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17.10.09

The Unspoken Constitution and Cornwall

The excellent Democratic Audit from the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex has produced a "unique, satirical account of how we are governed in the United Kingdom" entitled the Unspoken Constitution.

They write: After a party conference season dominated by rival proposals for slashing public expenditure, concerns about the state of our democracy appear to have been quietly returned to the back burner. As Parliamentarians return to Westminster, we hope our provocative pamphlet will help re-open the debate on constitutional reform, which shows every sign of shutting down, just months after it had dominated the UK news agenda.

Accompanied by glowing endorsements from various democratic reformers the full pdf document can be found here: The Unspoken Constitution.

Interesting stuff and perhaps the rotten heart of our democracy is best illustrated by Article 3 of this spoof constitution:

Government, like every subject, shall be free to do whatever is not unlawful. The government shall decide what is unlawful.

More choice quotes from the Unspoken Constitution can be found on this OurKingdom article.

So what of Cornwall and the Duchy? Below are some relevant quotes. Note that where it states Monarch one can substitute Duke of Cornwall:

5.2. The heir to the throne (Duke of Cornwall) shall also be given licence to advise the Prime Minister and other ministers in confidence, to approve or dismiss plans for new buildings in sensitive areas, and generally to interfere in public policy.

5.3. The monarch shall enjoy great personal wealth and possessions, an annual salary and allowances along with certain members of the royal family, and sundry other possessions,
privileges and immunities.



5.4. He or she, along with members of the royal family, shall be exempt from parliamentary
scrutiny or criticism, from Freedom of Information legislation and from regular tax regulations.

5.5. Acts of Parliament shall not apply to the monarch, unless it is expressly provided for.

So sadly little on the Duchy or Cornwall's constitutional position. Hendre, a Welsh contributor to the OurKingdom blog, has suggested the following addition that I'm sure our Cornish constitutionalists [1][2][3] will agree with:

5.2.2 The heir to the throne shall bear the title Prince of Wales and at all times pretend that a long defunct Principality of Wales still exists while at the same time pretending that an un-defunct Duchy of Cornwall is a farming estate".


Still it clearly states that the Duke (or agents for the Duchy?) can interfere in public policy. So the question then must be: has the Duke or other Duchy representative advised or interfered in the decision making process concerning Cornwall and the Cornish? Over subjects such as Cornish devolution or the recognition of the Cornish as a national minority has the Duchy had its say?

Our constitutionalists such as the Stannary Parliament or J. Angarrack answer that question with a resounding yes.

So convinced of this point are they that any doubt expressed in their position on the Cornwall 24 forum will soon be drowned in abuse and accusations of being some form of establishment agent. A phenomena I find sadly counter productive. Even accepting that the Cornwall 24 forum comes in for the attention of unwelcome trouble makers, political opponents and even establishment agents surely the fact that hundreds of innocent web suffers also pass through the forum should be enough of an incentive to persuade Cornish campaigners to be showing their most reasonable and professional faces. One would have thought so but alas no.

Think of it this way. Imagine you had to take part in a public debate with an underhanded and crafty opponent. Do you think the best course of action would be to turn up drunk, ignore any form of reasonable debate and quickly resort to childish insults? What would the crowd of spectators make of that? Am I missing something?

Anyway it seems clear now that in a certain legal constitutional manner the Duchy of Cornwall, which is coterminous with the territory of Cornwall, has much in common with a Crown Dependency even if on a day to day basis it is run as a simple county of England (article Government of Cornwall). Our constitutionalists argue that the current Duchy authority, UK Government and perhaps general UK establishment will do anything to prevent the Cornish obtaining: 1) Knowledge of Cornwall's true legal position and then 2) Any control over this constitution or the rights it gives to the Cornish people. From this perspective a Cornish populace empowered by a strong devolved assembly and/or recognition as a national minority would be a threat to the comfortable unspoken constitutional arrangement between the Duchy and the government.

Imagine Cornwall flipping form common-all-garden English County to UK Crown Dependency over night? Cat among the politicians. Cornwall suddenly acceding to a level of autonomy only dreamed of by Scottish Nationalists would be bound to cause massive constitutional waves.

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