Tuesday, 12 May 2015

We can't let the Tories take away the hard won freedoms of the human rights act

With the election barely over the Tories are starting the way they mean to go on, determined and uncaring. Vying for first place in their priorities with more punishing cuts the Tories are determined to do away with the Human Rights Act. Not content with joining up with the Lib Dems in their first term to do massive damage to welfare, public services and remove morality from decision making entirely. Content with taking away many of the things the state can do for citizens, David Cameron now wants to go one better and attack liberty itself and attack the protections in law.

For information these are the rights in the HRA

Right to life
Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment

Right to liberty and security
Freedom from slavery and forced labour
Right to a fair trial
No punishment without law
Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
Freedom of thought, belief and religion
Freedom of expression
Freedom of assembly and association
Right to marry and start a family
Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms
Right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
Right to education
Right to participate in free elections

You have to come to a point where you wonder what will be left in the wake of the Tories? Which of these rights they wish to do away with? I find it perplexing in the extreme to even imagine which of these principles could be that bad, Right to life? No punishment without law? Freedom of expression? 

Human rights have developed internationally over the last few centuries. When people started to consider that individual freedoms should be explicitly protected in law. To temper the power of governments and to make them be held to account, so they can't act like they wish. So people can't be discriminated against, imprisoned of have their individual freedoms and liberties threatened without cause. One of the reasons human rights even exist, was the collective horror of people over the activities of dictatorships, Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany chief among them. People came together fought in world wars so we can live in a better world, a fairer world and a freer world. We must be very wary of a government that wishes to give itself more power, by taking power of off it's citizens. The Tories latest move threatens to attack the very nature of liberal democracy and the rule of law.  

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The election, the morning after the night before, some thoughts

Firstly many thanks to those of you that supported me at this election. My agent who as wonderful and a real rock for me to lean on. My helpers who delivered almost 20 thousand leaflets. Everyone that sent me messages of encouragement. A special thanks to all those that showed faith in me and put their x next to my name and my party.


It has been quite an experience, I've thought and done little else these last few weeks. I've lost a stone in weight and I'm struggling to remember what it's like to wake in the morning and do normal things. I've given everything I've got at this election, I've over come fears and pushed myself hard. As have my small but dedicated election team.

I'm a bit sore that the MK vote did not match all this hard work. I'm glad we got 518 votes and I'm happy that we made progress on the 387 from last time. It may not seem a lot but when you have such a small base to work from but it is a large percentage increase and a definite sign of progress, however painfully slow. It's much the same picture for the rest of MK a small but steady increase in the vote. I think the party deserved more but that didn't happen.

The inevitable reckoning has come, many are talking of what the party needs to change and I welcome that debate and look forward to taking part of it, when I've rested a little of course. I would however like people to consider a tale from the American civil war, when after the event the Confederates got together and lambasted all the mistakes they made, a general Pickett piped up "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."

You have to consider why in any contest one side did not succeed but also why the other side did succeed. Throughout the UK we could ask why did Miliband and Labour not win? and why did Cameron and the Tories get a resounding result against the grain? Same here in Cornwall why did Mebyon Kernow get a tiny share of the vote and why did the other parties succeed?

I told the press at the count yesterday that being a small party in a marginal is tough. Marginals are where parties concentrate money and resources. All of the party leaders bar Miliband came to this constituency at least once and got useful media coverage for their candidates. They spend a lot of money and they are determined in their aim of gaining as much votes as they can and they do that by attracting voters from other parties like MK.

If I compare my campaign with the other 5 candidates there are obvious disparities. All delivered more leaflets than me, all were on tv more than me, all were in the press more than me and all of them spent more money than I did. Politics is about reaching out to the electorate, engaging them and their fear and hopes and showing how your principles, ideas and policies would make a difference to their lives. We had the least opportunities to do that.

