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27.5.08

Mebyon Kernow on Unitary Authority Shambles

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has branded the ongoing move towards a single unitary authority for Cornwall as an ‘undemocratic shambles.’

This follows recent developments in the ‘One Cornwall’ saga, which include the news that the ‘Boundary Committee for England’ (BCE) is unwilling to agree a council of around 130 members as proposed by the ‘Implementation Executive’ and the district councils; and that the BCE aims to carry out further consultation on council size which means it is unlikely that there will be time to “implement new electoral arrangements … for elections in May 2009.”

The elections would then have to be fought on the basis of the present division boundaries for Cornwall County Council, which would mean there would only be 82 councillors for the whole of Cornwall.

The Party for Cornwall has also written to the Prime Minister calling on him to rescind the ‘Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008,’ through which the single unitary authority will be created, and put all the ‘One Cornwall’ developments on ice.

In the letter to Gordon Brown, MK Deputy Leader Cllr Phil Rendle calls on the Prime Minister to “intervene now to prevent Cornwall falling into chaos.” The letter reads:

“A unitary authority is being imposed on Cornwall even though 80% of its people are against it and so are the district councils and the vast majority of town and parish councils.

“It is only Cornwall County Council (CCC) that has been calling for a single council in Cornwall, replacing the County Council and the six district councils, with as few as 100 councillors. There are currently 82 County and 249 district councillors.

“The One Cornwall Implementation Executive (IE), set up to police this changeover, has increased that figure to only 130, even though Mr David Whalley, and a small coterie, has recently broken ranks with the two bodies he chairs by calling for only 90 councillors.

“The Boundary Committee is at sixes and sevens claiming it has not been given sufficient evidence to make a decision on council size and threatening that they will not even be in a position to make a decision before the unitary council elections in 2009.

“There is great confusion and lack of information on how the process towards the unitary is proceeding. We understand that members of the IE are becoming increasingly impatient with those presenting progress reports to them.

“Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall calls on the Prime Minister to:

· Rescind the Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008.
· Put all One Cornwall developments on ice.
· Allow the County and district councils to resume their work as before.
· Put a five year moratorium on local government change in Cornwall.”

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is also angry that central government has launched a consultation paper suggesting that the 2009 May local elections should be pushed back to June to coincide with the European elections.

Commenting on behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, Party Leader Cllr Dick Cole said:

“This would mean that, with the present principal councils being abolished on 1st April, Cornwall would have no councillors for over two months. It is almost unbelievable that central government can come up with such strange proposals.

“Mebyon Kernow is very concerned that the ongoing chaos around the ‘One Cornwall’ set-up will undermine both local democracy and the delivery of quality public services.”

Constitutional Recognition of 'Regional' Languages

The status of the Breton language took an unusual turn last Thursday (22nd May), as a proposed amendment to the French Constitution was voted for by the French National Assembly in Paris.

The amendment states that the 'regional' languages of France are part of the heritage of France, but the new amendment will only apply to Article 1 of the Constitution and not the much disputed Article 2, which states that the language of France is French. The amendment has therefore received only a lukewarm response by Breton nationalist parties like the Union Démocratique Bretonne, because of its restricted nature.

Also campaigners are asking why, earlier this month, Members of the National Assembly rejected recognition of the 'regional' languages of France, only to seemingly change their mind with this latest amendment. The new amendment still needs to be ratified by the French Senate, which seems likely, but whether this new amendment will change anything in real terms remains to be seen.

Some, like 2007 French Presidential Candidate Francois Bayrou, see the amendment as an important step towards the ratification by France of the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages, but most, understandably, remain highly sceptical.

See related articles in Celtic News at:

http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2606
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2601
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2561
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2422
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2176
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2144
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2082
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2074
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 1613
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 997
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 648
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 108

Constitutional Recognition of 'Regional' Languages

The status of the Breton language took an unusual turn last Thursday (22nd May), as a proposed amendment to the French Constitution was voted for by the French National Assembly in Paris.

The amendment states that the 'regional' languages of France are part of the heritage of France, but the new amendment will only apply to Article 1 of the Constitution and not the much disputed Article 2, which states that the language of France is French. The amendment has therefore received only a lukewarm response by Breton nationalist parties like the Union Démocratique Bretonne, because of its restricted nature.

