Welcome to the blog. All the opinion on this blog is my own or as attributed. Thank you for reading - I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Cornwall Council boundary row and how it illustrates my frustration with Cornish politics!

So the LGBC has decreed that democracy in Cornwall needs to be further reduced! The number of people that we can actually choose for ourselves to have any input into how Cornwall is run will be slashed from 123 to 87.

Why are the Tories crowing about this and why are the other Westminster parties going through the motions of being appalled while  indulging in the usual rhetorical inaction - designed to give a pretence of opposition for the benefit of voters?

A little thing like local government isn't particularly important to the Westminster bunch. The Tories are desperately trying to get rid of it. Labour simply uses it to attack the Tories and the Lib Dems are desperate to use it to make them appear even slightly relevant in the current political world.

All of these political uses of local government by London-centric political parties benefit from one thing. Reduced numbers of candidates in future elections will make it easier for those parties to use their vastly superior resources to greater effect - at the expense of independent candidates and smaller political parties. Fewer councillors mean larger electoral districts with more households. More households to visit individually and provide with expensive electoral literature. On top of that the London lot will have fewer candidates to find meaning that it is more likely that we end up in Cornwall with more councillors who will be taking their orders direct from London rather than the people of Cornwall.

All of this is before you look at the thing rather more objectively as Bernard Deacon has done here.

So how does this illustrate my frustration with Cornish politics?

Well - the first and obvious thing is the sheer undemocratic nature of the decision combined with the felling of "Why is it Cornwall, yet again, that is being treated so appallingly by our Westminster masters?"

But more frustrating than that is the way that MK has no power to prevent this kind of attack on Cornwall. What adds to the frustration are the reasons why MK has no power to act and the way that people still expect it to act - even when they are part of the reason why MK does not have the power in the first place.

Let me explain - so that I can be shot down in flames and totally vilified by everyone - what larks!

MK have no power to do anything to stop this because they are a political and electoral  irrelevance - even less relevant than the Lib Dems, and probably still less relevant than UKIP in Cornwall. I don't mean this to sound harsh - just objectively realistic when you consider the number of votes that MK would receive if there was a general election tomorrow and MK had its deposits funded so it could stand candidates.

MK has just four Cornwall Councillors and has never managed to retain a deposit in a general election. If you took Dick Cole's personal vote out of the equation the party would struggle to achieve 1% of the vote in Cornwall.

Until MK, or any other political party, can ever begin to be able to challenge the dictats of Westminster it has to achieve massively more electoral support than it currently gets - surely that's just an obvious fact. A political party exists to win power to be able to give effect to its policies. Anything other than that makes it a pressure group at best. MK has an excellent record of achievement if you judge it through the prism of a pressure group - but as a political party it is failing.

Westminster will listen if it is forced to listen because of a concerted electoral challenge to its power - this is how UKIP have been successful and we are facing Brexit. If you have no electoral challenge then (as a political party) you have no challenge - end of story

But just as galling is the way that Cornish politicos still turn to MK and expect it to act and expect it to lead the fight against attacks on Cornwall.

Why is it galling? Because although the expectations and demands are always laid on MK they are very rarely backed up with the very thing that MK needs in order to lead the fight - votes!

How many people who voted tactically a few months ago for Corbyn's Labour party are now turning to their local Labour party and demanding that they do something in the same way that the demand is made of MK - not many!

How many people are turning to the likes of Andrew George or Dan Rogerson - because they are such champions of Cornwall - and demanding that they lead the fight against this - not many!

So we are in the bizarre situation where miracles are expected of MK and yet the votes go to the Westminster parties because one of them might possibly be slightly less bad than another of them.

That is my frustration in a nutshell. We have a failing Cornish political party - MK - which could and should do better. At the same time people in Cornwall deny MK the very things it needs, give those things to Westminster and then demand that MK does something about the end result.

If we are ever to get out of this seemingly hopeless situation we need a Cornish political party that behaves like a political party and a population that is prepared to vote for it - even it seems like a 'wasted' vote in the first instance.

Otherwise we are all doomed to continuing unwanted hyper-development, poor quality jobs and the eradication of Cornish culture.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The cause of the disconnect between politics and voters?

One thing that the referendum has highlighted is a reported feeling of a disconnect between our politicians and voters.

