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New forum for the DCLG

Just a quick note to say the Department for Communities and Local Government now has a new internet debate forum where you can berate them for their two faced behavior and incompetence. Click here.


Libertarians and nationalists must make common cause

As a response to the article by David of Britology Watch -What are we fighting for? Libertarians and nationalists must make common cause- just some thoughts.

There is much to tempt in your post; a bill of rights, federal government and electoral reform for instance. An England (and Cornwall) wide solution does also need to be found leaving the direction of future reform in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Crown protectorates in the hands of their respective populations. Would the creation of an English parliament guarantee any of these vital developments or as has been suggested merely fossilize power once more in a centralized establishment? Are you suggesting those who pursue constitutional, electoral and civil rights reform should join the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) as a means to achieve their goals or are you suggesting something more subtle?

As has been pointed out an English parliament in itself does not guarantee any of the above and much less the dispersal of power away from Westminster. Libertarians who wish to see effective decision making ability devolved down to our communities are unlikely to take up your offer, and as a Cornishman I’ve yet to hear why an English parliament would be good for me or Cornwall. On the other hand as someone who appreciates the idea of national self determination I would not wish to deny the people of England the choice of an all England body if that is what they wanted.

The only thing that unites the people you wish to see working together is their desire for change; problems start to arise when we discuss what changes to make. If wholesale support for the CEP or English nationalism is highly unlikely then where next for cooperation?

Perhaps we need unity to obtain real reform and this can be obtained by coalescing around what we agree on namely the pressing need for change. We must work together to ensure all options/outcomes are placed on the table before the public leaving them fully informed and with the democratic choice in their hands. This calls to mind the Citizens’ Convention as proposed by Unlock Democracy. Can we envisage a grand constitutional convention regrouping all those who want reform in order to bring about such engagement with the public? Surely no one is suggesting constitutional reform be pushed on to the public without due consultation so can we all push in the same direction to ensure this consultation? The various groups disagree on much but one thing that should unite all is the desire for an informed and empowered public to be given the right to decide.

Libertarians and nationalists making common cause? Yes but I doubt this will happen inside the Campaign for an English Parliament or English nationalism it’ll take something bigger.


English Nationalism & Royal Support

In relation to the Cornish national identity much is made by Cornish activists of the inherent English nationalism and Anglo-supremacy that is to be found within the UK establishment. I'd like to look at one particular organisation as an example of this.

Modern English nationalists are keen to point out that following devolution to the ‘recognised’ Celtic home nations England has been left without its own parliament. Not wishing to debate the injustice of this situation for the English nation, suffice is to say that, when considering the history and construction of the UK, this lack of a specifically all England body of governance is but a paragraph in the story of English political and cultural dominance.

When looking specifically at Cornwall and accepting that we have a none English culture, heritage and identity, organisations such as the Church of England, English Heritage, English Nature, Royal Society of St George etc (the list is long) all assume politically nationalist overtones. All these bodies and many others besides reinforce the English county model for Cornwall and constitute the much less than even playing field the Cornish national identity has to contend with.

If we take a quick glance at the website for the RSOSG, 40 odd members in the Duchy, we notice that it is little more than English ethno-cultural nationalism.

(i) To foster the love of England and to strengthen England and the Commonwealth by spreading the knowledge of English history, traditions and ideals. (ii) To keep fresh the memory of those in all walks of life, who have served England or the Commonwealth in the past, to inspire leadership in the future. (iii) To combat all activities to undermine the strength of England or the Commonwealth. (iv) To further English interest everywhere to ensure that St. George's Day is properly celebrated and to provide focal points all the world over where English men and women may gather together.

I take it from objective number three that the Cornish national identity is seen as a threat to England and therefore to be 'combated'.

A closers look will show that what is little more than a platform for English ethno-cultural nationalism is in fact incorporated by royal charter and has the Queen as patron!