Also campaigners are asking why, earlier this month, Members of the National Assembly rejected recognition of the 'regional' languages of France, only to seemingly change their mind with this latest amendment. The new amendment still needs to be ratified by the French Senate, which seems likely, but whether this new amendment will change anything in real terms remains to be seen.

Some, like 2007 French Presidential Candidate Francois Bayrou, see the amendment as an important step towards the ratification by France of the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages, but most, understandably, remain highly sceptical.

See related articles in Celtic News at:

http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2606
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2601
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2561
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2422
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2176
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2144
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2082
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 2074
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 1613
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 997
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 648
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/message/ 108

UN criticises French state over minority language policy

The French government has once again come in for International criticism for its failure to give appropriate support and recognition to minority languages.

In its latest report (E/C.12/FRA/ CO/3… May 2008) the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says:

"29. The Committee remains concerned about the lack of official recognition of minorities within the territory of the State party. With specific regard to cultural rights, the Committee further notes with concern that some of these rights are not respected - such as the right to use a minority language, which can only be exercised in community with other members of the minority group.

30. The Committee notes with concern that the State party has not made sufficient efforts in the field of preservation and promotion of regional and minority languages and cultural heritage. The Committee also notes that the absence of formal recognition of regional and minority languages has contributed to the constant decline in the number of speakers of such languages."

The Committee goes on to recommend:

49. The Committee, while taking note that the recognition of minority groups or collective rights is considered by the State party to be incompatible with its Constitution, wishes to reiterate that the principles of equality before the law and prohibition of discrimination are not always adequate to ensure the equal and effective enjoyment of human rights, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, by persons belonging to minority groups. The Committee therefore recommends that the State party consider reviewing its position with regard to the recognition of minorities under the Constitution, and recognise officially the need to protect the cultural diversity of all minority groups under the jurisdiction of the State party, in accordance with the provisions of article 15. In this regard, the Committee reiterates the recommendation formulated in its previous concluding observations(E/C.12/1/Add. 72, para. 25) that the State party (i) withdraw its reservation to article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and (ii) consider ratifying the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, as well as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The full report of the Committee which covers a wide range of economic, social and cultural issues can be found at: http://www2. ohchr.org/ english/bodies/ cescr/docs/ co/E.C.12. FRA.CO.3. doc

The full text of the International Covenant on Economic, Social andCultural Rights can be found at: http://www2. ohchr.org/ english/law/ cescr.htm

J B Moffatt
Director of Information
Celtic League
26/05/08

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on abroad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

TEL (UK) 01624 877918 MOBILE (UK) 07624 491609

Internet site at:
http://celticleague .net
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/

UN criticises French state over minority language policy

The French government has once again come in for International criticism for its failure to give appropriate support and recognition to minority languages.

In its latest report (E/C.12/FRA/ CO/3… May 2008) the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says:

"29. The Committee remains concerned about the lack of official recognition of minorities within the territory of the State party. With specific regard to cultural rights, the Committee further notes with concern that some of these rights are not respected - such as the right to use a minority language, which can only be exercised in community with other members of the minority group.

30. The Committee notes with concern that the State party has not made sufficient efforts in the field of preservation and promotion of regional and minority languages and cultural heritage. The Committee also notes that the absence of formal recognition of regional and minority languages has contributed to the constant decline in the number of speakers of such languages."

The Committee goes on to recommend:

49. The Committee, while taking note that the recognition of minority groups or collective rights is considered by the State party to be incompatible with its Constitution, wishes to reiterate that the principles of equality before the law and prohibition of discrimination are not always adequate to ensure the equal and effective enjoyment of human rights, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, by persons belonging to minority groups. The Committee therefore recommends that the State party consider reviewing its position with regard to the recognition of minorities under the Constitution, and recognise officially the need to protect the cultural diversity of all minority groups under the jurisdiction of the State party, in accordance with the provisions of article 15. In this regard, the Committee reiterates the recommendation formulated in its previous concluding observations(E/C.12/1/Add. 72, para. 25) that the State party (i) withdraw its reservation to article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and (ii) consider ratifying the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, as well as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The full report of the Committee which covers a wide range of economic, social and cultural issues can be found at: http://www2. ohchr.org/ english/bodies/ cescr/docs/ co/E.C.12. FRA.CO.3. doc

The full text of the International Covenant on Economic, Social andCultural Rights can be found at: http://www2. ohchr.org/ english/law/ cescr.htm

J B Moffatt
Director of Information
Celtic League
26/05/08

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on abroad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

TEL (UK) 01624 877918 MOBILE (UK) 07624 491609

Internet site at:
http://celticleague .net
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/celtic_ league/

24.5.08

The Sustainable Communities Act is not just another consultation exercise...

