Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Winning the Cornish devolution debate at hustings





Obviously the idea of getting more powers for Cornwall is a central plank of Mebyon Kernow's election campaign. Myself like all of the candidates are taking every opportunity to raise the issue, on leaflets, online, on the doorstep and at hustings. I've been pleased at how well received the ideas of devolution have been at the various hustings I have attended, especially when I have given examples of the kids of policies we could change if it was in Cornwall's power to do so.

Now I have attended 6 hustings with all of the 6 candidates. The same questions come up time and again at every debate. It's intriguing what candidates say and how that develops over time, I have certainly heard a few, not only making the same points as candidates had previously but even given the very same examples. I think this is partly because we all have different experiences and knowledge and we learn from each other. Although I must say I try not to 'copy and paste' others.

What I have found fascinating is that a few times I have spoken about devolution in terms of planning and housing policy and in terms of public transport policies. We need in both regards policies that suit Cornwall. We have planning policies that allow second homes to rip apart our communities, affordable housing definitions that are meaningless for people on local wages. Yet at the same time we have huge housing developments going up everywhere completely not dealing with the actual housing need we have in Cornwall. It's my argument that we need to make these decisions in Cornwall not let them be taken 300 miles away, so we can have policies that address these issues.

Similarly for public transport we need devolution, all of the rules and policies governing this are currently taken in London and imposed on Cornwall Council. We need local decision making in order to have trains that fit into bus times, so that you can get off one without waiting ages for the other. With more powers to a Cornish assembly we could have a greater say over public transport providers and make sure that buses and trains suit the needs of passengers and indeed the roads, infrastructure and geography of Cornwall.

At the beginning of the debates none of the candidates would talk about devolution in this regard, they would address the issues but talk about them in a general manner. However as time has gone on, I've heard nearly each one of my fellow PPCs argue that transport needs to be devolved to Cornwall, not simply copying what I have said by any means but developing their own arguments and giving their own examples.

I guess at this stage I should be worried about these "tanks on my lawn". I'm not because it's simple to see none of the other parties have a clear idea of what power they would like to see devolved to Cornwall. Far from being worried about this, it's a pleasure to see that the candidates have recognised the strength both of my arguments and of the positive response of people in audiences. There's a real demand for more local decision making and if elected as an MP I would press the case very strongly to the next government. If I'm not elected, I sincerely hope whoever is remembers what they said at hustings and actually does something about it. The time for talking about Cornish devolution is over, the time has come to start demanding powers from central government, Cornwall has had enough of empty promises...