Are any Cornish cultural organisations, for example the Gorseth, patronised by the Duke of Cornwall (and please note that the Gorseth at no point talks about 'combat')? Can anybody envisage a Cornish version of the RSOSG receiving royal endorsement?


What is Cornwall? 3

I have been aware of the Cornish national question in one way or another since childhood. Songs in the pub, overheard comments amongst adults, the flickering flame of our language, graffiti that called for a “Free Kernow” and much more, all of this has fashioned my opinions of today.

The Cornish constitutional question however is a different kettle of slippery fish that I first became aware of back in 2001. Of course I knew there was a ‘Duchy of Cornwall’ but that was as far as it went. The TGG website followed by the works of the Stannary Parliament completed by the book -Our Future Is History- were a real discovery and pushed me in to action.

With the information I had at hand I decided to set about asking the questions that these peoples' findings posed. I wanted answers but also I wanted to demonstrate what one person, inside or outside the Duchy, could do with access to the internet and a keyboard.

Almost the integrality of my letters and responses can be found here and here and here.

I’ve come to a dead end is the sad truth, even the use of the Freedom of Information act has provided little. I have been referred from one government department to another and back again for years now. The two ‘black hole’ like options left open to me are pointless searches through the parliamentary or national archive at great expense (and as we all know with absolutely no chance of finding anything) or asking the Duchy who refuse to respond.

I have no more ideas and I’m open to all suggestions.

Hopefully the new website from John Angarrack -The Duchy of Cornwall Human Rights Association- will stir things up.

My own opinion on the constitutional question is that there is a “let sleeping dogs lie” mode of operation. Most civil servants have absolutely no clue when it comes to the Duchy and only know of Cornwall in terms of an English county. A few more perhaps know that the Duchy of Cornwall is a special beast that seems to exist outside the law. Finally a very small number are aware of the fact that the Duchy is above the law and has a valid legal claim over the territory of Cornwall. It is from this small minority that resonate the lullabies to keep the Cornish dog snoring and ensure difficult questions get snuffed out and inconvenient facts forgotten. Perhaps between the Duchy (Monarchy) on one side and the Westminster government/parliament on the other we have a constitutional game of chicken, the Duchy with its legal claim facing parliament with its political dominance. The sad fact of course is the collateral damage this struggle between royalty and parliament has had on the Cornish identity.

When did all this start and what has really happened? Surely these are questions that our Institute of Cornish Studies needs to answer.


Where now for the campaign for a Cornish Assembly

A simple question: What is the Campaign for a Cornish Assembly doing? Since the rejection of the petition of 50,000 signatures by the Blair government and the more recent decision to impose the Unitary Authority it seems the assembly campaign has fallen into stunned silence.

Certainly following these two set backs it has been easy to pick out the various individuals who have scurried back to the career warmth of their political party. Anyway enough from me and I will now hand over to a far more informed and eloquent individual to talk more of the current malaise.

Many thanks for that summary of the Cornish Movement and its current malaise, and I note [and am very sorry] that such thoughts about it are not confined to me! What a tangled and disappointing picture is emerging, and it is saddening that this should be so at such a time. The case of the Assembly is particularly sad, thinking of what it claimed during its early days and thereafter, but since that promising initial flurry [and an excellent booklet] it has made little impact and effectively has faded from public view. I have in front of me its leaflet full of promises following that well-attended and enthusiastic County Hall launch in July 2000, but what has happened to it since? It should be out there in the limelight, providing an outward and visible forum for Cornish debate and actions*, but where is it?! I supported it from the outset thinking it would provide a worthy successor to the Conference for Cornwall, and have gone on supporting it but I doubt greatly that I shall continue to do so.

(* Note from the CD: I had always hoped that the Stannary could provide a similar platform)

Some Assembly members appear to believe that the advent of the unitary authority will steer Cornwall towards the desired objective of regional status, but I am far from sure that this will happen in practice and in any event the proposed new arrangements are a subject of continuing fierce controversy and are thus divisive. Furthermore the authority is likely to remain under the dominance of the RDA and other external organisations, and in such circumstances the existence of a strong and representative "second chamber" in the form of the Assembly's promised Senedh Kernow is never more important. But I fear the rest is silence.

