The Cornish, the part-time Cornish and selective amnesia
The Cornish are an ethnic group recognised as belonging to the Celts that inhabited this island called Britain prior to the invading Romans, and later the Anglo Saxons, forefathers of today’s English. However, it wasn’t until November 2002, that the Cornish language was recognised and it took a further 13 years until the Cornish themselves were formally recognised as an ethnic group in April 2014.
This recognition wasn’t ‘gifted’. It followed many years of political battles and campaigns by Cornish historians, politicians, groups and individuals who were up against not only an Anglo-centric media, but an even more Anglo-centric Westminster. These people that stood against bigotry and hatred are the champions of Cornish identity; these are Cornish people, the essence of the Cornish minority. Some are named in the Cornish National Minority Report 2 that did much to promote our recognition.
Yet Cornwall itself has yet to receive the respect of similar recognition. It remains under the ignominy of an English administration; an administration that excludes Cornish history and language from its school curriculum and imposed upon Cornish school children in Cornwall – assimilation by education. This is against the FCNM and the reason the Cornish were included to prevent such assimilation.
The situation is exacerbated further. As we write about Cornish patriots, there also exists other types of ‘Cornish’ person that are the complete opposite. There are the part-time Cornish that only appear on St Piran’s Day; there are the type that have distinct Cornish surnames and lineage, yet steadfastly refuse to acknowledge their Cornish ethnicity; other Cornish types declaring their ‘Cornishness’ while while at the same time supporting their favorite English football/rugby team; some are content to support their ‘Cornish’ rugby clubs so secure in their ‘selective amnesia’ they actually need reminding that they are not Cornish clubs at all, but are English clubs under a Cornwall RFU which itself resides under the English RFU that selects players of ability to play for . . . England.
The Cornish are a minority in their own homeland and in danger of becoming an even lesser minority as Westminster, enabled by Cornwall Council, has building targets not aimed solely at Cornwall’s current growing population, but to house more incomers to Cornwall.
Despite the efforts of our Cornish patriots, England’s assimilation of the Cornish and Cornwall continues apace and enabled to some extent by our own ‘part-time’ Cornish that remain in a state of subserviance and selective amnesia. For without significant Kernow-centric support, an Anglo-centric Westminster isn’t motivated to enable the way towards a Cornish administration; a Cornwall that can take pride in a Cornish RFU or Cornish School Curriclum.
“If my mother tongue is shaking the foundations of your state, it probably means that you built your state on my land”
Cornwall’s local shop owners are in a constant battle competing with out-of-town national stores. They hear those who express sorrow at the decline of Cornwall’s local shops while at the same time clutching their Aldi/Waitrose/Asda/Lidl and Morrison’s shopping bags, or waiting for a free bus that takes them to Tesco’s.
A campaign by Cornwall Food & Drink and Cornwall Chamber of Commerce in 2013 was to persuade people to shop local and Choose Cornish produce, explaining that spending local helps retain the money in Cornwall, but spending in national stores sees the money drift away from Cornwall to CEOs and shareholders.
Business rates are another source of frustration since the steep rise in rates as a result of the 2017 rate revaluation. Although small business’s welcome the recent £2.72 million business rate relief fund, they say this is merely a short-term sticking plaster when long-term rate stability is required; not only to inspire confidence, but to be competitive with the national stores (Cornwall’s many charity shops are entitled to 80% rate relief on any non-domestic property that is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes)
Olivers Photographics is a local shop in Penzance, has highlighted the financial hardships faced among Cornwall’s small businesses, losing custom to the national stores and business rates. While understanding the rates are a necessity, they should be tailored more to individual business’s throughout the Duchy, not the current ‘one size fits all’ that is typical of over-centralised Government policies.
There are currently 47 shops in Penzance that remain empty and becoming eyesores making the town less attractive. Prospective buyers, put off by the high Business Rates, could be persuaded by bespoke rates arranged to help their start-up.
At present, Cornwall Council collects Business Rates on behalf of central Government which then redistributes funds to Cornwall in the form of grants and one-off payments. How much Cornwall actually receives from London, in comparison to what Cornwall pays to London, could explain Cornwall’s lowly status as being one of the poorest areas in the UK and wider EU.
A devolved Cornwall could collect and retain Business Rates which are then paid into an Assembly’s non-domestic rates pool. The rates could then be redistributed to our local authorities as part of a Cornish local government revenue settlement each year.
Cornwall is not asking for independence. But it requires a devolution process of decentralisation; to drawdown powers from an over-centralised Westminster to the towns and people of Cornwall. To ensure local factors are better recognised in the decision-making eg; having control in areas such as Planning; Affordable Homes for local people; Recognition for Cornwall; A strategy for a Cornish sustainable economy.
Will Cornwall remain the cap-doffing subservient to the centralist parties of the Conservatives and Labour? (The Liberal Democrats were full of promise but failed to deliver – even in a coalition Government)
Or will we see a re-awakening of Cornish self-determination, wresting control from London to Cornwall through a Cornish Assembly and supported by the Green Party and Mebyon Kernow?
The current feeling suggests Cornwall will remain cap-doffers.
“There is something inevitable about the journey to a Cornish Assembly” said David Whalley, leader of the old Cornwall County Council from a speach made in 2007 at the annual conference of the Cornish Constitutional Convention.
Its now 2017 and no Cornish Assembly. While Scotland, Wales and Mannin are recognised, have varying degrees of devolution, Cornwall and the Cornish remain under the assimilating English ‘county’ council level; the ‘journey’ to a Cornish Assembly either stopped in its tracks or derailed.
