Earlier this year, much debate was initiated as consequence of a article on this blog about where Mebyon Kernow stands in 2016. The subsequent debates on Facebook have been considerable. The party’s leader Dick Cole offered to address many of the points raised, and below we have the second and final part of his interview, and his response to more of the issues raised. I would like to thank Dick for taking the time to reply to the matters.
Should MK consider being renamed?
I have been a member of MK since 1988 and the issue of the Party’s name has been considered on a number of occasions. When the Party almost folded in 1990, there were a couple of renaming / restructuring proposals which were put to the emergency meeting that “saved” MK. But these proposals did not win the support of members and, even though the subject is raised on a regular basis, I would add that no-one has ever come forward with a proposal around which we could reach a consensus or even a majority. I would also add that, in the late 1990s, we did formally rename MK as “Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.” In effect, instead of using a literal translation of our historic name, we added an English language epithet that set out what MK is all about. I think this was a sensible thing to do and we do use the term “The Party for Cornwall” on a regular basis, as well as the original name or the shorthand (MK). “The Party for Cornwall” was chosen rather than “The Cornish Party” as it was considered to be a more inclusive name that underpins our efforts to appeal to all the residents of Cornwall. To be frank, I do not feel that the name is the biggest problem standing in the way of MK making progress.
Should/Could MK be doing more to reach out to the young people of Cornwall?
Yes, of course. Compared to when I was a child, younger people now have a growing confidence in their Cornishness and I think much of this relates to the successes of the cultural movement in terms of music, word, dance and so much more – I think Kernow King merits a particular mention in this regard, making issues of Cornish identity so much more accessible. Our challenge is to build on this (cultural) progress in the young and turn it into political momentum, which I think is possible. The highlight of my campaign in the 2015 General Election was the response I received from teenagers. It was wonderful to win the most support amongst pupils at Brannel School and Penrice Academy after debates with the other candidates. I think I even came second in a school vote at Newquay Treviglas School. I recognise that this needs to be a key priority for MK and, with this in mind, I quite often take part in events at Tremough and I have assisted students with numerous projects and initiatives. I would also be interested in hearing from any young people keen to become active with the Party for Cornwall and / or wish to discuss Cornish politics with us.
MK failing to hold it’s present allocation of seats in the forthcoming Cornwall Council elections would be “catastrophic” for the party?
I would agree that the outcome of the 2017 unitary authority elections is extremely important for MK and its status as a serious political party. I do agree that MK going backwards in terms of council seats would be disastrous and we desperately need to increase the number of MK councillors. I would add however that it would be truly catastrophic for Cornwall if voters continue to plump for candidates from the same old London parties. Looking back, in the 2013 elections to Cornwall Council MK put forward 24 candidates, of which four were elected. Andrew Long, Loveday Jenkin and myself were re-elected with very strong votes (61%, 55% and 87% respectively) which I believe reflected the amount of work we have been doing in our communities. Matt Luke meanwhile gained the seat of Penwithick and Boscoppa in Clay Country. But it was a “near miss” election for MK. One candidate missed out by 13 votes. Another lost by only 24 votes. Indeed, if we had secured another 140 votes in five seats, we would have won nine seats which commentators felt would have equated to a real breakthrough election. The commitment to be a Cornwall Councilllor is massive, as is the work needed to actually get elected. But I would appeal to everyone, who cares about the nation of Cornwall, to seriously consider becoming a MK candidate for these elections or joining a local campaign team to help get someone else elected.
Many councillors are elected with 300-400 votes and, with a strong campaign and a committed candidate, we could make the breakthroughs that matter. But we also need MK members and supporters to secure seats on local town and parish councils, which is a much less onerous commitment. In the 2013 elections, there were 27 official MK candidates to town and parish councils. Twenty of these were elected unopposed and six were returned in actual elections. Only one missed out and did not get elected. It is my view that instead of theorising about how MK might do and the consequences, I would appeal to Cornish nationalists to get stuck in and help us achieve a step-change result for MK. If anyone wants to know more, please get in contact with me on 07791 876607.
What can be done to convince people that MK has “sufficient fire in its belly”?
I always get very exasperated when people state that MK does not have “fire in its belly.” Let me tackle this head-on. Speaking for myself, I would challenge anyone to argue that I do not have fire in my belly in terms of seeking a better deal for Cornwall. I may sometimes be criticised for being “too nice” but I have been slogging away, year after year, attending hundreds and thousands of meetings. I fought to get elected to a principal authority in 1999 and have worked extremely hard to stay elected, serving my local community to the very best of my ability. In 2009, I gave up my career so I could be elected to the new unitary authority and ensure that MK would be represented on the council. For the record, I am personally many thousand of pounds out of pocket for taking these actions. I am not along in having made such sacrifices for MK but I would argue that this level of commitment – year and year out – does show the “fire.”
“MK needs to make serious changes to become a credible party” – What changes (if any) do you feel are necessary?
We do have significant problems to overcome such as limited access to the media that really matters (television) and opponents that are better resourced. It is my view that there is no magic bullet for electoral success and must describe politics as a hard slog. We need to do more of everything … we need to stand more candidates, we need to distribute more leaflets, we need to send out more press releases and more letters, we need to boost our social media platforms, we need to raise significant amounts of money to pay for all this work, etc, etc. But most of all we need to recruit more active members. We have also launched a revised version of “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” and there are copies available for one and all.