Mebyon Kernow’s 2015 Conference, which took place in Truro on 14th November opened with party members standing in silence to express their sadness at the shocking events which had unfolded in France on Friday evening.
The Chairman of the morning session, Cllr Loveday Jenkin, said: “We thought it was extremely important to show our solidarity with the people of Paris, following the terrible terrorist attacks of the previous evening.”
· Party members re-affirmed their commitment to a “National Assembly of Cornwall, which would have democratic control over the wider public sector” like the “National Assembly of Wales and Scottish Parliament,” and were extremely critical of the recent “extremely feeble and top-down ‘devolution deal’,” which gave greater authority to “unelected and democratically unaccountable bodies, such as the Local Enterprise Partnership. They also condemned the Westminster parties for deliberately undermining meaningful “democratic devolution” to Cornwall by treating it as a “local government” rather than a historic nation which merited greater self-government.
· The meeting was also addressed by Hannah Brotherstone, a junior doctor at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, who briefed party members on threats to the National Health Service from proposed government changes, including alterations to the working conditions of doctors. Party members reaffirmed MK’s commitment to the NHS as a universal health service, which supplies the best possible healthcare free at the point of use for one and all; restated MK’s opposition to the ongoing privatisation of the NHS; and gave full support to health service staff, including junior doctors.
· Delegates at the event – which included a number of individuals who played prominent roles in the fight against the waste incinerator at St Dennis – agreed a detailed new policy on waste.
At the Conference, members also debated MK campaign priorities and agreed an action plan for the next two years, leading up to the elections to the unitary authority and town and parish elections across Cornwall.
In his afternoon keynote address, Mebyon Kernow leader Cllr Dick Cole appealed to party members to prioritise working hard over the next 18 months to win as many seats as possible at the 2017 elections to Cornwall Council.
In a wide-ranging speech, Cole condemned the Conservative Government for its destructive cuts to public services, its attempt to take tax credits away from the working poor, the regional inequity of its investment programme, and its approach to housing and planning.
Commenting on the Tories’ announcement that they intended to redefine affordable housing for sale as properties costing less than a quarter of a million pounds, he told delegates:
“Government ministers and MPs may themselves be living in nice properties, but they certainly not living in the real world.”
He also slammed the Conservative’s “devolution deal” and stated that Cornwall had been “short-changed” by the central Government, repeating MK’s core demand for a National Assembly of Cornwall.
During his address, he also bluntly acknowledged that the General Election had been a “difficult contest for MK” and, in spite of much positive feedback, the Party “had not polled as strongly as we would have liked.”
He thanked party members for all their hard work during 2015 and made it clear that they should be proud of the case MK put before the voters of Cornwall which had included:
· A new democratic settlement through the creation of a National Assembly of Cornwall.
· A geographical re-balancing of the UK economy away from London and the South East.
· Fair funding for public services in Cornwall.
· Greater investment in public works to boost local economic activity.
· Opposition to the privatisation of our National Health Service and the destruction of our public services.
· Opposition to the establishment consensus around austerity, which is impacting most severely on the vulnerable and the less-well-off.
He added that the 2015 General Election had raised MK’s profile and described himself as “confident,” looking ahead to the 2017 elections to the unitary authority and Cornwall’s town and parish councils.
The St Enoder councillor told members that they should treat these upcoming contests as MK’s “General Election.”
Cllr Cole told the meeting:
“Ours is a distinctive political force, which is and will always be unashamedly pro-Cornwall. We are based here and we have no political masters in Westminster to please.
“Let’s start the run-in to the Cornwall Council elections now; let’s make it our best campaign ever; and let’s win for Cornwall.”