This was a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Pat Glass MP that sought to amend the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986.
In the case of Cornwall, this would have seen the Cornish border (river Tamar) crossed by Devon that would have Bude and Launceston assimilated under a Devon constituency. This has become known as ‘Devonwall’ that has caused a great deal of anger and protest, not only in Launceston and Bude, but throughout Cornwall. Steve Double MP and Sheryll Murray MP were two from the six of Cornwall’s MPs that made themselves available for the debate.
During opening remarks it was clear that Ms Murray supported a ‘Devonwall’ constituency. However, it was Steve Double who took on the responsibility of standing up for Cornwall in a speech saying that the Boundary Commission proposals have invoked “a deeply emotional response” among many people in Cornwall.
In support of the (amendment) Bill, the MP for St Austell and Newquay tells MPs that the proposals would result in the creation of a cross-border seat, spanning both Devon and Cornwall. A cross-border seat would represent a “threat” to Cornish identity, and exacerbate the “centuries of detachments” between Westminster and Cornwall.
Ms Murray made an intervention during Mr Double’s speech saying “He said he was speaking on behalf of the Cornish, but let me put on the record the fact that I am a Cornish girl and he was not speaking for me.”
By what reasoning could any person claiming Cornish ethnicity, support a part of Cornwall becoming a Devonwall constituency? This is the kind of mentality that undermines Cornwall’s identity when it should not only be protected but promoted.
During her speech she said that she had upset Cornwall’s councillors. Ms Murray is of the opinion that the council should not be debating on Cornwall being politically broken up into a Devonwall on the grounds of it not being a ‘local’ issue.
Cornwall Council leader John Pollard said earlier “I believe that representing two counties will dilute our effectiveness to argue Cornwall’s case. We are here to argue for Cornwall and we should expect our MPs to do the same”.
The fact Ms Murray is not ‘arguing the case for Cornwall’ suggests she’s not a ‘Cornish girl’ but a ‘Devonwall girl’. A description that would better describe her loyalties, if not her ethnicity. This could explain Ms Murray having some form of cognative dissonace that effects some ‘Cornish’ people
In the end, MPs voted in favour of the closure motion by 257 votes to 35. They will now vote on the second reading of the bill.
More work to be done.
Note: During a following debate on the Disability Equality Training Bill, MPs could be heard to say “shameful” as the debate is talked out (filibuster) by the same Conservative MP, Sheryll Murray.
This blog has in the past likened Cornwall Council to a puppet government; the marionette of Westminster’s puppeteers. However, recently it has taken a commendable stand against the Tories decision to stop all Cornish language funding. The irony is that if the English had not imposed their English language bible, onto a Cornish speaking nation, it’s likely our language, along with Welsh, would have survived at a level that wouldn’t need the funding required today – if at all.
Yesterday, 1st November during a meeting, Cornwall’s Councillors again displayed their testicular fortitude by voting for continuing their challenge against Tory proposals (there were 12 votes against – all Tory) that effectively splits Cornwall into what has become known as ‘Devonwall’. The term describes the ‘gerrymandering’ of the Cornish border that would have Bude and Launceston assimilated under a Devon constituency.
At the meeting, Cornwall’s Liberal Democrat councillors pointed out the failure of the Tory group to condemn their own MPs (Scott Mann; Steve Double; Derek Thomas; Sheryll Murray; George Eustace and Sarah Newton) for not standing up for Cornwall on the issue.
Council leader, Mr John Pollard stated:
“I believe that representing two counties will dilute our effectiveness to argue Cornwall’s case. We are here to argue for Cornwall and we should expect our MPs to do the same.
I want a strong Cornwall, a Cornwall that works for everyone and a Cornwall that can stand up for itself. Being represented by someone with divided loyalties will do nothing for Cornwall or the people we represent.”
“We need to preserve the integrity of the Cornish border for many reasons. Not the least the fact that we have devolution deal for Cornwall. We are fighting for more powers for Cornwall, more decision making in Cornwall for Cornwall and having an MP which represents a part of Cornwall is essential to that.
If you’ve got an MP who represents a bit of Devon as well, they’re not going to give the interest or the time or the effort to that campaign; so that’s the first thing.
The second thing is, of course, that we’ve traditionally had parliamentary constituencies within our borders and it will weaken the parliamentary impact.”