Although the Cornish language was finally recognised in 2001, and Cornish ethnicity recognised in 2014, recognition for Cornwall itself remains as far away now as it did back in 2007, and Cornwall’s electorate seems happy to maintain the status quo.
Yet the electorate do have increasing issues. Planning. Westminster’s centralised House Planning Policy Framework (HPPF) imposes unsustainable housing targets upon Cornwall that exceed the amount required for the natural growth of Cornwall’s current population. So what happens to the excess? The excess allows for the further ingress of incomers, 2nd homes and holiday home ownership, that brings about another issue, parking. More incomers, more cars, less parking space!
We place the blame on Cornwall Council, but despite claims of devolved powers and Cornwall’s ‘Local Plan’ the Council has little choice but to comply with Westminster’s diktat. While the Council has rejected planning applications in the past, most are over-turned on appeal by a planning officer in Bristol, these challenges are expensive and leaves the Council short of funds.
Yes we can start petitions, hold protest meetings and demonstrations that rarely prove effective in changing Westminster’s policies. The reality is we need a Cornish administration, a Cornish Assembly that would serve not only to recognise Cornwall as an entity in its own right, but would also enable devolved powers; the autonomy to control planning decisions, build affordable housing etc; either that or continue to accept the status quo: the developer’s paradise, car parking hell and the further undermining of Cornwall’s infrastructure.
An example of why Cornwall’s electorate mistrust and lack confidence in their own politicians can be seen further in the following excerpts of a letter from Cornwall MP Sarah Newton in reply to Mr Lance Dyer, Truro City Councillor for Redannick Ward, Cornwall. The full text may be read here.
‘We are very fortunate to live in a democracy where there are a politicians promoting a wide range of views. Cornish nationalists take every opportunity to pick fights with what they call ‘Westminster politicians’ and stir up grievances. The Scottish and Welsh nationalists adopt a similar strategy, trying to undermine politicians like myself who are not only very proud of our deep Cornish roots but also support the Union’
This paragraph alone provides Cornwall’s electorate with an insight into the mind-set of Ms Newton and how she interprets voters that have the temerity to question Westminster’s politicians as ‘to pick fights’.
We in Cornwall do question Westminster’s politicians. It’s our right in a so-called democracy to hold politicians to account and yes, they all sit at Westminster. There are indeed those in Cornwall who strive for Cornish devolution. To have its distinct history, language and culture recognised and incorporated through the formation of a Cornish Assembly that will also serve to draw down powers from Westminster: devolved powers that can be better managed by the people of Cornwall, rather than the ‘one size fits all’ diktat of the over-centralised Westminster. These then, are the people to which Ms Newton refers to as ‘Cornish nationalists’.
She also chooses not to recognise that, unlike the xenophobia of English nationalism that’s evident in groups such as Thisis England, Britain First, National Front, and National Action etc, that promotes the superiority of their own group to the exclusion of all others, Cornish nationalism is a Civic nationalism that is inclusive and respects all ethnic groups, none of which are deemed superior to the other and are entitled to their own beliefs.
It must also be stressed that an Assembly is not about an ‘independent’ Cornwall. That is how Ms Newton and her ilk conveniently choose to undermine the issue: intending to instill a ‘project fear’ that aims to keep the status quo of Westminster’s control. But of course, independence was at the top of her fellow Cornwall MPs’ agenda when it came to the UK leaving the EU. The ‘building of bridges’ to which they elude now collapse under chauvinistic anglocentricism.
‘I am very proud of my deep Cornish roots and am proud that along with my fellow Cornish MPs we have delivered significant investment into Cornwall, including the Cornish language, heritage and culture over that last few years. I am confident that we will continue to see investments in years to come too’
Again, complete hypocrisy from Ms Newton as she continues to proclaim being ‘proud of my deep Cornish roots’ – so proud in fact that her Tory party stopped all funding for the Cornish language. Further, Cornwall’s status as one of the poorest in the UK and wider EU was eased by European Funding. Upon Brexit the funding will cease and her party of austerity will succeed in making Cornwall an even greater recipient of Westminster – induced poverty.
‘The Convention commits member states to protect what the EU calls ‘minority groups’ living within its borders from persecution. On signing the Convention in 1998 the Labour Government interpreted the term minority group as meaning a racial group. Some in Cornwall are therefore calling on the Coalition to designate the Cornish as a racial group, to pave the way for protection under the Convention. Whilst sympathising with their passion for Cornwall’s distinct identity, culture and history, I have to part with campaigners on this issue’
Ms Newton’s ignorance on the issue should be highlighted as it was the Council of Europethat was the architect of the FCPNM – not the European Union. Also clear that Ms Newton’s claims of her ‘deep Cornish roots’ resembles her integrity – somewhat shallow.
Cornwall’s electorate will ensure any of Ms Newton’s further erroneous utterances will fall under even more scrutiny – and more mistrust.
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.
Scottish SNP Alex Salmond stood shoulder to shoulder with Cornwall saying “The hon. Gentleman (Steve Double) is making a very good speech, apart from that passing reference to Scotland, which we will overlook, (Steve Double reminded the house that ‘thousands of Cornishmen marched on this place to protest about the imposition of a tax on the Cornish to fund a fight with the Scottish’) but does he understand that, because of the nature and the criteria of the boundary commissions, nonsense such as the one that he is so ably describing will be replicated across the four nations of the United Kingdom, as well as the nation of 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 ‘Devonwall’ proposals (there were 12 votes for – 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.
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.