That's something for us to consider. I'm not bitching about it, I knew this all along I knew I wasn't entering a fair fight. For next time though I would only stand if I had more support, more members and supporters to help and a lot more resources to throw at it. Till 2020 :)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Fair funding for Cornwall would be my number one priority if elected in St Ives

“If you are elected what will be your number one priority for your constituency and why?”

My number one priority as MP would be to get a fair deal for Cornwall’s funding, not only because it would be the right to do, but also the public are crying for decent public services.

As I see it, there are 3 major problems that need to be addressed by government and have been ignored by politicians for far too long. 1 this constituency has the lowest wages in all of Cornwall and some of the worst across the UK. 2 Cornwall is one of the poorest parts of the European Union and second poorest in the UK. 3 We are given a raw deal for government on funding and this makes the first 2 problems so much worse.

Here’s some examples, recently John Pollard said that Cornwall Council was short changed by £48 million a year by government. Our school child funding per head is £154 less than the national average. In the years 2006-2013 our NHS got £220 million less than the funds government even declared they needed. We need fair funding and I am proud to represent the only party which has addressing this issue as a manifesto commitment. This would be my priority.


Three things that need to change in politics in this next parliament

There's a lot said in a political campaign and certainly I've written and spoke my fair share. On ideas and policies that matter to me. But my ability to pick out a bad policy and build an argument about it is not a reason to elect me. If that logic ran true it'd be Owen Jones fending off coalition advances, but that's not true.

Electing an MP is about electing someone for their ideals, policies and principles but also electing an individual to represent them both in terms of policy and in terms of locality. I'd happily be an MP at the heart of the debate, trying to hold reason, sending constant missives to the press on how I'm right and everyone else is wrong.  But that's not enough, being a talker and thinker is great but we also need a doer and someone with an eye not just for high politics but an eye to the grass roots. 

I've tried to be this way with my blog, I often write and campaign about lofty ideals, devolution, privatisation, austerity and so on. In between those times I've  campaigned on specific issues. Against the pasty tax and Devonwall. For Superfast Broadband in Penzance town centre. For government investment and attention in Wave Hub, among others. I don't pretend for a minute that it was me alone that shifted these issues. I do feel however I can take credit for inspiring debate and getting the situation into the media and further up the political agenda.

I guess my personal plea to you is this, I feel I can have an impact, I feel that I already do. I've had this impact as a blogger, a tweeter and more recently as a town councillor. If I have a bigger mandate from thursday's vote, I will have more influence and more people will take note of me. More importantly than all of that pay more attention to Cornwall and the issues MK has raised time and again in this election, the failures of centralisation, our poorly performing economy, our low wages and Cornwall's affordable housing need. The opportunities of rethinking politics, having the chance to set our own, new, priorities in Cornwall, the chance that by doing things differently Cornwall can be a better place to live, work and play.

I've raised these three truths at this election a number of times, 1. we don't get fair funding for our public services in Cornwall, 2. the St Ives constituency has the lowest wages in Cornwall, 3. Cornwall is one of the poorest parts of Western Europe. Tory, Lib Dem and Labour have had a chance to sort these out and they haven't. I think the time has come to change that, we must change that. The more of a vote I and Mebyon Kernow get on thursday, the more of a say, MK can have in getting the focus of political minds to address Cornwall's fundamental problems head on and unlock the brighter future that we all know is possible. 


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

We must end the trend of privatising public services and return services to public ownership

“Is it inevitable that in future more and more public services both locally and nationally will be privatised and/or outsourced or should this policy be reversed and services put back into public ownership?”


I must admit that some weeks answering these questions is tricky in the 200 word limit, but this week
it is deceptively simple. No! it is not inevitable that public services are run for profit.


The manifesto of Mebyon Kernow is very very clear on this, public services should be publicly owned and run, not privatised, and further they need to be under democratic control, not managed by undemocratic and unaccountable boards, trusts and quangos.


