It is a well-established paradox.
Cornwall has a thriving culture. It is a land apart with its own language and definitely not England.
Unlike any county of England, and just like Wales and Scotland, it has its own political party.
Mebyon Kernow – The Party for Cornwall has, at the heart of its constitution, an objective to further Cornish culture and the cause of the people of Cornwall. MK believes and works on the principle that Cornwall is a nation in its own right and deserves all the socio-economic trappings, institutions and paraphernalia that are necessary to move forward – to put Cornwall first.
And yet the people that celebrate Cornish saint feast days and dance to music that has been played for generations don’t seem to vote consistently for the only political party which even recognises who they are, let alone understand the real life challenges that they face.
This is the task that faces MK. We need to do better to inspire and to get our message across. We need to play Westminster at its own game. Better yet we should redefine the game in Cornish terms.
On the face of it MK has a lot going for it.
We certainly have the experience. MK celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2011 and has been campaigning for Cornwall for all of that time.
We have hard working councillors who are interested in the needs of their local communities rather than gaining a step on the political career ladder leading to Westminster. No-one in their right minds would join MK if their main motivation was financial game from political sleaze. It costs money, sweat and tears to be a member of MK and it is not a get rich quick option.
We are independent from London. Our ‘head office’ is here in Cornwall. It may not be quite as luxurious as a palace in Westminster and more often than not our local offices are the back of someone’s car. Yet we can claim ownership of our hopes and desires and we work to make them realities. The London parties, and their branch members in Cornwall, simply work to peddle the ideology of Westminster.
We can truly claim that the policies that we advocate have been devised to benefit Cornwall first and foremost. Policies which set Cornwall firmly within Britain, Europe and the world as a whole. We are not separatists, we seek to build partnerships. However, we do insist that the partnership should be between equals and create a benefit for both parties.
More and more the policies of the Tories, Lib Dems and ‘new’ Labour are designed to increase the wealth and power of their bankrollers rather than benefit the ordinary person in Cornwall. Isn’t it time to reject the Westminster leviathan?
So what can we, in MK, do to inspire and communicate?
In my view the key is communication. We have to learn to communicate who we are and what we really stand for. It is certainly true that we are the victims of political opponents who have a bigger voice and greater financial resources. But it is no use simply whingeing that we are hard done by – we have to go out and use what little we do have to maximum effect.
In my view we need to make the most of whatever opportunity presents itself to get MK’s message across. For the 2013 council elections we should continuously remind voters that MK is the party which will ‘Put Cornwall First’ in everything we say and everything we do - from the smallest parish ward to the Westminster constituency. ‘Put Cornwall First’ is the message and we need to make sure that when voters enter their polling booth next May the question that they ask themselves is “Who will put Cornwall first’ and immediately know the answer to the question.
At our conference we discussed a detailed manifesto. Such a manifesto is crucial in order to demonstrate that we have the knowledge, experience and ideas to back up our political promises. For me though, when the media is controlled by organisations which back the all-encompassing, English dominated, state, our policies and ideas should be distilled in order to optimise the chances that we get to put over our cause.
If I am asked the question – “Why should I vote for MK?” – I would answer because we are the only political party that will put Cornwall first.
We are the only party that has a bespoke policy on planning policy and housing for Cornwall which would see an end to Cornish green fields and agricultural capacity being replaced by a theme park of second ‘homes’ and ‘leisure amenities’ for wealthy people. People who have no interest in Cornwall besides adapting it to suit their holiday requirements. For us, planning is about providing local needs housing and economic development to provide quality jobs.
Mebyon Kernow believes that the Unitary authority is not fit for purpose. There needs to be a re-think and we would act to provide greater levels of democracy. The representatives that the people elect should have the power to stand up to unelected council officers. MK supports a return to a committee system of local government. Ultimately a return to District Councils would serve Cornwall better and allow decision making to be put back into the hands of local people instead of Whitehall officials.
And Cornwall, the Cornish people and all the people who live here should be recognised as the nation that they are. We work to gain national minority standing for the Cornish people and insist that there should be a full and independent inquiry into the legal and constitutional status of the Duchy of Cornwall.
Our political opponents claim that a vote for MK is a wasted vote and a waste of time. This is, of course, nonsense and yet it strikes a chord with the electorate. The mantra goes along the lines of – MK won’t ever get enough votes to win enough seats to achieve anything so you may as well vote for X Westminster party to avoid Y Westminster party getting more power.
I would say that a vote for any Westminster party is a wasted vote. Whoever you vote for, as the saying goes, you will get the government. It doesn’t matter at all if you vote Tory, Lib Dem, Labour or UKIP they are all equally bad for Cornwall.
MK needs your votes to be able to Put Cornwall First. Yet we need to be realistic in the goals that we set ourselves because we can’t possibly go from less than 5% of the vote in parliamentary elections to winning seats at Westminster in one election. If I were to ever have the privilege of standing for MK as a parliamentary candidate I would set a target of gaining 5% of the vote and keeping my deposit. This has never been done. My strategy would be to ask people to vote for me in order to achieve a realistic target because then they could believe that their vote would count. If we can increase our vote from 3% to 7% then increasing it further becomes more achievable as more and more people will realise that they can make a difference by voting MK.
In next May’s elections 10 MK Unitary councillors would give us a shot at holding the balance of power and thus punch well above our weight for Cornwall.
There are people who are supportive of us yet frustrated by our lack of visibility. Help us to get enough councillors prepared to put Cornwall first and then we will gain the momentum we need to gather the resources to put into action the excellent suggestions that those people make.