I have read many times that one of the reasons that people have given for voting in the referendum (either way to be fair) is to give the establishment 'a bit of a kicking'.

People feel that no matter how they vote they are not going to get what they actually want.

I think the  obvious cause to this is the electoral system that we use. It is first past the post which is causing this disconnect.

When was the last time that any government won an election with more than 35% - 40% of the vote - possibly a lot less. The Conservatives are currently governing the country when around 65% of people didn't vote for them - is it any wonder the majority of people feel disconnected?

The problem with the system is that we have a government which represents the biggest minority and doesn't reflect the majority view point on the majority of issues.

Political parties are encouraged to come up with policies designed to upset as few people as possible in an attempt to be the least worst option - that seems to be the the way to ultimate power.

We need proportional representation to sort this out as then you could truly vote for what you wanted instead of voting to prevent what you don't want.

If we had proportional representation then getting 20% of the vote might put a party in the strong position that convincing one fifth of the electorate surely deserves. Currently it gets you zero influence.

In the meantime the big parties tell lies, or are deliberately misleading, in order to lose as few votes as possible instead of setting out what they truly believe in order to gain votes.

Of course, this might mean that our governments might be forced to work together more - but is that a problem really?

An Announcement

Several weeks ago, before the referendum, I contacted MK and let the party know that I no longer wished to have an active campaigning or administrative role with MK.

I have shared my views and opinions, concerning the referendum result, on social media and I am being responded to as if I am still a spokesperson for MK. In fairness to MK and to myself I think it is best that I make it absolutely clear that this is not the case - I do not represent MK in any way.

I reached my decision to step back from active involvement with MK because I don't believe that it is focussed enough on being a political party and winning elections.

When I moved to Cornwall, eight years ago, I had no interest in politics. It was only through living here, and trying to embrace what is here rather than change it, that I became interested in politics.

I remain passionate about the strength of the case for Cornwall to have a devolved government of its own and that has always been my main motivation in becoming involved in politics. But I think that this can only be achieved by persuading enough people to actually vote for this in an election and MK simply doesn't focus on winning elections.

I don't wish to be critical of MK. I remain a life member. I know that MK has achieved many great and good things for Kernow. I know that MK councillors are individually well respected because they work untiringly for their communities. This can be seen in the outstandingly high number of votes that sitting MK Cornwall Councillors receive to be re-elected. The problem is that I think these champions for Cornish communities are being elected despite them being members of MK rather than because of it.

There are too few members who are able, or prepared, to do the hard and long term work that is necessary to win elections. There are too many who expect their ideas to be actioned by someone else rather than committing to the hard work themselves. Ideas are easy - it is putting them into action that is difficult.

I will never join a Westminster establishment party - their leading members are motivated first and foremost by their career opportunities. They use serious social issues as political footballs in a game to enrich their career. I don't want to be a career politician - I just want to see an assembly for Cornwall in my lifetime.

I will never be an independent politician as independent politicians will never be able to achieve strategic change on a wide scale which is what is needed in Cornwall. Independents are good at representing their constituents in a microcosmic type of way but they could never drive a change in wider macro-society without grouping together - then they are no longer truly independents (what is the meaningful difference between an 'independent group' and a political party?)

To my friends and colleagues within MK - I hope we can remain friends. I wish you the utmost success for your goals and ambitions and I pay respect to your hard work and passion.

Corbyn - A Dead Duck

What is the point of Jeremy Corbyn?

With Jeremy Corbyn as leader the Labour Party is dead in the water.

The party is at war with itself. Its career oriented MPs know that they're likely to lose their seats in droves come the next election and the new 'members' aren't likely to ever do anything constructive or anything that smacks of hard work for the party on the campaign trail.

And Corbyn himself is a just a big let down. He stood for election full of ideals and principles and we have watched them slide one by one as he morphs from rebel to establishment figure.

I don't know what Labour can do - or if it really matters in the end. In order to get elected in the current climate the Labour party would have to follow the Tories to the right.

What is the point in that? What colour do you want your right wing government blue or red?

Corbyn will never be able to get Labour back to truly progressive policies - so what is the point?