There has been a trend under Tory, Labour and Tory Lib Dem governments for more and more involvement in the private sector and it is obvious who has benefited from these policies: share holders. This has often been to the detriment of public services.


This has increased the power of corporations and the natural extension of this policy of giving the private sector more and power is the TTIP. This is despite the fact that polling shows people want public services owned by the state. We need everything from the NHS, libraries to the rail companies run for the public good under democratic control and delivering first class services to the public not first class profits for the private sector.

Monday, 4 May 2015

How government should support Cornish fishing and farming, but don't

“What would you like to see done to provide more support to the agriculture and fishing industries and enable them to continue and thrive?”


It's very welcome to see this question featured, people often underestimate the importance of food
production to the Cornish economy. Both farming and fishing are very important to the local economy. It's a shame that both are part of the same question as they need different things to support them grow as industries.

Cornwall does not have a strong voice in the EU and UK, as a result the CAP and CFP and UK government policy do little to help our fishing fleet and farmers. This is because ministers treat our input into these policies as an afterthought. Both industries need a greater say in policy, it is scandalous this does not happen.

In order to reduce food miles, reduce traffic and help the Cornish economy. I believe that retailers should be offered tax incentives to stock local produce and source it locally without the scandal of trucking it up country to return the produce back to Cornwall. As well supermarkets should be regulated in the price they offer for goods, we can’t continue the economic insanity of milk pricing and it should be the responsibility of the state to intervene in situations like this for the common good.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Devolution is coming to Cornwall, how you vote on thursday will have a huge effect on how ambitious our settlement will be


Devolution is an idea often talked about and little understood. What does devolvement mean? What will change? 

The simple answer to all these questions is a "great deal", the complicated one "that's up to you?"

In the last year or so all of the political parties have addressed the issue of Cornish devolution.
Labour Tory (and UKIP) say a Cornish Assembly would be too costly. Both concede powers should be devolved from the centre. Whether that means to local government? to mayors? Or perhaps to new bodies, both are keen on authorities working with each other, perhaps the ever fated Devonwall or Westcountry devolution will happen and we'll be ruled by Bristol...

The Liberal Democrats talk of devolution on demand, unfortunately unlike say Netflix, there is no preview button. They have committed to a Cornish assembly  (rather vaguely and half heartedly it must be said). They've also pledged to reduce the number of politicians in Cornwall. So they both want more powers to Cornwall Council with less councillors. Bigger budgets and responsibilities with less, oversight, scrutiny and accountability, a true example of Cleggism, being neither liberal nor democratic....

Cornwall Council have the most enthusiastic campaign, the Case for Cornwall. Which has it's merits, it's well presented and has some support in the council. Probably a bit dissapointing for the council that no political party at this general election has come out in support of the campaign. Which is odd as most candidates in Cornwall speak in favour of it and could have taken up this document to champion.

Meanwhile Mebyon Kernow have a policy document, Towards a National Assembly for Cornwall. It has been widely consulted on and spells out what powers we think Cornwall needs. It is by far the most ambitious in the powers and responsibilities it calls for. 

My argument is this, devolution will be a huge issue with the next government. Whichever of the coalitions takes office, power will be devolved. What shape that will be and how effective that could be in forging a better Cornwall, is undecided.

Parties will offer various pitches about how this election is crucially about tuition fees, austerity, climate change, the NHS, the economy, housing, low wages. I've heard all my fellow candidates utter these things. They've made some very good arguments. Clearly explained the problems of these things and why they're such vital issues.

My counter argument is this, yes we must address these vital issues and now, of course we must. However, rather than fight a pitched battle here and a pitched battle there against the entire government system. Vote for MK and push with us for devolution for these vital issues to Cornwall. So the people we need to influence, to change policy, live among us and are elected by the people and held to account by them. So we can look to a future where the privatisation of public services is a Cornish decision. So the definitions of affordable housing and actually building some genuinely affordable housing, is not ruled out by a ministerial decree. So we can have the tools to fix our communities by dealing with second homes. So we can have buses that work in unison with trains, where we can adjust our fares and timetables without meeting central government disapproval. So we can finally have the tools to deal with the problem of being one of the least economically productive parts of Europe and actually improve the Cornish economy. 

