Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Party Whip system is undemocratic, I support the Free Vote Voluntary Recall Alliance

I was recently sent an email from the Free Vote Voluntary Recall Alliance. They are campaigning in this general election for MPs (and PPCs) to unwed themselves from the system of voting for a party line as dictated by the whips.  Their website is here.

I think it's a great campaign and I find it depressing that such legislation is even needed. MPs are voted in by constituents to represent their views not to represent the party line. It makes a mockery of democracy when MPs views and opnions are subordinate to the party and party whips. I'm more than happy to sign the below pledge, I hope the campaign makes PPCs and MPs think that their constituents and personal principles (where applicable) should come first not party bosses.

“This is my promise to the voters of the St Ives Parliamentary constituency.
I , Rob Simmons, the Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall candidate standing for election as your Member of Parliament , do herby promise and affirm, that if I am elected to be your Member of the Westminster Parliament  in the General Election on 7th May 2015. I will adopt and act in accordance with the terms of the Free Vote Voluntary Recall Alliance Pledge as published today at www.fvvra.org  and I will maintain this, my personal pledge throughout my term as your Member of Parliament”.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Penzance Business Improvement District goes to the vote

It's an interesting time in the town of Penzance, the Neighbourhood Plan process is being launched and has a great new website here and business in the town centre are going to vote on becoming a Business Improvement District (BID). It's easy to assume that people know what a BID is, it's been well publicised in the local press and a consultation has taken place with the businesses in the area. However there are a lot of people that are not aware this is going on and they really should, because it's an important development in the town and although I have a number of reservations about the structure and process, I think it could be a very good thing for Penzance.

As a short description a BID imposes a levy on business (2% on top of rates in our case). It then takes that money and uses it for the good of the area and specifically the businesses in it. There's a lot more information on the process in Penzance and the plans on the BID website here. There are some really interesting ideas for the town and how to improve it in the plan. The process is coming to the end and after consultation sessions, it has now come to the vote. The rules for the vote are quite simple businesses are asked whether they support a Business Improvement District yes or no. Then if there are more than 50% indicating yes and of those they represent more than 50% of the rateable value of all votes cast. Then it comes into being on the first of June.

On the one hand I think this is a very good thing, if passed the BID will run for five years and have a total budget of £800,00 for that period. That is a lot of money and it will mark one of the most major investments in the town centre for a long long time. It also represents a great opportunity for businesses to come together and work towards solutions, which should have benefits wider than the BID itself.

On the other hand the whole of the BID set up, is part of a growing and in my opinion (and that of MK) a worrying trend in public spending in recent years. The BID is a not for profit company, much like Local Enterprise Partnerships and NHS Trusts, they are not democratically elected by the people, they are not accountable to the people. I write this with some caution I know a few of the members of the BID steering group and I don't mean this as a personal reflection on them or their motives or judgement. However it is a worrying trend to removing democratically representatives from the decision making and spending process.

As with all votes, I hope there is good turn out for the BID's postal ballots. I hope that all of the businesses in the proposed area take a great deal of time to consider the merits of the BID process and the business plan that has been written. There is great potential with that amount of money but there is also a great cost, it might only be 2% of rates on top but nevertheless it is another cost. We live in interesting times!

N.B The Penzance Town Council has no part of the BID process, the BID Steering Group choose not to have a town council representative.

"dog-end voters in outlying regions" a rare insight into how politicians view places like Cornwall

Recently Mark Garnier, a Tory MP gave a speech to the Institute for Economic Affairs. He told the think tank:

"This massive argument that is going on about what is going to happen to tax rates for entrepreneurs and risk takers, who are in many cases mortgaging their houses several times over in order to create jobs and create economic activity, we need to be giving a much clearer message to them.

He continued:
"That they don't have to worry about politicians mucking around with tax rates in order to try to attract a few dog end voters in outlying regions of the country."

From BBC News



You have to wonder how pervasive this attitude is in Westminster, with our only major hospital in a terrible situation, no alternatives put forward to our vulnerable rail line at Dawlish and what should be a crisis for government -but blatantly isn't- the poor performing Cornish economy and the terrible state of wages in Cornwall.

I believe this is a very telling insight into how politicians view Cornwall and it must be said other outlying regions. There is a real risk that politicians won't be challenged on this apathy to Cornwall and the same old faces from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties will be re-elected in May and business will carry on as usual, with Cornwall's votes counted and attentions swiftly turned elsewhere. 

What people need to do is send a clear message to Westminster that we have had enough, this will not be done by rewarding the failures of the coalition government and re-elected coalition politicians. It will be done by voting Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall and demonstrating to the powers that be that Cornish people have had enough of being viewed as dog end voters worth less than tax stability.

You may have heard the name of Mark Garnier before, he was/is the MP that wants to destroy the historic art studios in Newlyn and build new houses to be sold off. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall, who we are and what we stand for in this general election

For many of my regular readers, this may be a little patronising but maybe it won't be. Politics is about trust (or more recently the abject lack of it) and familiarity. I always like to think of elections like job interviews, if you are to give someone the responsibility of representing an area and it's people, you need to know a great deal about them, what they believe in, what they will stand up for and whether you can trust them.