An interesting project from Unlock Democracy that on the face of it offers Cornish communities greater say over the way they are governed.

I don't know if it has any relevance in terms of Cornish recognition or home rule and it certainly isn't devolution, however I still think all interested parties should study the bill and see what it offers. Full details can be found on the Local Works website, below is an extract.



WORRIED ABOUT:

NO LOCAL JOBS OR BUSINESSES
NO AFFORDABLE HOUSING
YOUR POST OFFICE CLOSING
NO LOCAL POLICE STATION
LOCAL SHOPS AND PUBS CLOSING
TRAFFIC WRECKING QUIET STREETS
NO BUSES / OLDER PEOPLE ABANDONED
POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
DOCTORS, DENTISTS & HOLSPITALS CLOSING
LACK OF LOCAL HEALTHY FOOD

NOW YOU CAN FIGHT BACK!

A new law gives you, your neighbours and friends power to tell Government how to help you stop your community declining.

“This is not just another consultation. This Act gives you power to protect and enhance your community, we urge you to use it.”

(David Drew MP (Labour), Nick Hurd MP (Conservative) and Julia Goldsworthy MP (Lib Dem) that lead the cross party campaign for the Act in Parliament)

On 23 October 2007 the Sustainable Communities Act became law. It is a remarkable piece of legislation: for the first time we have an Act of Parliament that discards the usual top-down decision making and also the nonsense that ‘consultation’ by the government is somehow empowering (when the opposite is the case as most people know).

This Act is special because it establishes for the first time a co-operative method of decision making, so that all the decisions are no longer made at the centre.

It is an Act that can empower citizens and will give effect to what the sponsors argued for the 5 years of the campaign that:

‘citizens and councils are the experts on their own problems and the solutions to them’

It is, as Government Minister Phil Woolas told the House of Commons on 15 June 2007 one of the most important such Acts in the last 40 years because as he said: ‘I genuinely believe that it will change the relationships in British politics’.

The Sustainable Communities Act gives you power over decisions which affect your life.


Submitted by Steve on Thu, 15/05/2008 - 10:58.

The Local Works coalition has produced a new guide for citizens on how to use the Sustainable Communities Act and be involved in the new participation process it sets up. The guide contains details on how the Act works as well as examples of what can be achieved through using it.

The content of the guide can be viewed here or you can download a pdf version of it here. If you would like more copies to be sent to you free please contact us. Thank you again to all those who helped campaign for this Act to become law. Your efforts achieved a great victory for local communities and for democracy. We urge everyone to use this Act. ACTION - For actions you can take click here.

23.5.08

Our Future is Federalism?

Celtic, British, Commonwealth, European, Anglophonic or perhaps even World Federalism. Whatever form it takes does anybody really believe in the  viability of a fully independent Cornwall or even UK for that matter?

What other alternatives do the wider Cornish movement envisage in order to maintain the highest degree of autonomy in this dog eat dog globalised world of ours other than some form of European federalism? I would be interested in hearing what other options people propose.

I contacted the UKs Federal Union to discover their take on the Cornish question.

Their response follows: Is Cornwall a nation? from the Federal Union.

An interesting piece has just been published in the UK section of this website, examining the relationship between Cornwall and the rest of the United Kingdom. (Read it here.) Formally, at present, Cornwall is a county in England, with limited powers of local administration, but with no significant legislative powers and no constitutional protection whatsoever. The powers and functions of Cornwall County Council are determined and may be changed by Westminster and Whitehall.

Is this right? Other parts of the United Kingdom, such as Scotland, Wales and even London, have greater devolved powers than this: should Cornwall have them too?

Our author, Philip Hosking, thinks so, and cites various historical and legal arguments in his favour. It is a persistent theme of this blog, though, that history contains not wrongs to be righted but lessons to be learned and mistakes not to be repeated. The future is more interesting than the past.