It's obviously up to you how you vote on May the seventh. Do be wary though, that devolution will be a massive issue and it will be led by MPs. My view is we need to be ambitious with the future. We need to aim higher and get the most powers and control over funding that we can. If you vote for Mebyon Kernow candidates on thursday you will be voting for the most ambitious people determined to win the most powers, freedoms and funding from central government. 


https://www.mebyonkernow.org/pages/cornish_assembly.php

How Cornwall can benefit from superfast broadband and better connections with the world

“The rollout of superfast broadband has been hailed as a catalyst for creating new high skilled, high paid jobs in Cornwall – what else can be done to help develop and encourage this kind of employment in the county?”


Having world class superfast broadband is a very positive thing for Cornwall and more must be done 

to fully realise the potential it can have. I was recently in a campaign to get this into Penzance town 

centre on time and FTTP installed rather than much slower FTTC. I took part in this campaign after 

businesses in the town asked me what the delay was. 






From them and a survey I did of companies and organisations in the town, it was clear that superfast 

was a very important asset and would enable growth. We live in an increasingly connected world 

and it was a real eye opener to me how many organisations in Penzance trade and communicate 

with partners throughout the UK, Europe and the whole world. 


Although I believe in the need to do more trade locally and reduce food miles and other unnecessary 

transports. The next step for West Cornwall and Scilly in my opinion is taking advantage of how the 

internet and superfast broadband connects us with the world. We need government to help and 

enable companies take advantage of the internet. Look to how to expand existing companies and 


bring more to Cornwall to unleash our potential.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Free schools are not pushing up standards, we need to address the key issues on education

“Are free schools the best way to push up standards in education or should the resources being used for these new schools instead be used to provide for improvements in existing schools?”

It goes withour saying that education is important. We need a school system that delivers first class education. We need pupils to leave education armed with the knowledge and the ability to think for themselves,  in order to get on in life, both in work and life itself.

These are the things politicians should bear in mind when they consider education, how to defend what is good and how to improve what is bad and constantly strive to make education better.

Unfortunately Free Schools, seemed to be based more on ideology than on improvement. They have centralised the funding away from local authorities and to the hands of Whitehall. How this makes schools free is unclear. I fear that if changes or cuts to funding are made (the ideological axe still hangs ominously over public services) how will schools make representations to a distant unaccountable bureaucracy?

Our schools need investment, as we've seen over the last few years in Helston, with the c block fiasco, the government have avoided the main problems from the coal face and focused on top down solutions. I believe that the funds diverted to the Free School experiment would be much better invested in schools.

Friday, 1 May 2015

The government needs to do more to improve transport in Cornwall

“What can be done to improve transport links to and from Cornwall 
as well as transport within the county?”

Transport links in Cornwall are not ideal and I’m glad the question addresses the vital issue of getting 

around Cornwall not just getting up country. Fundamentally one of the key issues for our next MP 

should be getting fair funding for our transport network and to get the crucial decisions devolved to 

Cornwall, as we know best the problems we face and how to solve them and this is true not just for 

roads but also public transport including of course the links with the Isles of Scilly. 


Recently the  government was unwilling to pay for A30 improvements, despite the fact they are responsible 

for it, Cornwall Council is contributing. This is an unwelcome development as we in Cornwall and tourists, 

pay road tax to central government, where is this money going? We need some of Cornish taxpayers 

money back from the Treasury to pay for transport. 


We need to rethink how we deliver it and should  seriously consider renationalising the public transport 

network that we already subsidise and look to improving it by making train and bus times schedules in 

relation to each other. We need well-funded  public transport that is quick, efficient and doesn’t costs 

travellers the earth to travel.

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...