If anyone had any hopes that a flash General Election would result in the various political parties rushing to offer Cornish voters promises of a land of milk and honey, it was very quickly dashed.
The unexpected campaign caused Mebyon Kernow, fresh from an energetic Cornwall Council election campaign where they recorded a tally of four seats, to regretfully announce that they were not able to stand any candidates for reasons of both finances and extreme exhaustion from the group just coming out of a campaign for votes at Lys Kernow.
Therefore, who was to stand up for Cornwall against the disgraceful treatment it had gained at the hands of the Conservative Government, and indeed by its ‘own’ Conservative MPs?
Six days after Prime Minister Theresa May called the election, Gorsedh Kernow Grand Bard Dr. Merv Davey issued a timely rallying cry for the territory when he made his Proclamation speech on behalf of the bards in Launceston town square.
Davey highlighted the fact that: “Today it is our culture and heritage which is under threat…and there are still forces at large today that would deny us our Celtic, global identity and demote Cornwall to a provincial existence on the periphery of a so-called south west region.”
The example of local TV and radio failing to cover St. Piran’s Day celebrations, and indeed Gorsedh ceremonies are prime examples of neglect. Davey also observed how negative stereotyping by the media has led to intolerance and racism towards Cornish people. It is Cornwall’s unique culture and history which must, he argued, be used more than ever to counter these threats. The Grand Bard noted the potential of “some powerful democratic tools” that the Cornish have in their arsenal, “including recognition of the Cornish language, Kernewek, National Minority Status and the Devolution Deal which gives clear commitment to cherish and promote our precious Cornish culture.
Davey concluded: “Modern Cornwall is distinct for many more reasons than those laid down constitutionally. We have our musical culture, our folk traditions, Cornish dialect, our sports, our moors, coastline and our Cornish cuisine. The flagship for our identity is our Cornish language together with our membership of the community of Celtic nations that lies along the western seaboard of Europe, all of which is embodied in the recognition of the Cornish as a National Minority. Our landscape has a distinctive geology and history which embraces our world famous mining heritage. Cornwall is unquestionably recognised as a World Heritage Site and this goes hand in hand with our global perspective through the Cornish Diaspora. Such a fantastic heritage resonates with people of all ages and sets the scene for a contemporary Cornwall.
However – the question as ever remains, how can Cornwall gain further recognition of itself when the MPs that represent it go with their party first and constituents second? Several months of research that I carried out around Cornwall in winter and spring 2017 revealed not only a growing frustration with the present group of Cornish MPs (not helped by one of them being accused of calling for all funding for the Cornish language to be withdrawn and another incident where it was stated later how glad they were that foodbanks exist). At every site in Cornwall that I held interviews and focus groups, at least one person highlighted the fact the “the last proper Cornish MP died with David Penhaligon”. What was also abundantly clear was real anger that the situation was not going to change any time soon due to the extreme numbers of incomers in Cornwall completely skewing the Westminster election results in the territory.
Pressure on the government for change and recognition of Cornish needs is stymied by none of the territory’s MPs calling out their party for a total miscomprehension of Cornish issues and a blatant ignoring of the Framework Convention for National Minorities. The Conservative Party’s treatment of the Cornish under the Framework Convention should not be a surprise after Eric Pickles announced on BBC TV a few weeks ago that, as Local Government Secretary in the coalition government, he only backed Cornwall getting funding for Kernewek in exchange for the Lib Dems backing a separate policy and readily admitted that it “was a bribe”.
If Cornwall’s Conservative MPs won’t stand up for Cornwall’s individual needs, you would expect them all to be voted out today, right?
To be continued…
This is a topic that the blog will return to with examples of primary data once my research has received its final grade.