My lasting regret and disappointment is [and will remain] that the Conference was allowed to die by those to whom it had been entrusted - it was handed over in good order with a healthy bank balance after more than ten years of success. But that success was not achieved without a great deal of unseen hard work and dedication, and faced with what was involved our successors turned green and abandoned ship after little more than a year. Of these, one at least seems to have gone the same way in respect of the Assembly. The point is that were the Conference or Assembly to be in effective existence now - and I don't mind which, so long as it performs its task - it would be providing that strong "second chamber" with a Cornish voice that could not be ignored. For the great achievement of the Conference was that from the outset it brought together a wide range of differing interests - political, social and cultural - and was gaining steadily in stature as it progressed. If the Assembly were doing the same in the critical here and now there would be no complaints, but it's not. So if anybody is mounting an "Assembly Get Well" exercise he'll have my full support.


Real England by Paul Kingsnorth

I e-mailed the author of Real England -Paul Kingsnorth - for his thoughts on the Cornish question, his response is below.

He gives a very refreshing opinion for someone who is in many ways an English nationalist. He contacted MK members and does treat the Cornish question in his book, which I've yet to read, so perhaps his response below should come as no surprise. The call for an English Parliament and English nationalism in general should not be judged too quickly on the basis of the cluster of rightwing, europhobic and reactionary parties that has sprung up since devolution.

In e-mails that followed Paul and I both looked forward to the day when English and Cornish could work together for a more equitable settlement for all.

He wrote:

It often seems to be the case that those who speak for England and those who speak for Cornwall end up at loggerheads in the current constitutional debate. They shouldn't. Whatever your views on whether Cornwall is, or should be, part of England, it seems to me that there is a growing clamour both in England and in Cornwall for the same thing: recognition of cultural identity, and a just political settlement.

Since 1998, England has been politically disadvantaged, and for longer than that it has seen its cultural identity dismissed in favour of 'Britishness' or 'multiculturalism.' Cornwall, as others can articulate much better than me, has similar issues. The problem facing Cornwall, though, it seems to me, is not 'the English' as such - I doubt whether most English people even know of the debate. The problem is the British establishment.

It is the British establishment - desperate to save 'the union' on which its future depends - which denies a cultural identity to both Cornwall and England; and the British establishment which denies them both political representations too. I am a firm believer in self-determination for all peoples. I visited Cornwall when writing my book, Real England, and saw - and wrote - a lot about the serious economic and political disadvantages there. There's no doubt in my mind that Cornwall should have an assembly if its people want one. Similarly, there is no doubt in my mind that the English should have a parliament. I believe both would breathe fresh life into our respective nations and identities, and that both could work together very well.

Things are changing fast, and the British state in its current form will not last. I'd love to see the English question and the Cornish question answered at the same time. I hope we can all work together to pursue both goals.

All the best,


Those in Glass Houses

It's been a while now that I'm signed up to the excellent -TheyWorkForYou.com- website which ensures I get regular updates on what my MP is doing. I can only recommend it. An example below:

Julia Goldsworthy (Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Department for Communities and Local Government; Falmouth & Camborne, Liberal Democrat)

Hansard source Watch this

The Minister's Department likes to talk the talk about community empowerment and engagement, but it does not walk the walk. Is that not apparent in its approach to eco-towns? What does the Minister think speaks more loudly to the British public: a declaration of passionate commitment to the empowerment agenda, or the imposition of eco-towns against the will of the local community and its elected representatives through site-specific planning policy guidance that can then be overturned on appeal? Do not actions speak louder than words?

Yes interesting Julia and you surely have a point but one might ask why then you are a member of the party that has sold Cornwall’s democratic aspirations up the river, ignored the will of the people and imposed a unitary authority.