The same is true of parties, without knowledge of the party and it's policies and guiding principles, then the job of a candidate is futile. The challenge for any party and candidate is to let people know more about who you are and what to expect. This is especially true of smaller parties like Mebyon Kernow, although you can't pick up a newspaper or watch the news on tv without seeing the views of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems the same is not true of parties like MK and other smaller parties in the UK.

This blog is about the party I (Rob Simmons) am standing for in this general election for the St Ives constituency. It's something I've meant to write for a while and prompted by the excellent UK General Election 2015 blog who approached me to write a short piece. That blog thrives on recording a huge amount of information on politics. It's obvious from that study that the author is aware that small parties, will play a huge role in this general election.

So who or what is Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall?

Mebyon Kernow is a political party, based in Cornwall, over 60 years old now. Founded in 1951 originally as a pressure group dedicated to preserving and enhancing the Celtic nature of Cornwall and open to members of all political parties. In the 70's it became a political party in it's own right and began to field candidates, in the years to come the party became a Cornish, left, green and de-centralist party and mirrored the progressive politics evident in other Celtic parties such as Plaid Cymru in Wales and the SNP in Scotland. These themes continue to this day and the party's policies revolve around three key principles Prosperity for All, Social Justice and Environmental Protection. Many of the specific issues MK has campaigned on have come to pass, such as a University in Cornwall and recognition of Cornwall as a nation.

Over the decades the party has grown in it's presence and ambition. In 2010 the party contested every constituency in Cornwall and collectively the party's 6 candidates gained 5,379 votes a record for the party and a promising sign of progress. Here in 2015 MK is standing again in every Cornish constituency with myself (Rob Simmons) in St Ives, Loveday Jenkin in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, Stephen Richardson in Truro and Falmouth, Dick Cole in St Austell and Newquay, Orlando Kimber in North Cornwall and Andrew Long in South East Cornwall. With Cornwall traditionally split between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and both held in low esteem here, particualry the Lib Dems, we are very hopeful of making significant inroads.

The party's manifesto will be launched at our Spring Conference (March 21st Bodmin). Details of the manifesto are being finalised, but it's safe to say, policies like, devolution to a Cornish National Assembly, opposition to austerity, promotion of the living wage, democratisation of various quangos, trusts and the LEP, environmental protection, a planning policy that address affordable housing, over development and second homes, will all feature strongly. It's the party's view that Cornwall's poor economic performance is a result of an overly centralised state and policies that are not designed for Cornwall and do not work for our benefit. For more insight it's worth looking at our manifesto for the Cornwall Council elections and policies on the MK website here and a Cornish Assembly here.

Mebyon Kernow goes into this general election with confidence, we are a small party. Our leader Dick Cole has recently raised money through crowdfunding, we rely on our members and their generosity in donations and time to fight this election campaign. We are nowhere near the 2 established parties in Cornwall the Tories and the Lib Dems in terms of funding and organisation, we don't have paid staff and phone banks. But what we lack in money we make up for in principles, passion and perseverance. Perhaps the following quote is in the mind of the Lib Dems as they send out press releases pleading with people not to vote MK.

"If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Neighbourhood Plan: Your chance to have a say on the future of Penzance

After a lot of planning and preparations the Neighbourhood Plan will publicly launch this weekend
 in Penzance town centre. It is your chance to have your say on the future development of the Penzance area. For decades it has always been the way that a select few would decide what was built, where and under what design. A Neighbourhood Plan turns this all on it's head and puts people in charge and makes planning officers, politicians and developers have to listen to people.

The process will take a long time, it will be a thorough consultation, ending in a referendum of all the residents of Penzance parish (i.e. Eastern Green, Gulval, Heamoor, Penzance, Newlyn, Mousehole and Paul). To find out more there will be a pop up shop opening in the town centre this saturday, in the old travel agents on Market Jew Street near the Humphry Davy statue. opening hours will be saturday's 11 am - 3 pm, thursdays 4 pm- 7pm, fridays 11am- 3pm.

As one of the town council's representatives on the board, I'm very pleased with the work done so far. I'm delighted that the pop up shop will be an interactive exhibition, it's there to get people' opinions, whether that's on particular sites or a blank canvas. If you've ever wanted a greater say on Penzance and it's future development now is your opportunity.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Are we not British or from a different country? the government's tokenistic recognition of the Cornish people

The Cornish are recognised as a national minority by the UK government. Or are they? I was informed recently about the lack of a Cornish nationality option on the government's register to vote website:

https://www.registertovote.service.gov.uk/register-to-vote/nationality


I did some other looking around and found the Civil Service issued guidance document: Best practice guidance on monitoring equality and diversity in employment (available here). Cornish is not mentioned once and searching the government website only finds one mention of Cornish minority status; the press release Cornish granted minority status within the UK.