Saturday, 25 June 2016

My thoughts on the referendum result and the future

I wanted to take time to summarise my thoughts on the referendum result and the future for the UK after the momentous decision to leave the EU.

This is my personal blog and these are my personal opinions. I'm not at all an important person and I'm not claiming to hold any monopoly on common sense, decency or intellectual capability. 

If you don't agree with my thoughts then that's fine I accept that - please accept that I have a right to my opinion - however unimportant it is in the grand scale of things - to anyone else but me.

This is the status that I put on Facebook when the result was finally declared:

I am utterly appalled and dismayed at the result today. I am ashamed and embarrassed to be 'British'.
As the economy crashes, and the politics of hate have become acceptable, it looks like the United Kingdom (once Great Britain) will truly become Little England. We will lose all international credibility and the process of decline in our global status will accelerate.
I have two hopes. First that if you voted to leave you will accept responsibility for what you have done in the future and not try to pass on the blame.
My second hope is that I am totally wrong and Brexiteers are right. Never have I hoped to be wrong so much.
Cornwall needs its own assembly - but, given the result in Cornwall, does it deserve it?

That was an initial reaction to what most people agree was a shock result. Do I stand by it now? Yes just about every word. 

I admit that as I wrote  'As the economy crashes' - while it was accurate at the time that I wrote it - it was (perhaps understandably?) hyperbola given that I knew and understood that the capitalists and speculators were out in force trying to make a quick buck and that it would bounce back almost as quickly and to almost the previous level. Indeed I had discussed exactly this scenario with my son as the poll was being conducted - though I admit the scale of the dip and recovery was beyond what I expected.

But let me explain some of the other parts.

I am still ashamed and embarrassed to be British - the politics of hate have become acceptable. 

This is not because of the result of the vote - we had a referendum and I accept that a majority of people wanted to do something that I disagreed with. That is absolutely fine by me. As Leave campaigners now keep pointing out we live in a democracy so have to accept that result. 

(Though as an aside I find it incredulous that there are so many people lecturing me on democracy and the triumph of the will of the people being heard. Incredulous because just the day before many of the same people were claiming how the vote had already been rigged and that a remain victory would not be a democratic statement by the people at all?)

I have no problem in accepting the fact that, as a society, we have voted to do something.

What I have a problem with is what this decision and how it appears to have been reached says about our society.

As I see it there are three types of Brexiters. 

First there are the people (almost certainly the majority) who have actually thought long and hard about the decision, respected its importance and carefully weighed the evidence before voting to leave.

I respect and applaud these people - I may not agree with you - but you have exactly the same right to vote leave as I have to vote remain.

The problem is that there are two other categories - probably sub-groups of one basic group.

Many people (and this is admittedly a purely subjective opinion from what I have personally witnessed) have voted because they agreed with what they thought were the two fundamental propositions of Brexit: 1 - There will be £350m per week which we can spend on the NHS and 2 - We will have complete control of immigration and only those who we think are 'acceptable' or 'necessary' will be 'allowed in'. 

Why I think there are two groups here is because it was absolutely clear that both of these propositions were outright lies and falsehoods designed to con people and to subliminally appeal to more latent qualities of selfishness and prejudice. 

That they were lies was always clear to any critical thinker. 

The ink wasn't even dry on the declaration of the result before Farage and co were carefully explaining how:

'actually - you know that £350m for the NHS - it was a mistake - er.. sorry'   


'you know what - we never said we were going to stop immigration - just that we might be able - in some way - at some point in the future - be able to say - in some way - that we have allowed an immigrant to come here without actually changing anything whatsoever'

Two central lies exposed within hours!

That is why I think there there were two groups. 

There was a group who didn't really think about anything much - but allowed themselves to be taken in by a promise of 'getting our money back to spend on the NHS' or 'stopping all these foreigners coming here and ruining our country' This group is exemplified by the reports in Friday evening newspapers of hordes of voters admitting that they had voted leave and now wished that they hadn't.

Then again there was a group that knew that lies were being told and knew why the lies were being told. They went along with the lies and reinforced them. This was done because they preferred to condone this in order, for whatever personal reason, to ensure that leave would win. In my mind this was the more cynical and rather more nasty element who have put personal gain or bigoted opinions and principles ahead of what they know to have been the truth. Should the leave campaign leaders and groups like Britain First be included in this category? You decide.

