Cornwall Forward

Philip Hosking
18 September 2009
Perhaps it's time to take stock of the situation in our Cornish Duchy while demands for real change in the UK are still fresh.

Across the Political Spectrum

With three councilors on the Cornwall Council and having beaten Labour in Cornwall's Euro-elections Mebyon Kernow is looking the healthiest it has for years. Can MK build on these successes by harvesting support from a public disillusioned with the London based parties? They are certainly steadfast supporters of radical democratic renewal.

The Cornish Greens in their manifesto -A Fresh Start for Cornwall- have reiterated their call for the "devolution of power to Cornwall including a full Cornish Assembly with regional powers", and support from the prominent Green Party candidate, Peter Tatchell, seems to be unending [1][2].

Even the Tories seem to be speaking Cornish these days. No small affairs considering their power sharing arrangement with a group of independents in the Council that contains many a supporter of Cornish recognition and devolution.

The Liberal Democrats in Cornwall

Ousted from the Council as they may be the Liberal Democrats have still produced some interesting material in Kernow. MP Andrew George has combined his constitutional investigations with a larger vision of Cornwall's potential to suggest a new beginning (pdf). George's interest in the Cornish question is a long standing affair but recent movement was sparked by Notary Public John Kirkhope's research into the Duchy following the work of our other constitutionalists [1] [2] [3]. The general conclusion is that if recognised Cornwall's de jure constitution as a Duchy would afford it a very large degree of self-government.

Then earlier this summer MP Dan Rogerson produced his Government of Cornwall Bill. Even though the bill is unlikely to achieve much in the immediate future it has still been described as adding much needed fuel to the Cornish devolution debate. Although regrettably unheard of by Rogerson's fellow party members out side the Duchy all the Cornish MPs have backed the bill in addition to supporting the campaign for a 'Cornish Census' for 2011.

The Lib Dems have claimed on numerous occasions that Cornwall's new Unitary Council could be the starting point for a journey to a Cornish Assembly (pdf), but can local be transformed into national government?

The European Region of Culture Campaign

Although steering well clear of Cornish nationalism and party politics the aspirations of Cornwall Culture and its leadership of the European Region of Culture Campaign are clearly regionalist. The campaigns objective to make Cornwall one of Europe's fist 'regions of culture' marries well with EU regional recognition and perhaps therefore true regional government. The campaign has been severely criticised for ignoring authentic Cornish culture and heritage as well as snubbing established players in the field but this essentially good idea still looks set for success.

Grass Roots

A healthy Transition Town culture seems to be taking root in Cornwall with the aim of producing self-reliant robust communities across the Duchy. Not so far from some of Transition Cornwall's aims the Trelawney Alliance are saying -NO- to unsustainable mass housing development. Perhaps some pointers could be taken from London Citizens on mobilising our communities.

Tying it all up

So swift trade with plenty of action but what seems to be missing is a joined-up approach. Isn't the Cornish Constitutional Convention supposed to be acting as the focal point for change? If it can't then where should we turn to find the cohesion that is clearly needed? Now perhaps more than ever Cornish aspirations should be formulated, clearly stated and fed into the larger and much needed debate on democratic reform in the UK.

I doubt it will provide definitive answers but perhaps the conference -Cornwall in Europe: a perspective from minorities- organised for the 28th of October by the Federal Trust will provide some bearings for the way ahead.
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