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.


20 February 2015

Dick Cole, the Mebyon Kernow parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay, has been raising election funds through crowdfunding.

It is a sound initiative and Cole should be congratulated on it. This sort of online fundraising enables people to contribute easily and has the potential to engage people in more active support. At the time of writing the online campaign has raised £1817 for his campaign, more than the target. In all forty eight people have contributed.

The crowdfunding has encouraged another dozen people to contribute offline and push the total raised so far to £2500.

And there’s the rub.

There are around 73 000 parliamentary electors in St Austell and Newquay. Not all the sixty contributors live in the constituency, but the sixty arithmetically represent about one in 1200 of the electors there; and of course in reality fewer when the non-resident contributors are stripped out. The party for Cornwall once again seems more like the party for a smidgeon of Cornwall. MK has not, so far at any rate, got widespread numbers of people here to back it with cash; large numbers have not been energised. As in elections generally, people have heard the MK trumpet of political nationalism and turned away: it is time the party asked why and stayed for an answer.

Last Thursday there was a by-election at Mevagissey for Cornwall unitary council which is the most important council in Cornwall and covers and represents the whole county.

1080 people voted.

No one voted for Mebyon Kernow (MK), a Cornish political nationalist party that calls itself the party for Cornwall. No one.

That’s because MK did not put up a candidate. The party presumably rated its chances of success as very poor or presumably could not find a candidate to stand.

Remember the telling absence and the telling No Votes next time you hear MK talk about devolution, a plethora of vague and uncosted policies, an assembly, whatever.

Cornish political nationalism paints a pretty picture of their imagined Cornwall, a land where milk and honey flood the A30: a buzz from the energies of the people newly released, a nationalist assembly tackling the crisis in housing here, fighting to deliver better jobs, fighting to improve the NHS here, fighting for more funds for Cornwall. Yeah right. Remember, MK did not fight Mevagissey.

MK – the party for Cornwall (except Mevagissey).

* There’s a by-election on 13 November for Camborne town/parish council. MK is standing.

6 November 2014 Mevagissey by-election. Result: Conservatives 348 votes, UKIP 281, Labour 204, Liberal Democrats 197, Greens 50.

Earlier post
You seek them here, you seek them there…

…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?


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.

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.


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

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.

The debate around devolution to a Cornwall assembly has shifted. As I have argued previously Mebyon Kernow (MK) languishes in yesterday’s England and should drop its claim of Cornish uniqueness on this and other questions and drag itself into the real debate about a general devolution within England.

Mainstream progress
The other day Andrew Adonis added to the momentum of devolution within England and presented Labour’s argument for such a devolution. All the major parties – Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Labour – are now agreed about devolving powers to major cities in England. It has already begun and will spread to populous areas outside the cities, including to groups of counties. Of course, we must hold the hands of the parties to the fire of local devolution in England but also be aware of the problems that localism brings.

Frankly, while nationalists played with blueprints for a separatist assembly, the mainstream politicians and parties quietly worked on a general devolution throughout England. What happens in Cornwall will happen within these general moves in England. It will be interesting to see how MK responds, whether it places itself within the devolution-in-England movement or remains impotently outside.

Only 1 in 300 back assembly petition
Meanwhile, notice that when I looked today the MK online petition for a “legislative Cornish assembly” has got 2453 signatures since late November, half of them by the end of the year. However, six of the ten latest signatures displayed on the website were from outside Cornwall, indeed one from outside Britain. There are about 425 000 adults in Cornwall; assuming half of the signatories live in Cornwall, that’s about 0.3 percent of our adult population, one in three hundred, signing. This political nationalist cause does not command widespread support. Andrew George, Libdem MP for St Ives, who came first in the House of Commons draw ballot for private members’ bills, was wise not to pursue a Cornish assembly bill.

Other posts

Comment on the city deal project 30 October 2012

First set of city deals 5 July 2012

Meanwhile, in the Commons this (Hansard 19 November 2013 columns 870 and 871) and this (column 1074) about Cornwall, devolution, and city deals.

Empowering Cornwall 8 March 2012

How should Cornwall be governed? 24 October 2009


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.

Mebyon Kernow (MK), the Cornish nationalist party, is being left behind.

There isn’t widespread, eager support for this party and its political nationalism; in the last election it contested, a by-election last December for two seats on Camborne town council, a favourable area for MK, only 14 percent turned out to vote although there were two MK candidates to vote for and each of MK’s candidates received support from less than 4 percent of the electorate. Enthusiasm for MK? No.

The petition calling for a Cornish parliament – a law making national assembly – is gathering a trickle of signatures from Cornwall and elsewhere: after nearly five months I estimate less than 1000 from people in Cornwall have signed, a pitiful small proportion.

In the real world all three currently major parties, Conservative and Labour and Liberal Democrat, have now said they support devolution within England. The Tory Libdem government is pressing ahead with city deals. So far twenty eight councils are involved, including Plymouth. City deals are the devolution of powers to cities and city regions, with some cities working with neighbouring areas in a “combined authority”. The primary aim is to better advance local economic growth and each area will have different and tailored devolved powers such as housing and transport; local enthusiasm and competence are essential.

The government’s approach in practice is somewhat incoherent (see this sensible scrutiny ) but English devolution is happening at last. The process having begun, it will be impossible to stop or reverse.

The word “city” is perhaps misleading: it is clear that counties are included and Cornwall, Cumbria, and Essex were specifically mentioned by Nick Clegg last October 2012.

Labour has supported the city/county devolution policy and expanding it, writing this week to every council leader (scroll to the very bottom to link to the letter; he specifically mentions devolution to cities and counties).

MK will argue that all this is about local government and what it seeks is a national government for Cornwall separate from England; that is more than “more powers” for Cornwall. However, the kindest that can be said about the MK approach is that it has been bypassed. The devolutionary future of England is here already and MK has been left behind in a nationalist fantasy.


First set of city deals 5 July 2012

Second set of city deals 19 February 2013

Comment on the city deal project 30 October 2012

Camborne by-election result 19 December 2013

MK election results 2013 and before

The petition is here.