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Monday, 6 December 2010

Not So Delectable Duchy

The Duchy of Cornwall was created in 1337 by a Royal Charter of Edward III. The Charter confirmed the status of Cornwall as being extra-territorial to England. Today there is much controversy about the importance of the Duchy. Is it just a ‘quirk’ of ancient history that has no purpose other than the purely ceremonial or is it the constitutional and legal basis of a Cornwall independent of England?

What can be said to be true is that the status of the Duchy is a source of fierce debate amongst a small number of both ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ Cornish nationalism antagonists. At the same time the subject elicits a range of sentiments from endearing nostalgia to complete apathy from the ‘average person on the street’. So what exactly does the Duchy do for the good of Cornwall?

Amongst some Cornish nationalists it is thought that:

“The Duchy is the constitutional foundation of every conceivable argument over Cornish rights and legitimises our link to our history.”[1]

But is the Duchy really so vitally important for Cornish nationhood?

Cornwall is legally, constitutionally and culturally separate to England – this is a plain and simple fact.

Unfortunately, it is also a fact that has been incrementally ignored ever since a unified England was conceived and born in the Dark Ages.

If the Duchy is the link to a history that is ignored or, just as often, corrupted by people who want to deny that history, does it actually serve any good purpose at all?

The ‘official’ Duchy of Cornwall has been inherited by the Duke of Cornwall. Exactly what benefit does the Duchy, through the auspices of the Duke of Cornwall, provide for Cornwall?

A brief look at the official Duchy of Cornwall web site provides us with the information that “The Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate which funds the public, charitable and private activities of The Prince of Wales and his family.”[2] Further examination of the web pages reveals a plethora of misleading, factually inaccurate and distorted historical ‘factoids’ which are presented to the browser in order to promote this despoiled version of the Duchy of Cornwall. We are presented with an institution ‘created’ simply to provide an income for the English monarch’s eldest son. All of this is taken as gospel truth because it is the ‘official’ site so it must be true mustn’t it?[3]

In reality, this is establishment propaganda at its most insidious. The ancient Duchy charters confirmed and restored the status of Cornwall as a crown dependency still distinct from England. Even from before the birth of the centralised English state in the ninth century, Cornwall was, and has always been since, a separate land and has never been incorporated within the territory of ‘England’.[4] The Duchy charters (which, over the years, have been ‘disappeared’, ‘re-worked’ and ‘interpreted’[5] to reflect the fiction presented by the Duchy officials) confirmed that Cornwall and the Cornish people formed a distinct nation with its own administrative system and ruler. The charters confirmed this and, with the force of statute, set out in a legally constitutional format that Cornwall was not part of England, that it had never been so and that it never should be.

Unfortunately all of this is denied by our illustrious Duke of Cornwall, our sovereign leader. Instead the Duke prefers to insist that he is simply responsible for managing a private estate which exists, not to lead Cornwall into the twenty first century, but to provide a colossal supplementary stream of income for the Windsor coffers. Whereas, in times past, the monarchy needed little excuse to extract money from the people of Cornwall, now the Duchy is dressed in the clothing of a private estate in an attempt to legitimise the exercise of privilege without responsibility. I think it would be fair to say that Cornwall isn’t best served by this incarnation of the Duchy.

Perhaps, given the wealth and power that the Duchy bestows on the Duke, Charles Windsor’s private estate cannot be expected to advance the cause of the Cornish nation. Mr Windsor’s Duchy, which seeks to maximise profit and to sell Cornish heritage to the highest bidder[6], is not the best administration to steer Cornwall into a vibrant and confident future – but is the ‘other’ Duchy any more fit for purpose? The Duchy that pristinely shines from the nationalists’ pages of history as a beacon of hope and legitimacy for the Cornish nation – surely this must be a better vehicle to take Cornwall forward – even if its official sovereign has abdicated all responsibility and would like to sell the crown jewels.

The trouble with this is that, although it is absolutely and unequivocally true to say that the Duchy of Cornwall is extra-terrestrial to England, it turns out that the concept of the Duchy, for the ordinary person, does not shine quite so pristinely as for the Cornish nationalist. In fact the constant and deliberate muddying of the Duchy by the English state[7] has led to it becoming a battle ground chosen by the establishment[8], where the establishment holds the high ground[9], where the establishment has superior firepower[10] and where the establishment holds reserve forces which dwarf anything yet deployed for the Cornish nation.[11]

Fighting for the Duchy to be reinstated as the administrative government of Cornwall is a bit like the Captains of the West marching to the gates of Mordor and waging war with Sauron (apologies if you haven’t read the Lord of the Rings). In Tolkien’s trilogy this suicidal act at least provided a distraction from the accomplishment of the only truly possible method to end the tyranny of the evil overlord. In Cornwall any small victory gained would be pyrrhic and soon reversed as the full might of the establishment came crashing down on the erstwhile victors – unless there is another plan – a method to cast the one ring of power into the fires of the earth in order to destroy it for ever.

