall
Cornwall is still a county of England. The everyday issues that affect the lives, happiness, and prosperity of people are still here. The framework convention for the protection of national minorities will not grow the Cornwall economy; will not build more much needed affordable housing for locals and provide all-year-round jobs with decent pay; will not make up for the cuts in council tax support and housing benefit; will not lessen deprivation or erase the need for food banks. It is on these we who are here, Cornish and English and British and whatever, should focus relentlessly.

One month to go and apparently £63 000 short of the target. It’s been an up-and-down journey and a gallant effort, but they’re not going to make it without an unforeseen magic millionaire. I think that the Cornish Fighting Fund (CFF) is facing formal failure to meet its target of £100 000 by December 31.

My advice – oh, come on, fas est et ab hoste doceri – is to avoid the slough of despond of wailing and recriminations by having a Plan B ready for launch on January 1.

On the CFF website there are still no numbers of individual pledgers and individual amounts, no names of individuals or organisations, only the total amount pledged. Why this unnecessary coyness?

There are 288 signatories to the recognition petition at present. I’ve said before that such petitions fail to win much support and make political Cornish nationalism look even more peripheral than it is. The CFF should say how many individuals have pledged money and that would be a more convincing – and, I reckon, larger – indication of support for FCPNM recognition.

Fas est et ab hoste doceri (It’s right to learn even from your enemy): Ovid Metamorphoses 4.428

The slough of despond: John BUNYAN Pilgrim’s progress 1.12

FCPNM: Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (also FCNM)

Previous posts are:

Cornish fighting fund way off target

Cornish minority recognition challenge: update

Unless there’s a miracle, the histrionically named Cornish Fighting Fund (CFF) will fail. With eight weeks to go to the cut-off at the end of the year, it has raised less than a third of its target and is about £70 000 short. The most eager have already pledged. Who is left in any numbers?

There are about 430 000 adults in Cornwall. We still do not know how many of those (or people from elsewhere) have promised money to the Fund but, on the assumption that triumphs are trumpeted, I think it is likely to be an unimpressive number. Their identity and number should be public. Why doesn’t the CFF website publish the names and numbers of pledged supporters?

The coyness about the numbers and names of supporters contrasts unfavourably with the openness of, for example, the recent atheist bus fund raising where names and thus numbers of supporters (and amounts actually paid over) are published continually. A current online petition for formal recognition also gives names and the number of signatories, which makes the CFF site more puzzling. When I last looked at the petition site the number signing, including those from outside Cornwall, worked out as about one for every two thousand adults in Cornwall.

I suppose St Piran may yet appear disguised as a rich foreigner with ancestors from Tresomewhere, but frankly I don’t think anyone is going to hand over £70 000 to fight a court case with, at best, an uncertain outcome. I suppose nearly three thousand people might yet give twenty five pounds each but it’s unlikely, isn’t it? We shall see. Candidly, though I disgree with them, I think they have done well to have got this far.

What will happen when the project reaches 31 December and falls short? Pledgers will be understandably angry and disappointed and there will be wailing and the gnashing of teeth. An internecine insultfest-and-blamefest, which Cornish nationalism does so well, may break out. There is a risk that the failure to meet the target, assuming that is what happens and that meeting the target is a sine qua non for further action on FCPNM recognition, will be seen as damaging Cornish nationalism by showing the very public exposure of nationalism’s limited appeal. But negativity will not help; let us reflect on why it has failed.

No, it isn’t apathy or miseducation. It isn’t because Cornish people have been brainwashed or celtwashed. It is because people here – including people who describe themselves as Cornish rather than anything else and who value their being Cornish – do not see the world as the pledgers do; they consider that they have the recognition they desire and are confident in their identities.

Claims of suppression and forced assimilation and adjectival genocide are ludicrously wrong and most people in Cornwall can see that plainly.

People who see themselves as Cornish can stand up freely and say so without difficulty. They and anyone else in Cornwall can learn the language in all its varieties (most don’t), read nationalist books and tracts (most don’t), vote nationalist (most, oh, much the most, don’t), and enjoy Cornish events; they can freely be Cornish but they do not in numbers subscribe to the sillier nationalist ideas. They do not believe the tale that the duchy of Cornwall is an independent state established in 1337. They are not separatists wishing to break away from England. They do not see political nationalism as a practical force that will keep them secure, pay the bills, build the roads, and employ the doctors and teachers.

And they are right.

What it means to be Cornish has changed and I shall explore that in another post.

The real pro-Cornish agenda, as I have explained before, the real hope of all the people here, is about practical measures to enable people in Cornwall improve their daily life and working out a localism that maximises genuine democracy and that avoids difficulties like the post code lottery and narrow parochialism. Historical fantasies are not pro-Cornish; they are anti-Cornish because they risk diverting effort away from improving everyday life for all the people in Cornwall.

Additamentum 4 November 2008
The question of recognising the Cornish under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorites (FCPNM but more usually FCNM) of the Council of Europe was raised in the Commons on two recent occasions: see Hansard 6 March 2007 columns 1871W-1872W and Hansard 3 November 2008 columns 116W-117W. Note in the minister’s 2007 reply: “The fact that some groups may not meet the definition of racial group from the Race Relations Act 1976 has not been a barrier to the UK’s many communities being able to maintain and celebrate their distinct identities.”

Previous post on the Cornish Fighting Fund Cornish minority recognition challenge: update

Last post on the Cornish Fighting Fund Cornish Fighting Fund misses target by miles 2 January 2009

Update 23 September 2008

The Cornish Fighting Fund appears to be in difficulty, being £74 000 short of its target. I say appears because there are a hundred days to go until the end of the year, the finish date the fund has set, and still time for some very large pledges or a tsunami of small support. However, in the last fortnight the fund has gone up by only £1820 as far as I can see.

To have got this far is an achievement though since we do not know how many have pledged it is impossible to tell whether we are looking at a myriad of small supporters or a few hefty ones or some combination. A myriad of support would be the more impressive scenario.

Original post 11 September 2008

Some Cornish nationalists have set up a fighting fund to explore the possibility of legal action against the UK government for its not recognising the Cornish under the national minorities scheme of the Council of Europe (FCPNM). What are being sought at present are pledges of money. As I understand it, if by the end of this year
£100 000 has not been pledged, the project will be aborted.

I’ll keep an eye on the total pledged. Bear in mind that some of the pledges probably won’t turn into actual money but money not pledged will probably be forthcoming if the project is successful.

At 11 September: £24 005 had been pledged, £5000 of it by an individual.

This is the money pledged. There is no public information about the number of people making pledges which would give an additional indication of support: is it two hundred or five thousand?

In another post I’ll talk about the identity recognition issues and the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM).
Later post 2 November 2008 Cornish Fighting Fund way off target