And what of the future of Cornwall? It is a second theme of this blog that political institutions should be shaped in the popular image. (This is why we have a European Union and not a European federation, for example.) What is the popular image of Cornwall?

That is where the historical arguments come in. Even if they do not constitute the contemporary reality, they certainly shape perceptions of that reality, and in a modern democracy perception is nine tenths of the law.

On that basis, I can well believe that Cornwall does not sit happily within the government region of the South West. Government regions were created in order to better deliver Whitehall policies, not to correspond to local identities. And the man in Whitehall does not always know best.

In the South West, for example, to travel from Penzance in Cornwall to Bristol, the administrative centre of the region, takes more than twice as long as it takes to travel from Bristol to London. From Cornwall, Bristol does not seem very close. In fact, and this will surprise you, Bristol is almost as far away from Penzance as it is from Scotland. From Bristol, Cornwall does not feel very close.

But the man in Whitehall might reply that, while Cornwall may be far away, it is also small: its population is only 500,000, and that is far too little for a region. The man in Whitehall has obviously never heard of the German Land of Bremen, with a population of 664,000, or of Austria, where 4 Länder have populations below that, or Switzerland, which spreads its 7 million people among as many as 26 cantons. If they can manage, why can’t the Cornish?

So, if geography argues in favour of some kind of self-government for Cornwall and population does not ague against it, the matter becomes a matter of practicalities and negotiation, with no obvious reason why it should fail.

There remains only the question of how to confer democratic legitimacy on such new arrangements. A referendum, perhaps?


For all those who want to investigate futher:

Union of European Federalists
Young European Federalists
Democratic World Federalists
World Federalist Movement
Coalition for a Democratic World Government

21.5.08

The Cornish Left

With Labour floundering is it time for MK to offer an alternative progressive left in Kernow? Is there an opening for a unified front from an alternative left that regroups autonomists, greens and other progressives from around the UK? Certainly that is the aim of these two blogs:- Socialist Unity and Convention on the left

Socialists are often seen in opposition to regional nationalist movements and for many left wingers who are no more than barely disguised state-nationalists / majority culture supremacists this is true, but as the following quote shows the relationship between the left and autonomist movements has always been paradoxical.


"A people that oppresses another wouldn't know how to be free"

Carl Marx


Pierre-Joseph-“property is theft”-Proudhon another socialist legend was an advocate of decentralized federal government that would seem to agree with many of the demands of regional autonomists.

How much in common does the Cornish movement, or elements therein, have with the alter-globalization scene? Groups like ATTAC; do they share some of our aims? Interesting to note they have a branch in Jersey but not the UK. They say "the world is not for sale", surely neither is our little corner of it. Inhuman faceless global capitalism is a threat to authentic culture around the world including that in our Duchy. It's certain that leftist and ecologist ideologies have often married well with Cornish nationalism does this also hold true for the alter-globalization movement or do we want a bit of Mac Pasty progress?

Compass are offering a chance to network among the UK left at their conference -Born Free and Equal- on the 14th of June this year.

Debating the big equality issues including: race equality; health inequalities; how the public services can deliver greater equality; would running on equality cost Labour the election?; how we make the case to middle Britain; housing; higher education; well-being for all; equality and young people; equal treatment for agency workers; gay rights; a bill of rights; tackling inequality in the economy; child poverty and the low tax elite; gender equality; fair pay; workplace democracy; progressive taxation; welfare; environmental rights; class equality; equality in later life; equality for the world’s poor and many more.



The Cornish also have a chance to explore various strands of the progressive left at the European Social Forum in Sweden. The European Social Forum (ESF) is an annual conference held by members of the alter-globalization movement (also known as the Global Justice Movement). It aims to allow social movements, trade unions, NGOs, refugees, peace and "anti-imperialist" groups, "anti-racist" movements, environmental movements, networks of the excluded and community campaigns from Europe and the world to come together and discuss themes linked to major European and global issues. In order to coordinate campaigns, share ideas and refine organizing strategies. It is emerged from the World Social Forum and follows its charter of principles.

The fifth European Social Forum will be held in Malmö, Sweden on 18 - 21 September 2008.

http://www.esf2008.org/

I know the European Free Alliance goes to the ESF so effectively Kernow is represented, but what about the Cornish left engaging with Compass, Socialist Unity project and other movements on the UK left?