Councillor Dick Cole from Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall said:
“I think there will be a strong consensus built up in Cornwall and hopefully we can all work together, put the pressure on central government and make them deliver and keep Cornwall whole. It is a democratic travesty that Cornwall is not being properly represented democratically.
The government has said the Cornish are a national minority and they should be treated the same as the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish. The boundaries between England, Wales and Scotland – they’re not being broken. Yet the boundary between Cornwall and England is being breached; that’s totally wrong.”
The Cornish, along with passionate supporters, displayed the depth of feeling against ‘Devonwall’ with a demonstration at Polson Bridge.
Tory Plan: Assimilate Cornwall and the Cornish
A video has appeared on YouTube that shows just how the Tories plan to assimilate Cornwall even further by its inclusion into a ‘South West Region’.
Apart from the most ignorant, tabloid educated and severely Anglocentric individuals, there can be no argument that Cornwall, through Government recognition of Cornish ethnicity and language; Cornwall’s own history, includes Wales, pre-dates the arrival of the English people. Eighty percent of Cornwall’s place names are from the Cornish language provides the visible evidence of Cornwall’s distinct identity. Even Theresa May’s predecessor, David Cameron admitted:
“There is a distinctive history, culture and language in Cornwall which we should celebrate and make sure is properly looked after and protected.” (24th April 2014).
Yet in the video, a presentation by the recently appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid has made some of the most un-informed, ill-considered and degrogatory remarks from an established political party in recent years:
Mr Javid said:
“Some in Cornwall, for example, see their ‘county’ as distinct from the rest of the ‘region’ a special case that should be handled separately from everywhere else East of the Tamar. That whole attitude has to change.”
It would not be too difficult to place Mr Javid in one of the ‘most ignorant’ ‘tabloid educated’ or ‘severely Anglocentric’ category. The ‘Some in Cornwall’ to whom he referrers are the Cornish and Cornwall’s supporters. The insulting remarks are evidence of the contempt in which Mr Javid holds the Cornish ethnic minority and their Cornish homeland, and provides a broader insight into the mentality of Tory policy towards Cornwall. Faced with such derision, the Cornish would likely place Mr Javid in all three categories.
With such a display of intolerance towards an ethnic minority, his understanding of Cornwall non-existent, it’s difficult to justify Mr Javid’s current appointment.
This lack of understanding is even more unforgivable given that Mr Javid has roots that originated in Pakistan. A fine people who in 1947, finally cut the chains of British colonialism and assimilation. Maybe the remarks could be excused due to a low-grade speechwriter? If so, the remarks were read – and understood.
In such adversity, it’s time for the Cornish and Cornwall’s wider population to stand together. We must take ownership of our destiny, identity, history and culture through the formation of a Cornish Assembly, perhaps through a Progressive Alliance, but without the divisive, anti-Cornish political agenda that the Conservatives seek to impose; to undermine and marginalise to the extent that Cornwall, Cornish produce and the Cornish themselves, become invisible under the cloak of Tory assimilation.
The latest book by Bernard Deacon does as its blurb describes and ‘gives us a ground-breaking interpretation of the history of Cornwall between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Normans’.
During the introduction, Deacon explains that he ‘became increasingly surprised and not a little irritated that no-one had bothered to write an up-to-date or convincing narrative history of medieval Cornwall’ and to make sense of an age that no longer warrants the description of ‘dark’. He arrives at conclusions that echo those reached by John Angarrack and that ‘the central point about anglocentric historians’ attitude to early medieval Cornwall stands’. He also highlights the ‘failure to assimilate the Cornish culturally ultimately meant that they were never entirely assimilated politically’.
The Cornish language is now recognised and Cornish ethnicity finally afforded recognition by the UK Government. It can only be hoped that this recognition will see the Cornish become even less ‘culturally and politically’ assimilated; maybe even to the extent of their bringing recognition to Cornwall itself, rather than remain under an English administration and ‘county’ status.
This book is recommended reading for all those with an interest in this period of Cornish history, especially the Cornish themselves who, due to an assimilating anglocentric school curriculum, would remain ignorant of their ancestors’ progression during a period in Cornwall that may no longer be described as the ‘dark age’.
Cornwall Council: a mechanism for change, or the puppet of an assimilating English Administration?
The Cornish language is now officially recognised. Also, similar to the Welsh and Scots, the Cornish themselves are a recognised ethnic group within the UK under the terms of the FCNM agreement.
