Monday, 30 August 2010

A Minister for Cornwall and the politics of empty promises

In my previous blog post I copied the letter that I had received from the Prime Minister about whether Kernow was due to receive a dedicated  Minister for Cornwall as was promised before the election. The This is Cornwall site picked up on my blog post and rehashed it into an article and was further rehashed by the Falmouth People website. It was very nice to see that somebody had been reading my blog, but I couldn’t help thinking that the articles did not move the debate on further. So I asked myself what I would do if I was a journalist...

I came to the conclusion that I would seek more clarification from the Prime Minister about the issue, as I did not feel the issue resolved in my previous letter from David Cameron’s office. So below, is my reply to the PM asking categorically if Cornwall will receive a dedicated Minister and outlining some of the reasons why I think Cornwall deserves more political attention from the ever distant political process. I plan to publish any replies that I receive and as courtesy have sent this same message to the Deputy Prime Minister and Cornwall’s six Members of Parliament and will post any of their replys also.

Dear Prime Minister,

Firstly I would like to thank you for the reply to my question about a Minister for Cornwall, sent from your office on the 16th of August. I hope you do not mind but I copied the letter onto my blog, seeing as it was a q & a meant for a public forum (the Prime Minister Direct event in Newquay) I thought this was appropriate, and I will also publish any reply that might be sent to this letter.

It certainly was a meaningful gesture that Cornwall was chosen as one of the first places to hold the PM Direct and hopefully this was a sign that we have moved on from the Labour years when interaction between politicians of the governing party and Cornwall was a very low priority. I was however a bit puzzled by the intent of the letter sent to me, my question was really quite simple: “are we going to get a Minister for Cornwall?” and the reply was somewhat ambiguous:

“We are now part of a Coalition Government and, as such, we are considering the best way to determine non-portfolio Ministers like this with our coalition partners.”

I can only conclude that this was a diplomatic shrug off and we will not be getting a dedicated minister. I sincerely hope that this is not the case, the Conservative candidates in Cornwall at the General Election made a lot of capital from your significant move, to create Mark Prisk as Shadow Minister for Cornwall.
There is very much a feeling in Cornwall that politics has to change, we remain in a poor economic state and in comparison to the United Kingdom and Western Europe we sadly under perform. Despite the intentions of European Union Objective One funding there has been little increase in real terms wealth. It seems obvious that Cornwall deserves a lot more attention politically and economically for this situation to improve. In this regard, personally and across the Duchy, your support for a Cornwall and Scilly LEP was greatly welcomed.

However, politically too we need to be making more decision ourselves, providing Cornish solutions to Cornish problems, if the Labour years taught as anything it was that Cornwall’s voice is not represented by offices in distant Bristol or indeed by south west ministers. The widespread rejection of the Labour party at the polls in the local, Euro and General elections in Cornwall confirms that Labour never got to grasp with Cornwall nor represented our interests satisfactorily. Many in Cornwall recognised that Cornish Conservatives were speaking sense when they argued that Cornwall needs MP’s at the heart of government and that decisions should be made in Cornwall not by regional bodies. They too looked to your now coalition partners the Liberal Democrats and their promises to deliver a Cornish Assembly with great relish. Both parties performed well at the General Election on differing promises that both echoed the need to bring more power to Cornwall and to make our voice heard better. People in Cornwall were very expectant that politics had finally changed and we could look forward to no longer being the poor relation of our neighbours.

It is therefore with a mixture of puzzlement and dismay that despite these concrete promises of more political power, that we know actually face less, with plans for a cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency. This unpopular move really undermines the electoral promises of both governing parties and leaves many wondering the utility of having politicians at the heart of government.

I feel I have made my points clearly, so now I have a number of questions:

When will Cornwall receive a dedicated Minister?

When will Cornwall start to have more say in our own affairs?

When can we expect to see the benefits of having politicians at the heart of government?

Yours sincerely,

Robert Simmons
CC to:

Nick Clegg

Andrew George

George Eustice

Sarah Newton

Stephen Gilbert

Dan Rogerson

Sheryll Murray

Monday, 23 August 2010

A Minister for Cornwall? my letter from the Prime Minister

I received a letter from the Prime Minister to a question I was supposed to pose at the PM Direct event in Newquay recently. As circumstances would have it I did not attend but did nonetheless receive a reply from the Prime Minister (well from his office the facsimile signature was very unconvincing as we all know the Prime Minister is on holiday in our Duchy as I write this). My question to David Cameron was about the supposed appointment of a Minister for Cornwall, for those of you that don’t know the announcement of a Shadow Minister for Cornwall was announced via you tube on the 24th July 2007.

Now seeing as the Tories were in government, many in Cornwall has assumed that this Shadow Minister would become a full Minister for Cornwall. This was the subject of the question that I wished to ask David Cameron and the subject of his offices letter to me. Which you can see for yourself below:

Although it doesn’t explicitly rule out a Minister with responsibilities for Cornwall, I take this as meaning we will not be getting this form of special attention by the government. It is nice to have some clarity at last after various promises were made.  Apparently with the election won there’s no need to placate the Cornish electorate and we shall go back to being far from the heart of government.