Perhaps now is the time for Cornish input whilst the UK left is being re-thought?

18.5.08

Make or Break for Mebyon Kernow?

With the up and coming 'make or break' elections to the new Unitary Authority followed by town, parish and general elections Mebyon Kernow more than ever needs a policy direction for obtaining autonomy and bringing power closer to the people of Cornwall.

Previous to the undemocratically imposed Unitary Authority MKs proposition for devolution and answer to Cornwall's democratic deficit was three fold:

1) Powers devolved from central government and quangos to an elected Cornish Assembly with powers akin to the Scottish Parliament and certainly no less than those of the Welsh Assembly.

2) The vast bulk of local government powers and functions of the erstwhile county council devolved down to the district councils or amalgamation of districts.

3) Where possible and agreeable powers and functions devolved to parish and town councils.

So what to campaign for now that the district and county council have been sunk and the schema above made redundant?

MK has created a working group called 'Home Rule' whose purpose is to address this question and they are looking for all ideas and comments on a future direction in the campaigning for Cornish autonomy. All organizations and think tanks with an interest in devolution and decentralization are invited to submit their ideas to MK and help form a new policy for bringing power down to our Cornish communities. MK is asking for all comments and ideas to be sent to:

Home Rule Working Group
Mebyon Kernow
Lanhainsworth
Fraddon Hill
Fraddon
St Colombe
TR9 6PQ
Kernow

Coincidentally 2008 is the 500th anniversary of the of the unrecinded Charter of Pardon issued by King Henry VII that restored the Cornish Stannary Parliament following the rebellion of 1497 and gave it the right of effective veto over parliament and King. To commemorate this event the contemporary pressure group, the Cornish Stannary Parliament are looking to start a debate in Cornish civic society on the following and so are looking for all opinions.

Based on their analysis that the Cornish are effectively prevented from recognition and devolution because of the; unwritten nature of the UKs constitution; lack of a guarantee of equality before the law and the discriminatory nature of the Duchy of Cornwall:-

1) Is a written constitution with ensured legal equality a necessity for the UK?

2) Should the Cornish be recognized as a national minority.

What would I like to see? Well with regards the Duchy of Cornwall there do seem to be more questions than credible answers, so starting there, a full and public inquiry into the Cornish constitution followed by a debate on the future shape of said constitution would seem the least we might expect during this period of supposed constitutional renewal in the UK.

Acknowledging that the Duchy seems to be a fear-inspiring untouchable constitutional can of worms (see Duchy of Cornwall Human Rights Association) and realizing that the government is all mouth and no trousers when it comes to constitutional renewal where can we go with the Unitary Authority?

Peter Facey of Unlock Democracy has suggested that UAs and other local authorities, either individually or in clusters, should be able to request the devolution of powers down from central governments and their quangos. Cornwall is champing at the bit. "Show us the powers!" is all I can say. A conference which brought together the players in the Cornish devolution movement and interested UK democratic reformers might also be an idea if just a little expensive. One question must be asked however and that is why isn't the Cornish Constitutional Convention doing more at this time? Unfortunately the CCC has remained unusually silent throughout the undemocratic process that has resulted in Cornwall going forward to become a UA.

Both the CSP and MK are open to and asking for dialogue. They want to hear from all those interested in bringing power closer to the Cornish public. The petition of 50,000 calling for devolution gives legitimacy to our demands so what can we do to move forward?

All contact details can be found on the respective websites.

12.5.08

Democracy and Human Rights Hub

An invitation below from Unlock Democracy to all those working to promote democracy and human rights which I think covers practically 100% of those in the Cornish movement. So here's hoping some of our Cornish groups will get in touch and ensure a bigger audience for the work they do.


Democracy and Human Rights Hub

Strengthening the Network

There is currently more debate about the state of democracy in Britain than there has been in years. There is so much going on, in fact, that it is often hard to keep track of it all. With this in mind, Unlock Democracy is preparing to launch the Democracy & Human Rights Hub newsletter.


The purpose of Democracy & Human Rights Hub is to produce a comprehensive listings service about everything that is going on in terms of research into, celebration of and campaigning about democracy, participation and human rights. A monthly email will be sent out using Unlock Democracy’s mailing list (~6,300 subscribers as of May 2008) and it will also be published on the Unlock Democracy website.