Yet this recognition to prevent Cornish assimilation is undermined by the fact that Cornwall itself continues to suffer the ignominy, the assimilation, of being reduced to an ‘English county’. An administration that serves to assimilate Kernow/Cornwall and therefore by definition has an assimilating effect upon the Cornish (the English School Curriculum fails to include Cornish history) which defies the spirit of FCNM that states:
Article 5: Without prejudice to measures taken in pursuance of their general integration policy, the Parties shall refrain from polices or practices aimed at assimilation of persons belonging to national minorities against their will and shall protect these persons from any action aimed as such assimilation.
The result of the 2011 Census found that in Cornwall, 73,200 people from 532,273 of Cornwall’s population (14%) recorded their ethnicity as ‘Cornish’. These figures that show that the Cornish are a minority group in Cornwall their homeland. Figures also demonstrate that the Cornish being a minority do not have the numbers, the critical mass required to effect change either through referenda, or the ballot box.
It should become the responsibility of Cornwall Council to adopt a more assertive role. Rather than being perceived as the ‘puppet’ of an English administration, it should act as a ‘mechanism for change’ to bring about a Cornish administration through the setting-up of a Cornish Assembly. Cornwall Council’s CEO Kate Kennally has stated publicly she is a ‘big believer in the [Cornwall’s] devolution deal.’
A letter sent to both the CEO Kate Kennally and Leader John Pollard of Konsel Kernow received a joint response written by Ms Kennally:
In relation to the specific subject of devolution, I am convinced that the Cornwall Deal which was agreed in July 2015 will be the catalyst to achieving greater autonomy for Cornwall, on the proviso that Cornwall can demonstrate that it has used that first tranche of devolved powers, flexibilities and freedoms to accelerate economic growth and deliver public service reform – particularly health and social care integration.
Linked to this the Leader announced at the full Council meeting on 26 January 2016 that the Local Government Boundary Commission has agreed to the Council’s request to vary the terms of the forthcoming *electoral review of Council divisions to allow for a fundamental appraisal of governance arrangements in the Duchy. It is not my place to second guess the outcome of the review or state a preferred governance model the outset. However, I fully anticipate that the creation of a Cornish Assembly or some form of devolved administration will feature prominently in the discussions.
CEO Kate Kennally.
The review of parliamentary boundaries, initiated by David Cameron, is due this month when it will become clear if Cornwall Council can demonstrate the ability of varying the Commission’s terms. What fundamental ‘appraisal of governance’ will be negotiated in the Duchy must be the groundwork that will result in Kernow/Cornwall having a Cornish administration; a Cornish Assembly.
* Boundary Review (based on the provisions within the Act and the present electorate of Cornwall) would inevitably include the creation of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” constituency.
The Cornish have their own recognised language and the Cornish people themselves are a recognised minority group in the UK. Cornwall has its own patron Saint, St Piran, who is celebrated on March 5th where Cornwall’s National flag is flown throughout Cornwall and areas of England. It has its very own National anthem ‘Trelawny’. Cornish place-names (an estimated 80% are of the Cornish language) provides visible evidence of Cornwall’s Cornish/Celtic identity.
Yet this identity remains hidden under a political cloak of an English administration. The voices of the Cornish minority are effectively ‘gagged’ as they continue to suffer the ignominy of English assimilation that forces Cornwall – the homeland of the Cornish – to be identified as nothing more than an ‘English county’ and the Cornish cry of ‘Kernow bys Vyken!’ (Cornwall for ever!) rendered meaningless.
An example of Cornish voices being ignored appeared on Wednesday 12th, December 2001, when a delegation from Cornwall presented a declaration consisting of over 50,000 signatures for a Cornish Assembly. The Labour government at that time chose not to respond.
While England imposes its own identity upon Cornwall, it demands that other cultures assimilate to an English identity. This hypocrisy highlighted in the article ‘A land built on blood’ by Hywel Williams.
This assumed English superiority, so prevalent throughout the decades of colonising other countries, remains the case in Cornwall today, and upheld further by an Anglo-centric mentality that exists at Cornwall Council that calls for English devolution, rather than Cornwall having its own self-defining Cornish Assembly.
Cornwall’s assimilation is further assured by the imposed English school curriculum in Cornish schools. Failing as it does to include Cornwall’s history and its progress leading up to the Roman occupation and departure, its wars with invading Anglo-Saxons (English ancestors), it serves to define the ethnicity of Cornish children as ‘English’. With a curriculum that also excludes even a basic understanding of the Cornish language, its inevitable that sections of Cornish schoolchildren reject any pride in Cornish identity and instead become ‘English Wannabees’. Their assimilation complete.
