Among all the commentary from the London media about the results from the 4 June elections, it is possible that a few facts about Cornwall may have escaped widespread notice.
In the Euro election, Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall took 7% of the vote across the Cornwall counting area. In many parts of mid and west Cornwall its share was reported to have been over 10%. MK came fifth in Cornwall, beating the now despised Labour Party into an ignominious sixth place.
Polling day also saw three MK candidates elected to the new Cornwall Council unitary authority. MK had no representation on the old County Council but did have nine district councillors, all of whom lost their seats through the reorganisation. Dr Loveday Jenkin, previously the portfolio holder for Leisure, Arts & Culture on Kerrier District Council, failed to get onto the new authority after her home parish of Crowan was split in two by the Boundary Committee charged with drawing up the new electoral divisions. The three successful MK candidates include Party Leader Dick Cole, formerly a Cornwall County Council employee, who gave up his job, taking a big cut in income, in order to be allowed to stand. The electors of St Enoder rewarded him with 78% of the vote, the biggest mandate of any of the 123 Cornwall Council members. The Labour Party, after 12 years of contempt for Cornish aspirations to self-government, failed to win a single seat. The last few decent human beings left in that party must now surely be starting to look for a new political home.
The Euro results were also disappointing for the English Democrats, who do not recognise Cornwall as a nation. They came tenth in Cornwall, with only one-sixth of the MK vote. Across the ‘South West’ zone as a whole they did rather better, polling 1.6% of the total, compared with 1.0% for MK, but with ten times the population to which to appeal the margin should have been much greater. In fact the EngDems in the ‘South West’ did poorly in comparison with England generally. After London, this was their worst result in terms of share of the vote. Which suggests that Wessex folk are wary of a party that wants to impose a ‘one-size-fits-all’ English Parliament upon us.
The lessons for Wessex run wide and deep.
The first is in minding our own business. Cornish nationalism is now an established fact, the cultural posturing having broken through at last into real political clout. A firm line should now be drawn under those delusional claims that Cornwall ‘will want to come in with us’, that ‘it’s not viable’, ‘it doesn’t fit a rational pattern of English regions’, or that ‘the Cornish thing is purely cultural; if we promise to support the language, they’ll be happy to be part of Wessex’. Cornwall has never been an integral part of Wessex, having always maintained its distinctive character and it’s not just flogging a dead horse to suggest otherwise. The Cornish are our neighbours and can be our friends and our allies. Wessex has enough enemies without adding Cornwall to the list.
The second is a lesson in patience. MK was founded in 1951. It has journeyed over rocky roads to reach its present position. In the 1980’s, its General Secretary defected to the Social Democrats (though came back again, empty-handed) and a hardline Marxist cabal made it unelectable. It isn’t unelectable now. The Wessex Regionalists are relative newcomers, constituted as a party in 1981. But we can be confident that the tide of history will be turning our way too before very long.
The third lesson is that challenging the consensus works. MK is not middle-of-the-road. It describes itself as a modern and progressive political party, a party of principle, campaigning for a better deal for Cornwall and a fairer, more equitable world. After 30 years of Thatcherism, ceaseless centralisation of power within England and across Europe, unregulated free markets gone mad and a culture of greed and growth engrained everywhere, it’s time for alternative politics to make its move.
Finally, MK is succeeding because others before it have failed. A wide-ranging cultural movement has rekindled the flame of Cornish identity, yet as confidence in that identity has grown, so real control by the Cornish over Cornwall has continued to diminish. Government initiatives to help its economy are not even run from within Cornwall. Non-party action has failed to dent the Whitehall armour: a 50,000-signature petition in favour of a Cornish assembly was simply dismissed for nonconformity with the New Labour project. It is likely that Wessex will have to go through a similar process of maturation, realising that the cultural groundwork may make us angry about what is happening but it will not on its own enable us to get even. Faith in the goodwill of the London-based parties needs to wear away completely before folk turn to the only conclusion valid in the long-term. That only we, ourselves, can right the wrongs that afflict our region. The Wessex Regionalist Party is here to welcome each and every one as they reach that resolution.