Any organization wishing to promote a related initiative is welcome to contribute.

The email will be sent out on the third Friday of every month, with the submissions’ deadline the Thursday before. For the next six months, this will be: Thursday 17 May, Thursday 19 June, Thursday 17 July, Thursday 21 August, Thursday 18 September and Thursday 16 October.

Submissions should be sent to james.graham[at]unlockdemocracy.org.uk and divided up into the following sections:

Campaigns (max 100 words)
Research, Reports, Projects and Publications (max 100 words)
Jobs and Volunteers (max 100 words)
Events (max 100 words)
Please be as brief as possible and provide hyperlinks to your website for more information where possible.


Many thanks - we look forward to hearing from you!

7.5.08

What could Cornwall do in Europe?

It has been suggested that Cornwall could be made a centre of sustainable development and renewable energy and certainly the unbelievable house building plans that have been foisted on the Duchy make this seem an even more attractive alternative.

As an addition to the original post below - What could Cornwall do in Europe - I'd like to bring attention to the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development nrg4SD which Cornwall could participate in if given full EU regional status and government.

The nrg4SD Network aims to be a voice for, and to represent regional
governments at the global level, promoting sustainable development and
partnerships at the regional level around the world.

Original post below:

In part this is a response to the question raised on the Cornwall 24 forum "What has Europe ever done for Cornwall.

The Cornish in Space, well in the autumn when fungal conditions are favorable certain elements within the community might say so. Leaving aside inner-space exploration, with the closure of Goonhilly Earth Station [1], are the Cornish every going to look to the stars again? As a recognized level 1 European region with devolved government that could be something we decide for ourselves. Introducing one possible option - NEREUS - a network of European Regions working hand in hand on the development and use of space technologies in Europe. The European Regions are heavily involved at both ends of the Space chain, from infrastructures to applications:

At the moment OurDuchy (now there's an idea for a blog) is a level 2 European region which - due to our relative level of poverty - means the UK government can milk the EU cash cow for convergence funding. Sadly this money is then feed to unelected English quangos none of whom are based in Kernow; in fact I believe Cornwall is the only 'region' in the EU that qualifies for such funding but then doesn't actually get to administer it. It is this same undemocratic milieu, less interested in outer space more interested in building on all available space, which produced the Regional Spatial Strategy.

The unelected, and now defunct, South West Regional Assembly in 2006 proposed that 45,000 houses should be constructed in Cornwall. Following a report from an ‘Examination in Public’ (an unelected panel) this rose to 68,700! Wild house building and the massive in-migration it stimulates coupled with an obsessive focus on the tourist industry as our only hope have totally failed to kick start the Cornish economy so why do our quangocrats continue to blunder down this path ? It seems we are an inconvenient periphery (opens pdf) that they have no idea what to do with. That being said what does Cornwall need to pull it out of the economic doldrums it finds itself in?

1) Democracy and accountability are certainly important ingredients in the mix often ignored by policy makers concerning Cornwall. The EU 'regions' showing the best economic development also have the autonomy and flexibility that enable them to devise their own tailor made solutions to their specific challenges, however democratic institutions are not enough.

2) Equally important are the networks of company RnD departments, centers of research, and government bodies that go to form a 'Learning Region'. High quality linkages between different regional players such as: local businesses; community groups; and education providers go to support a local culture of enterprise and innovation. We need an environment where information flows freely within Cornwall and also within the regional network around Cornwall. Would our links to Wales, Brittany and the rest of the Celtic world facilitate this if given a chance?

Evolutionary economics sees the 'region' as an integral part in the creation of economies/technologies. The region is a unique mix of factors- networks, institutions, and locally or nationally derived rules of action, customs, understandings and values. In the context of this theory it has been argued that a region, to be successful, must have its own 'civic culture' this brings me to the third ingredient namely Cornishness.

3) Ignoring the Cornish national question, our distinct history, culture and sense of identity are integral elements of Cornwall's civic culture and, therefore, should be made to earn their living rather than buried under unsustainable housing developments, population growth and tourist kitsch. It’s not about preserving old Cornwall on the one hand and dealing with the 21st century on the other, but rather recognizing our identity as a strength around which to re-build our institutions and enterprise culture. Although various voluntary sector groups and local institutions do a sterling job in keeping the Cornish flame alight in Europe just imagine what our strong civic culture and Cornish brand could do with a fully devolved regional government speaking for them, one which was nested in a network of competing and cooperating regions.