I have today contacted Danny Alexander and Stephen Williams (who both triumphantly announced Cornish recognition in the run up to the European elections), to ask what is being done to make good on the promises to recognise the Cornish. To enquire why the government is not taking Cornish inclusion in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities seriously. Any answers I receive I will post here.

Friday, 6 February 2015

my support for the tax dodging bill

As a parliamentary candidate, I receive a lot of emails asking me to support or oppose various issues. It's greatly encouraging for me that people do take the time to email candidates and press them on their views and ask them to support change. One in particular caught my eye the campaign for a 'Tax dodging bill' for a number of reasons, personally I think tax justice and closing the loopholes that allows big corporations to avoid and evade tax is long over due. On top of this, more people have emailed me on this subject than any other. (Wherever you are please email your PPC and MP on the subject click here to do so.)

I wholeheartedly endorse these sentiments that introduce the policy briefing on the bill:

"In a just tax system, everyone pays their fair share - each according to their means - to the public purse. But when those most able to pay can unfairly escape their contributions to society, the majority of people lose out. Inequality increases and there is less public money available to contribute towards improving the lives of the poorest." 

I sincerely hope whichever MPs and government are elected in May that they think long and hard on these issues and right this wrong by introducing such a bill.

Here's my message to the organisers behind the campaign:

My view on the Tax Dodging bill as MK PPC for St Ives 

Dear sir/ madam,

I'd first like to congratulate your organisation on this campaign, this is a vital issue and one that needs to be resolved. It's a credit to your campaigning and to how important the issue of tax dodging is that i have had more campaign emails on this issue than any other so far in this campaign. If anything shows the will of the people and the support for a system where everybody pays their fair share of tax it is this campaign. 

My view is that we live in an unequal world, disparities between the rich and the poor widen, this is true not only of individuals but also of businesses. The present lax tax regime allows bigger companies and richer people to create an unfair playing field to the detriment of smaller companies and less well off people. This is a situation that has to change in order to restore fairness, ensure decent public services and tackle poverty. Having legislation to stop tax evasion and tax avoidance, on such a large scale, is long over due. 

I wholeheartedly support this campaign and pledge to make the bill law if I am elected as an MP in May. In the meantime anything I can do to help please get in contact.

Kind regards

Rob  

Thursday, 5 February 2015

People power can win this election for Mebyon Kernow

In the 1950's there was a revolution in Cuba, rebels landed on the island and in time overthrew the fascist Batista US backed regime. There's a lesson here for Mebyon Kernow, not that we need to take up arms or need to provoke a communist revolution or even that we need to start smoking cigars. The lesson for us coming into this general election can be summed in Fidel Castro's thoughts after the revolution: "I began revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and plan of action." MK might not have hundreds of thousands to spend on this election like other parties and tv coverage, paid staff and all the other advantages they have. However we do have faith, a plan of action and a clear message and more than 10 or 15 people!

The lesson of the Cuban revolution was that those 82 men quickly snowballed. That people identified with their principles and shared with them the desire to rid themselves of the old regime that did not work for the people. We must take inspiration from this and find those people that want change, that want a better Cornwall and to reach out to them so together we can achieve our goals.

We need to attract more people to our cause, and so if you are reading this and want to fight for Cornwall, get in touch with Mebyon Kernow here or to help my campaign in St Ives email me here.

The Party for Cornwall is fighting for:

A better deal for Cornwall.
More powers for Cornwall.
A fairer society.


At the bare minimum please register to vote.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Cameron needs to be realistic about reserves or at least look at the government's

Recently in a car crash of an interview, the prime minister claimed that Cornwall Council needed to make efficiencies and savings, or in plain English cuts to staff and services. Unable to spin his way out of admitting previously announced money was new. He lashed out at Cornwall Council for having reserves, suggesting this money should be spent on front line services. We might assume that reserves are therefore bad, that the government will stop this austerity drive and dip into it's reserves. However data released by the ONS suggests a different story. showing reserves growing. It's high time Cameron got his own house in order and stopped seeing Cornwall and elsewhere as places to offload cuts and then blame unfairly when less money equals less services

The government's gross and net reserves continue on an upward trend.  The ONS released data on reserves today (4/2/15), it reveals that the government holds $39,098 million (£26,034 million). Here's a graph taken from that release, note that despite the recent austerity drive, the amount rises:


Credit to John Pollard for calling out David Cameron on his attack and explaining what the reserves are for (see that on Andrew Wallis's blog here). We need more people in Cornwall that will call out the spin, bluster and hypocrisy emanating from Westminster.

Perhaps it's time someone pressed the Tories on why reserves are rising when public spending is drastically falling? Why David doesn't take his own advice? 

A breath of fresh air at Penzance Town Council

The election has certainly rung a great many changes at Penzance Town Council. There are now 12 brand new councillors (although Simon Reed...