So why am I ashamed to be British? Not because we have had a democratic vote which has led to us leaving the EU but because what it has revealed about a significant element of our society.

We have politicians who are prepared to lie and cheat. We have people who are prepared to back them in full knowledge of what they are doing. And we have people who aren't prepared to look at bit more closely at what is being offered - but are prepared to be duped time after time.

Now you might say this is nothing new. Correct! But it doesn't make be proud to be British and each time it happens it makes me that bit more cynical and ashamed that, as a society, we are letting these people get away with it.

It looks like the United Kingdom (once Great Britain) will truly become Little England. We will lose all international credibility and the process of decline in our global status will accelerate.

There are so many people saying how Britain can now be Great again. I don't think Britain was ever particularly 'Great' and leaving the EU will only accelerate any respect and standing that we have had in the world.

'Great Britain', as I understand most people seem to allude to, was something built on the colonial rape and pillage of societies for the benefit of a ruling elite. Of course, we have all been 'educated' along the way that we were bringing 'civilisation', 'modernisation' and even 'salvation' to 'backward savages' but the truth is that a few people got very rich by using  one lot of  people to murder another lot of people and then stealing all their stuff. 

Does this make us  'Great' - I don't think so?

Even if it did, the colonial era ended a century ago. What might have made us 'Great' a century ago doesn't apply to day does it? 

So what could make Britain 'Great'? Surely it has to be about working together to get rid of 'bad things' from the world. Surely it's all about co-operation, understanding and tolerance for betterment of all. For me it is.

The 'Little Englander' mentality does not make Britain Great - it makes us morally impoverished and isolated.

Our 'Greatness' in the nineteenth century is long gone. We are now just another, fairly wealthy, state which is comparable to many others. If this is a decline from our nineteenth century status of global superpower then that is simply the way it is. We're never going to change it back - even if we really wanted to. Our global status and the respect which the world community pays us has deteriorated steadily since the first world war. It is because we no longer have an empire and the military might to hold it, yet there are those that seem to want to maintain an empty imperial arrogance in our relationships with others. 

Leaving the EU won't bring back the empire. There will be plusses and minuses. If we do better at one thing then we will do worse at something else. There will be no reversal of our our colonial decline and, worse still, it reinforces the international view of our imperial arrogance.

Then again we stand to lose even more. Scotland will almost certainly leave the UK and Northern Ireland may well follow. That's a 'Great result' isn't it? 

I have two hopes. First that if you voted to leave you will accept responsibility for what you have done in the future and not try to pass on the blame.
My second hope is that I am totally wrong and Brexiteers are right. Never have I hoped to be wrong so much.

Now I'm sure that the element who gave the issues serious thought about Brexit will take responsibility and will admit if it shown that they were wrong. 

On the other hand it already apparent the the leaders of the leave campaign are already trying to find ways of doing exactly the opposite. 

No doubt we will have the 'wrong type of Brexit' - even when (or if) it becomes clear we have made a mistake, one thing for sure is that it won't be Farage and co's fault. 

I really do hope that I am wrong and that Brexit will be a massive success. I can't see it at the moment - but if I ever do then I will own it. 

Of course I want our society to be the best it can be. I hope you Brexiters are right and I am wrong. Time will tell.

But at this point it should be worth noting that the democracy, which Brexiters claim calls on us all to pull together to make Brexit a success, actually means that I am liberty to disagree. In fact, if I wished, I could actively campaign and seek to persuade people that we should rejoin the EU. I could form a 'UK in Europe' political party and seek support for re-entry. That is what democracy is all about and shouldn't anyone, who claims to love democracy, agree that I have the right to do so? Surely it doesn't mean blithely accepting any democratic result for the long term. You're only as good as your last result!

Just saying ....

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A Second Open Letter to Cllr Candy Atherton

Dear Cllr Atherton

Does Labour still rubbish the idea of a Cornish Assembly?

Just about a year ago you rubbished the idea of a national Cornish Assembly in the local press and made the claim that, should you knock on doors in Cornwall on a wet October day, you wouldn’t find one person in a hundred that supported the idea of such an assembly.