Coming back to NEREUS, a Cornu-european space program might not be the answer but EU programs in renewable energy, maritime studies, marine biology or any number of other sectors might just give our young people something better to aspire to than working for a celebrity chef.

4.5.08

A different strand of socialism

An interesting article below from Billy Bragg on the English Question with much in it that rings true for Cornwall. I wonder if he is aware of the Cornish question?

It's time to stop denying that the English identity exists, and learn to distinguish between xenophobia and progressive patriotism

Nearly 70 years after George Orwell first pointed it out in The Lion and the Unicorn, his observation that the English are the only people whose intellectuals hate their own country still seems to hold true. Following my St George's day article in which I argued that we should combat racism by articulating an inclusive sense of what it means to be English, the Guardian printed several letters from readers, all of them outraged by my suggestion. The concept of Englishness was variously dismissed as an "artificial identity", a "futile idea", "at best irrelevant, at worse dangerous".

"I do wish Billy Bragg would stop banging on about Englishness" wrote one correspondent, before going on to suggest that "as a socialist, Bragg should be celebrating the internationally minded South African trade unions who refused to unload arms destined for Mugabe's regime - rather than some highly dubious notion of Englishness". The implication that, as socialists, we should disavow all notions of Englishness plays into the hands of the far-right, leaving them free to define who does and who doesn't belong on their own terms. Our folly would be compounded if we were to go around taking down St George's day bunting and ordering those celebrating to replace it with slogans of solidarity with the South African Congress of Trade Unions. Such behaviour would only serve to give credence to the lies that the BNP spout on the doorstep.

I doubt it will come as a surprise to learn that this is not the first time that I have been shouted down for putting forward challenging ideas about what it means to be English. Hoping to provoke debate by styling myself a progressive patriot, I seem more often to provoke kneejerk reactions from fellow leftists. Last week was no different. "The idea of the 'progressive patriot' is worthy but misguided," argued one letter. "The prospect of watching an England game with bellicose fans belting out 10 German Bombers or Dambusters doesn't appeal." Unsurprisingly, that doesn't appeal to me either, but we are never going to escape from that mentality unless we make the effort to counter it.

As socialists, we are all too familiar with the tactic of opponents who are quick to portray those who question the free-market system as supporters of the worse excesses of Stalinism. It's a blinkered mindset that refuses to accept that there are different strands within socialism, preferring instead to dismiss as a commie anyone who argues for a more compassionate society. Such simplistic attempts at stifling debate are mirrored by those on the left who fail to recognise that there are different types of patriotism, some adamantly opposed to that voiced by the xenophobic minority.

The SNP has managed to unashamedly be both proud of their country and progressive. Their 2007 manifesto for the Scottish election was available in Polish, Urdu and Cantonese, yet they are a nationalist party. Their patriotism has driven them to ensure that old people get free care, students don't have to pay tuition fees and prescriptions get cheaper in Scotland, even as they become more expensive in England. This is nationalism as a positive social force, uniting people around the implementation of progressive policies in the name of Scottish self-determination. Yet the same sense of pride that the Scots have used to move their national agenda to the left of New Labour, we in England are only too eager to surrender to the far-right. Unable or unwilling to distinguish between xenophobia and progressive patriotism, some on the left are destined to fight old wars in which class is the single defining characteristic. In the post-ideological period in which we live, national identity has become more significant than class or religion. For the English, this process has been exacerbated by a programme of devolution that many believe has treated them unfairly.

During the next election, there is a strong possibility that the issue of England will be a prominent feature on the agenda, if only because the Tories hope to use it to embarrass our Scottish prime minister. If a Conservative government hostile to Scotland's social spending is elected, the momentum for Scottish independence will increase. Should the Scots decide to break with the union, there is every likelihood that the English will suddenly find themselves independent too.

If that prospect fills you with dread thoughts of Little Englanders ruling our country and replacing multiculturalism with insularity, then perhaps it's time we on the left stopped denying that the English identity exists, reconnected with our radical tradition of levellers, abolitionists, chartists and suffragettes and began to engage positively in the debate about what it means to be English.

Taken from the Guardian: A different strand of soclialism