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Monday, 18 November 2013

Conference 2013 - a positive nod to the future

The Mebyon Kernow conference this year was a very positive one.

Whether it was Dick's wide ranging speech, or the equally wide ranging set of motions that conference approved, the mood was one of going forward.

I had been asked to present feedback from the recent members' consultation on our law-making assembly policy. A review which has provided the basis of a renewed campaign for a Cornish Assembly leading up to the Scottish vote on independence.

Here is an abridged text of my presentation:

Now – I’ve been asked to do two things today. First to provide conference with an update on the review of our Cornish self-government policy. But I’ve also been given the extremely exciting task of announcing a new MK campaign which, with conference’s approval, will take us up to Scotland’s independence vote in September next year and beyond.

2014 is going to be fun!

To start though - I would like to congratulate our leader, Dick Cole, for his excellent key note speech. Keslowena Dick!

The coaltion certainly makes it easy for us to criticise their inability to provide social leadership in difficult times – and Dick clearly highlighted their default position - which seems to be to make life even harder for those who are already suffering the most.

You know - just this morning I saw that David Cameron said that:

“The country is moving forward on the big issues” ….. Yep Dave there’s a lot more people selling them now than ever before!

And the Liberal Democrats are no less out of touch. For example Vince Cable said that the loss of the UK’s triple A rating didn’t actually matter much in the big scheme of things. It was merely symbolic anyway - a bit like Nick Clegg then really don’t you think?

Then there’s the Labour party.

Now sometimes people are so unfair to the Labour Party.

I mean – after all - they’ve got a lot of good ideas and policies that could well bring a brighter future for Britain.

The only problem is that voters seem determined to judge them on their last 13 years of government instead.

I was also going to do a joke about the coalition but then I did a U–turn and deemed it unnecessary.

Of course now, as always - whatever colour the politicians in Downing Street are currently sporting - Cornwall is being hit harder and more disproportionately than anywhere in the English homelands. For Cornwall austerity is a heaven sent excuse for London to continue the chronic lack of investment in Cornwall’s society and to justify a lack of knowledge or interest in the development of our economy.

Now – more than ever – we deserve a law-making assembly of our own. An assembly made up from people who live, learn, work and play in Cornwall. An assembly which understands the unique challenges which face us. An Assembly which will act in the best interests of Cornwall at all times.

Mebyon Kernow is the only political party in Cornwall that will put Cornwall first. You people sitting right here today are the ambassadors for a truly big idea – an idea which offers a democratic way forward for the people of Cornwall. You all know how crucial a law-making assembly is for Cornwall and each one of you is fighting to make it a reality – thank you all very much.

Following the Cornwall Council elections in May, our party has been conducting a review of its self-government policy. The review has been widely publicised within the party and all members have had a chance to participate. The members’ consultation period finished at the end of September and the review team have looked at all of the contributions; put together some draft proposals and these proposals have been scrutinised by the NEC.

In fact, what has emerged from the process is that we already have a robust set of principles and individual policies in place and these principles and policies command a consensus from the membership of the party.

However, an important caveat has also emerged. What we have found is that - while the consensus of the party is actually a strong agreement with existing policy – it is clear that members are not all entirely clear as to what the full extent and detail of our policy is - this is challenge that we will be addressing in the next few months.

The party will be producing a detailed document which will draw together all of the strands of our policy within the self-government and Cornish recognition headings. The intention is that this detailed document will set out our values and ideas. It will encourage communication and consistency within the party and it will be a tool for the branches, spokespeople and our election candidates to use.

We shall also produce a shorter, summary document - and possibly a single page leaflet which can again be used by officers, activists and members to communicate with the public and media.

In the meantime I do have a single sheet hand-out available if anyone wants to see a list of the bullet point policies that will be incorporated into the policy document.

Before I move on I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who took the time and trouble to respond to the consultation. Your responses have informed the action that we will now take - the action that the party needs to take in order to get our flagship message across.

Now for the even more exciting bit of news!

The 18th September 2014 will see the Scottish people vote for independence. …… No that’s not the news even though it is very exciting!

Ultimately this vote for independence will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom, as Scotland heads off into its own thrilling and challenging future. In the meantime we will be left with a ‘rump’ United Kingdom. A brand new entity on the global map. The question is - what plans are being made to provide a modern constitution for the government of the rump UK and for the renegotiation of existing devolution settlements?

Well, naturally, there is a profound silence from Westminster on this issue. The London based parties are burying their heads deep in the sand of the scaremongering ‘better together’ campaign.

Mebyon Kernow believes that, when Scottish independence takes place, Cornwall deserves a seat at the negotiating table. We are the only party that is likely to demand a seat for Cornwall, as an equal, when the talks take place. We should be there alongside Wales, Northern Ireland, England and the Crown dependencies when the future of Southern Britain is laid out. What better time to initiate meaningful devolution to Cornwall – right at the start of a new era!

And this is the exciting challenge that the NEC is asking you all to take up. We have nine months to go before Scottish independence – let’s get our message out there!

Let’s use the next nine months to run a campaign. A campaign involving everyone - the NEC and the leadership team, MK councillors and most importantly activists and grass-roots members. Let’s state the case for a law-making Cornish Assembly – and let’s make our voice heard from Lands End to John O’Groats.

There are several ideas and plans already being formulated.

We hope to organise a fact finding visit to the Welsh Assembly to learn exactly how a devolved government functions.

Of course we have a new policy document which will be coming on-stream very soon.

We also have a wonderful opportunity for our prospective parliamentary candidates to campaign long and hard on this issue and get some momentum going before May 2015.

But we also need the branches and individuals to get involved. We will be asking you to organise your own local events to highlight the case that MK will make for a Cornish law-making Assembly.

To get the ball rolling Dick Cole, through the NEC, wants us all to get out to the public and to the great and the good of Cornwall. Ask them to sign up their support for our campaign. Dick has produced a declaration similar to that which was used 12 years ago when MK famously collected 50,000 declarations in support of Cornish devolution.

So what do you think? Personally I believe that this is a great idea.

In fact I will formally propose the motion that:

“Conference supports and endorses the launch of the “Cornwall deserves a law-making Assembly” statement and that this will form a significant part of Mebyon Kernow’s core activities over the next 12 months.”

The motion was passed unanimously!

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