Consequently I challenged you to join me and knock on one hundred doors to check your hypothesis. However, I had to assume that you weren’t prepared to put your theory to the test as you were unable to accept my challenge. I would like to renew that challenge now.

I would also like to congratulate your party on electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader. I’m sure that many of us outside the Labour Party are waiting to see if Mr Corbyn continues to be a politician of principles now that he has to attempt to make the party electable.

One principle that Mr Corbyn appears to have supported in the past is the establishment of a Cornish Assembly. in 2011 Mr Corbyn supported an ‘Early Day Motion’ in the House of Commons which called for “… the formation of a democratically elected Cornish Assembly to take decisions for the benefit of the people of Cornwall.”

Perhaps you might confirm whether you approve of your party leader’s support of a Cornish Assembly and whether you would like to finally accept my challenge?

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Richardson

(Chairman of the Camborne and Redruth Constituency Party of Mebyon Kernow)

Monday, 25 May 2015

A Case for Cornwall - Neither fish nor fowl!

Cornwall Council, through its leader John Pollard, has produced a document 'A Case for Cornwall'

Cornwall Council is currently responsible for a budget of just over £1.1 billion. In total there is up to £5 billion spent on providing public services in Cornwall.

Cornwall Council, as our local government, is responsible for around one fifth of public spending in Cornwall while four fifths are spent on our behalf by central government or central government agencies.

John Pollard's Case doesn't stand up. It is neither one thing or another. It is neither fish nor fowl.

On the one hand it is big in ambition for Cornwall Council - or, actually, democratically unaccountable  'public service delivery partners' - on the other hand it is woefully short of ambition for the people of Cornwall.

A Case for Cornwall will not lead to greater public accountability for delivery of public services in Cornwall. It is not about devolution to local communities or strategic accountability to the people of Cornwall.

Much of the Case talks in terms of 'piggy backing' on existing Westminster programmes or EU schemes controlled through Westminster to 'unlock' access to various pots of money.

The problem is that, almost without exception, the implementation of any benefit derived from these schemes will be implemented by bodies that are not directly accountable to the people of Cornwall through any elected body. Further, it is worse than this because more often than not the pots of money come with many central Westminster strings attached.

For example - take the LEP. This is a body which has been set up by central government - but how is it accountable? It certainly isn't accountable to the people of Cornwall. We can't remove its board members if we don't think it is doing a good job.

The LEP has been given a pot of money under a deal with central government called the 'Growth Deal'. This has been heralded as a major achievement for Cornwall. The problem is that the Growth Deal is about 'unlocking potential for development' in Cornwall - code for enabling the building of more houses. Worse still it is absolutely clear that the Cornwall and isles of Scilly LEP will be responsible to Westminster rather than Cornwall Council for the way that the fund is administered and used.

The headline is: 'Devolution to Cornwall' the reality is 'Disguised Central Control from Westminster'.

The Case is also inevitably rhetorical and unrealistic in areas where Cornwall might expect to see some real benefit. It is often like the wish list that the beauty queens of old would compile. John Pollard may as well wish for 'world peace' or 'an end to hunger' as for some of the things in the Case. Why would a Tory government which has just slashed £197 million from local government in Cornwall start to hand some of this back in the convoluted schemes to be found in the Case. It just won't happen while there exists a central government ideology of reducing local government funding to levels where it can't function properly.

Throughout the document John Pollard, through Cornwall Council, speaks as the 'voice of Cornwall'.

I think that, actually, the 'voice of Cornwall' is calling for real and meaningful change in the way that Cornwall is governed.

If Cornwall Council were serious about meaningful devolution to Cornwall and truly believed that Cornwall deserved 'parity' with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (as it says it does) it would be adding its voice to calls for a legislative Assembly which can take control of the £5 billion spent in Cornwall without reference to Westminster.

If Cornwall Council were serious about developing:

" ... a governance model which will strengthen local accountability, ensure democratic decision making and provide greater transparency to reconnect communities with public services."

it would recognise that it Cornwall Council itself needs to be reformed.

In fact the imposition of a single unitary authority in 2009 needs to be recognised as the failed experiment that it is.

We need to get rid of one single local authority and replace it with local government that truly is more locally accountable, democratic and community based. Local government which can operate within strategic and cohesive frameworks developed by a democratically accountable legislative Assembly.