During a Energy and Climate Change debate (14/7/2016) Cornwall MP Steve Double, raised the issue of deep geothermal as a source of renewable energy to the newly appointed Minister of State for Enviornment, Andrea Leadsom.
As both these MP’s are in the pro-Brexit camp, its unsurprising that EU funding, being a factor towards Cornwall’s geothermal future , is notably missing from the debate:
“What assessment she has made of the potential contribution of deep geothermal as a source of renewable energy.”
“Owing to our geology, deep geothermal power is likely to make a small contribution to electricity supply. However, Cornwall is one area where the technology can work and I am pleased that this is part of the devolution deal for Cornwall. Deep geothermal heat has greater potential and we are supporting its development through the renewable heat incentive and through feasibility studies funded by the heat network delivery unit.”
“I thank the Minister for that response. Deep geothermal has the great benefit of being a baseload energy source that is not reliant on variable weather conditions, and, as the Minister points out, Cornwall is one place where great potential for geothermal lies. As she is aware, a scheme is being developed at the Eden project in my constituency. May I invite her to visit Cornwall to see for herself the huge potential that there is for geothermal development there?”
“I am grateful to my hon. Friend; nothing would please me more than a nice holiday in Cornwall right now. I am very pleased to hear that the EGS Energy and Eden project development is progressing well and, as he knows, it has the potential to produce power for about 4,000 homes and to make a very important contribution to the local community.”
Mr Double has assured the people of Cornwall that EU funding will continue at least until ‘the legal status of the UK’s relationship changes with the EU. He has made a further assurance that “The money we get from the EU is essentially just a small fraction of what we’ve handed over. If we leave the EU, we could utilise that extra £11bn a year in a number of important sectors.”
So can those in Cornwall who are in receipt of EU funding, or have applied for EU funding for the future, be assured that when the UK leaves the EU, Westminster will make up the shortfall? Not really, as Westminster’s refusal to fund Cornwall adequately was the reason it qualified for the EU funding in the first place.
With the new Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change, and the Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement likely to be about public spending and deficit reduction, Cornwall’s geothermal future is not looking good.
Although not requiring ‘official recognition’ to prove the existence of Cornish ethnicity, after centuries of English erosion, the Cornish were finally afforded recognition by the UK government in 2014.
But if this act had the potential for a demand that Cornwall itself should be afforded the same recognition, it didn’t materialise. It seems the Cornish, or at least some of them, remain happy to have their homeland remain under an English administration that allows further assimilation of Cornwall.
Proud to be Cornish
Throughout history, Cornish pride has been reflected in their battles with the English that included taxation, the imposed English language and more recently, Cornish people could be seen protesting against London’s ‘Devonwall’ agenda.
They have also campaigned tirelessly to reclaim their language that won official recognition in 2003 and, as mentioned earlier, campaigned for the recognition of their Cornish ethnicity that was in danger of being completely assimilated into an English identity. These people are ‘proud to be Cornish’ many of whom are invited to become Bards of Gorsedh Kernow, and declare that pride by writing ‘Cornish’ on the UK Census that provides statistical evidence on the proportion of the Cornish population.
The not so proud to be Cornish
However, this pride of being Cornish is not reflected throughout Cornish people. Indeed, Cornish identity may be described as a paradox; a minority within a minority. As already said, there are those who remain passionately Cornish, retaining their Celtic spirit similar to that of their kinfolk in Wales and Scotland, but with others it is more superficial, only appearing at certain times such as Cornwall’s ‘St Piran’s Day’ and rugby matches, then to be to be put away and reverting to an ‘English’ identity.
These so-called ‘English wannabees’ have either knowingly or unknowingly (an English school curriculum fails to include Cornish history) have chosen not to acknowledge their Cornish ethnicity. When speaking of ‘us’ and ‘we’ they are referring not to their fellow Cornish people, but rather to their adopted English neighbours. Having no use for their Cornish identity, no pride in being Cornish, their assimilation into ‘English’ has been complete.
Cornish people who cast aside their identity are effectively making the Cornish minority an even lesser minority, and risk Cornish identity being wiped out altogether.
Our Cornishness must not be treated like a suit or dress to be worn on special occasions. It should a matter of pride and also a personal responsibility that ensures Cornish nationality will survive for future generations.