It is extremely difficult to inspire interest from the general public concerning the reasons and evidence as to why the Duchy of Cornwall is actually the true governmental body of Cornwall and why this means that Cornwall is not simply another county of England. This difficulty arises because of the nature of historical constitutional law which is almost universally considered to be unexciting and of no relevance to people today. If you mention historical charters and Victorian law cases people will almost certainly be more likely to want to go and watch the X Factor than take part in the discussion. For them the Duchy is purely an emblem of Cornish pride that distinguishes Cornwall from “any other English county” – even if it isn’t understood why.

This phenomenon of a nostalgic pride and benign lack of understanding of the crucial importance of the Duchy in many Cornish people is what makes it such a perfect concept for the state to do battle with Cornish nationalists. Even to try and discuss the Duchy, this emblem of Cornish peculiarity, in political terms can get people annoyed. The state and the Duke control and manipulate the evidence. Duchy records are kept hidden away and kept inaccessible while other vital documentation is reinterpreted, misplaced or altered. Whenever there is a question to be asked the state prevents it being asked, using injunctions in the Westminster parliament to prevent the truth being heard[12]. In effect the establishment prevents truth being told and encourages anyone attempting to bring the truth into the open to be branded as fanatics and as extremists who are damaging the good name of the ceremonial and ritualistically traditional (which is, of course, actually just a well-run private estate) Duchy of Cornwall.

So what can be done? Is there a way to send the one ring of establishment power to the flames of the deep?

“Even today Cornwall retains, both superficially and hidden in the depths of her being, the marks of her distinct and separate origin. Cornwall is not just another English county but a Celtic country in its own right. Its people retain, often sub-consciously their own sense of nationality, their own attitude to life, and the foundations of their native culture.”[13]

Cornwall remains a ‘land apart’. That is why nationalism is as alive here, as it has never existed in counties of England. Cornwall is home to the nation of Cornwall, which now encompasses all the people of Cornwall who choose to identify with it regardless of their ethnicity. Cornwall must assert its Cornishness and be free to forge a modern and vibrant future rather than continue to be a leisure park for England and whose people consistently struggle to identify their own unique sense of worth.

To do this we need to set our own agenda which questions, rather than ignores, difficult constitutional questions.

The Duchy does Cornwall no practical good at all. It has been hijacked by an establishment seeking to protect a stream of income. Worse than this the Duchy has become a source of division between people who would see Cornwall stand on her own feet and meet the future under her own steam. The question of the importance of the status of the Duchy can cause as much antagonism between Cornish nationalists as it elicits blank stares from anyone else - and yet there remains the simple fact that: “The Duchy is the constitutional foundation of every conceivable argument over Cornish rights and legitimises our link to our history.”

Perhaps now the time has come to leave behind the past. Perhaps now the time has come to discuss the future and how to modernise the ancient constitutional bases of how Cornwall is governed. Perhaps now, the time has come to simply assert that Cornwall is a nation. The people who feel this know and understand why Cornwall is indeed a nation - but they need to pass on this knowledge in an inspirational and aspirational way. Cornwall has its own language, its own geographical area, its own ethnic group and its own culture and traditions but in order to get the ‘critical mass’ necessary to make an impact on the establishment there has to be a large scale popular reawakening and an increased assertive self-confidence to make the vision of Cornish nationhood come to fruition.

The establishment needs to be challenged to justify the existence of the Duchy. What is the purpose of this anachronistic institution that has far more privileges than those enjoyed by any normal ‘well-run private estate’? Why should a private estate have such disproportionate powers to extract money from the pockets of Cornish people? In these times of cut backs to vital public services why should Mr Windsor avoid paying tax?

The status of the Duchy and how it can be modernised (or replaced) to serve Cornwall better should be an issue thoroughly, officially and openly investigated.

At a time when the politicians of Westminster are treating Cornwall and its people as a political football, why shouldn’t Cornwall take back its future from the establishment that has done nothing to create the conditions needed to create prosperity and social justice for one and all?

While the Private Estate drains the life blood from Cornwall the London based political parties do nothing to protect Cornwall’s unique heritage and culture. Instead they prefer to devise new ways to assimilate Cornwall into England and relegate the Cornish nation to the status of a mere county, home to a money-making machine for the Duke and a holiday park for England.

Cornwall can grow and prosper – but in order to do this it needs to throw off the bonds that hold it down and it needs to look forward. The Duchy of Cornwall is one of the bonds that hold Cornwall back. For the people of Cornwall, the Duchy is both a source of economic loss and a cause of division. The exposure of the Duchy for what it really would be a bitter pill for some people to take but it is a pill that needs to be administered if Cornwall is to move forward as a vibrant and autonomous nation.

[1] TGG, 12/7/2010 C24 forum http://www.cornwall24.co.uk

[2] http://www.duchyofcornwall.org/

[3] For an excellent illustration as to why this is a ridiculous assertion see “The Duchy of Cornwall – A very peculiar ‘Private estate’” by J. Kirkhope

[4] See http://www.kernowtgg.co.uk/

[5] “Our Future is History”, J. Angarrack, Independent Academic Press 2002

[6] http://cornishzetetics.blogspot.com/2010/03/duchy-profits-from-concreting-cornwall.html

[7] http://www.duchyofcornwall.org/

[8] Royal Commission on the Constitution 1969 - 1973, Volume I, Report (Cmnd 5460) (The “Kilbrandon Report”)

[9] In July 1997 Andrew George MP attempted to raise a question concerning the Duchy of Cornwall in the House of Commons but was prevented from doing so by an injunction that disallows MPs raising any questions in Parliament that are in any way related to the Duchy. The injunction prevents MPs asking questions regarding the "role, rights, powers and privileges" of the Dukes of Cornwall in Cornwall - reference Tamar Bridge Act 1998, s.41 and letter from the House of Commons Library to Andrew George MP, dated 16 July 1997

[10] Under UK law it’s not a crime for a Government Minister to lie to Parliament, even when delivering a prepared written statement asserting knowingly false information in his or her capacity as an executive officer of the government. (See www.duchyofcornwall.eu/latest/?page_id=128)

[11] ‘Things’ happen to prevent the ‘Cornish Question’ from being debated in English courts (see Scat t’Larrups? J. Angarrack Independent Academic Press 2008)

[12] See note 9 above

[13]Cornwall the Hidden Land” - Richard and Ann Jenkin – West Country publications 1965

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Illogan Review

Many thanks to Councillor Benney for writing and producing the IIlogan Parish Review.

It can be found here:


Monday, 15 November 2010


Before the general election David Cameron made a great show of appointing Mark Prisk, born in Redruth, as the Shadow Minister for Cornwall. This was trumpeted as recognition of the importance that Cornwall was to be given by the Conservatives if they became the next government.

No sooner than the ink was dry on the ballot papers in May it became clear that there was to be no minister for Cornwall. The reason [sic] given was that as Cornwall had six MPs at the heart of the coalition government it would not be necessary to have a minister for Cornwall after all.

The “perfidious six” have so much influence at the heart of government that when they formed a delegation to meet with David Cameron - TO STOP THE CREATION OF ONE OR MORE CROSS-BORDER CONSTITUENCIES. However, he paid no attention to them whatsoever. They have all since voted in the way that David Cameron would want so perhaps their message wasn’t quite as they portrayed it to the media at the photo opportunity outside 10 Downing Street.

For example, after claiming that “It was his job to vote against the government” (at the Saltash Keep Cornwall Whole rally) Stephen Gilbert, along with all six of Cornwall’s MPs (the Cornish voice at the heart of government) failed to vote against the Bill. A Bill which will see Cornwall’s historic national border lose its thousand year old integrity.

Despite cries of betrayal from the Labour party their record is no better. Let’s not forget that it was the Labour party that wanted to merge Cornwall’s distinctiveness within the “South West” region. If anyone believes that Labour has had a sudden revelation and has become pro-Cornwall over-night then consider this - the only reason that Labour are opposing this Bill is because the gerrymandering of constituencies will see them lose their enormous electoral advantage over the other two Westminster parties.

What is absolutely clear is that the only party which consistently, wholeheartedly (and without reference to any London headquarters) puts Cornwall first is Mebyon Kernow, the Party for Cornwall.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I was immensely proud to be able to attend the Illogan RBL remembrance parade this afternoon. It was good to see the community turn out to remember our fallen heroes of military conflict.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Parish Plan

On Wednesday I attended a community meeting which approved the draft Parish Plan. The people of Illogan in partnership with the Parish Council have set out how they want their community to progress over the coming years.

The chairman, Cllr David Ekinsmyth, made a very good point. He intends that our parish plan should be the basis of Cornwall Cpouncil's planning for the parish. This is the way we need to look at things. We need to take control over our own affairs in Cornwall and let Cornwall Council and, through them, the Westminster parliament know that the people of Cornwall are the best suited, qulified and placed to direct Cornish affairs.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Keep Cornwall Whole

Along with approximately 500 hundred others, I attended the Keep Cornwall Whole rally at Saltash on October 10th. The rally was hugely successful in achieving its aim of bringing people, from all walks of Cornish life, together in a common purpose - to send a strong message of solidarity to the Westminster government.

The mood of the rally reflected the growing recognition across Cornwall that Cornwall is not only a unique part of Great Britain, with its own distinctive culture, language and geography, but that it deserves the right to have those exceptional qualities recognised and protected. The speakers came from all sections of Cornish society. There were even two government MPs there. One MP had tabled an amendment to the government’s bill while the other promised to vote against the government if it became necessary.

While some people, who want to play down the solidarity and depth of feeling of all of those at the rally, bicker about whether there were less than 500 people there and attempt to portray the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign as a waste of time, Mebyon Kernow is in the vanguard of those who want to see a modern and democratic Cornwall take its rightful place as a fully paid up member of Britain and Europe.

The Party for Cornwall is proud to be associated with the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign and is working tirelessly in support of it. Mebyon Kernow calls on all of those people in Cornwall who believe that we need recognition for Cornwall. It is essential to start looking to the future to help us to stop this backward looking, stifling and encroaching philosophy that the Westminster way is the only way forward. We need to build on the growing momentum and appetite for promoting what is best for Cornwall – echoed so definitively by the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign - and to connect with the mounting belief that it is not too late to make a difference. Act now! Sign the Mebyon Kernow petition to say no to Devonwall seats and don’t be afraid to add your voice to those who want to take all the people of Cornwall into a confident and vibrant future which is anchored in the tradition and culture of two thousand years.

Monday, 20 September 2010

By-election Working Party to be Formed

When I was elected to the Illogan Parish Council in June there was some confusion as to why ballot cards had not been sent to the residents of Illogan. I promised to investigate the matter and to report back.

I have discovered that whether or not to send out ballot cards at bye-elections is entirely within the discretion of parish and town councils. In this instance Illogan Parish Council had decided not to have them sent.

Somewhat perplexingly I was told both that this ‘was a long standing policy of the council’ and that this ‘was a decision made before each by-election on an ad hoc basis’. The reason that ballot cards are not sent is because of the cost involved.

I am concerned that a price is being put on democracy – but I can also see that it might well be better to spend limited financial resources on items that better benefit the community as a whole.

The point is that Illogan Parish Council has not considered the issues of the causes of bye-elections, the costs involved and the possibility of co-opting members together in order to formulate a single coherent policy on the issue.

I am pleased to report that at the last full meeting of the council it was decided to pass a motion that I had placed on the agenda. A working party will be formed to examine all of the issues involved in bye-elections. The working party will be tasked to review the issues and to formulate a single policy which will be recommended to the full council before March 2011.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

National Emergency

I have read with interest reports of a ‘National Emergency’ in Cornwall in the last week – it seems that there are sometimes queues of traffic in and around Cornwall.

We are told by the tourism bosses that such a state of affairs is likely to have dire consequences for the Cornish economy and that the only solution is to build new roads and to ‘improve’ those which already exist so that it will make it easier to increase the number of visitors to the Duchy.

As the owner of a business that benefits from the summer ‘tourist trade’ I think that such hyperbolic claims should be viewed with extreme caution.

Newer and bigger roads are not even a part of the solution to Cornwall’s economic problems – they would merely exacerbate them and further erode the distinctiveness of the Cornish environment. Cornwall is unique within the British Isles and needs unique and inventive solutions to address the economic needs of its people. Faster and bigger roads are not a solution they are part of the problem.

Major roads not only blight the landscape but can actually have a detrimental effect on Cornish businesses. It is often argued that Cornwall is a remote part of the UK and that we need more and better roads to help us compete with upcountry enterprises. What is often forgotten is that it is just as easy to think of London and the Midlands as being remote from Cornwall. By ‘improving’ the road networks it gives the globally corporate concerns an even bigger advantage over local entrepreneurs by making their shops and outlets easier to supply - in short it becomes viable to set up in ‘remote’ Cornwall. Cornwall’s remoteness needs to be seen as an advantage to be embraced. We need to develop better sea ports and use the fact that Cornwall is surrounded by three sides by the sea. Cornish firms could export and distribute goods around the UK and develop markets throughout the rest of Europe and the world.

Of course, bigger and faster roads also mean that it is easier to reach all of those second homes for the odd weekend – so even more people from the South East can buy up Cornish houses, putting prices even further beyond the reach of local people. Naturally, these extra ‘second-homers’ will be buying their provisions at local Cornish shops and not stocking up from Waitrose before they arrive for their overnight visit.