I’m here to introduce the policies Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall will fight this election on. The principles upon which we will use to show the people of Cornwall that we are a serious party, presenting serious policies and a serious alternative for voters in this crucial general election.
One of Bodmin’s most famous sons was Thomas Flamank. Despite the fact he probably wasn’t a firebrand, he was a lawyer by trade. Flamank came to lead the great Cornish uprising of 1497, with a man from west Cornwall called Myghal Josef An Gof. A St Keverne man, a black smith. We can easily conjure an image of a passionate, determined and strong man.
A smart and gentle man from the east and a brave man from the west joined together, united Cornwall and led a fearsome army of One and All. They marched on the English capital and struck fear into the heart of the establishment.
Although in Bodmin today we might not be handing out swords and bows. Mebyon Kernow is planning with your help, in uniting the people of Cornwall once again and striking the same fear as 1497 into the establishment.
Thomas Flamank that famous son of Bodmin was legendary for his last words:
“Speak the truth and only than you can be free of your chains”
518 years on from our great forebears, we conference, gathered here today, are aiming for these same ideals.
Mebyon Kernow policies address the truth of the political and economic situation in Cornwall today, and we speak it loud and clear. Exposing the truths the other parties will not face up to.
The Westminster parties will tell tales of how they are so different from each other. That a vote for one will keep the other out. Ignoring the fact that on the key issues in policies and records there is little difference between these parties. All of them lack ambition for Cornwall and the desire to change policies to forge the Cornwall that the public are crying out for.
They say no speech is complete without a joke, well here’s one: the Westminster parties are all, at this election in favour, of devolving more powers to Cornwall. If you believe that you’ll believe anything!
Despite years of centralisation to Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol and of course London and taking more and more public decisions into private hands, they make these hollow election time promises. Despite their records of trying to impose the pasty tax and Devonwall onto Cornwall, are we now seriously to believe that the Conservatives an Liberal Democrats recognise we are different? and that they will respect this?
The truth is, none of the other parties are serious about devolution. They know the people of Cornwall desire to be free of the dead hand of central government, yet in power they continue to protect the structures and elites that harm Cornwall.
Mebyon Kernow recently launched our plans for devolution in the document Towards a National Assembly for Cornwall. Despite not having the millions of the Westminster parties, we put them to shame by showing professionalism and maturity producing this great document and campaigning on issues *unlike them* outside of election time.
We passionately believe that devolution to a national assembly will unlock Cornish potential. It will allow Cornwall to spread our wings, to find our own solutions and to grow together as a community. There are so many rich opportunities to be developed, with our natural resources and the talents of the people of Cornwall, we need to take powers from central government and bring them home, to unleash this potential.
MK has always been at the sharp end of positive change for Cornwall, for example, we were arguing for a Cornish university before anyone else. We are the ones with a vision of forging a new Cornwall, a just society, with decent public services, decent affordable housing and decent opportunities for One and All.
We need to shout loud and clear at this election, that a vote for Mebyon Kernow is the only real prospect of getting more powers for Cornwall.
One of the central themes of both our assembly document and our recent policy announcement is our desire to devolve the planning system to Cornwall. To take all of the decisions taken by politicians, ministers and planning inspectors, to here west of the Tamar where they belong. To remodel planning policies and procedures to suit Cornwall and work in the interests of the people.
Mebyon Kernow wants a planning system that Kow Tows not to developers and the interests of profit but Kow Tows to the people of Cornwall. So we can be masters of our own destiny, decide what planning policies we want and what housing numbers suit us.
The present centralised planning system favours developers and works hard for their needs and wants. Yet it ignores the needs and wants of our communities. The present planning policies do nothing to stop unsustainable development on green fields of houses unaffordable on the average Cornish wage.
Planning also presents us with so called affordable housing. There is no better indicator that the housing system is completely broken, than this farce. We need fundamental changes to have real affordable housing. To stop the brain drain of young people moving to England were house prices bear some relation to wages.
Then there’s second homes, a problem that gets worse year on year. We suffer from politicians that seem either unwilling or unable to actually sort this abomination out.
The truth is we need to make our own decisions here in Cornwall to stop this extravagant use of our housing. We can not rely on decision makers, hundreds of miles away. That, let’s face it are a lot more likely to own a second house in Cornwall than know what the affect on our communities and house prices are.
The truth is the planning and housing policies of Westminster fail Cornwall. We need at this election to send a clear message, that we the people of Cornwall have had enough and we will not be ignored.
All of the Westminster parties and I include UKIP in this, are signed up to austerity. Despite the obvious fact that it does not work for the people of Cornwall and is not bringing us growth. The cuts continue to widen the gap between rich and poor. Here in Cornwall, our own inequality gap between average earnings and house prices continues to widen. Cornwall is still one of the least economically active parts of Europe. Yet the cuts continue.
Cornwall’s front line public services are paying a heavy toll for this neo liberal cuts agenda. That the Tories, Lib Dems, Labour and UKIP embrace with such zeal, blind and deaf to the damage it is causing. Leaving places like Cornwall with public services that are not fit for a first world country.
Mebyon Kernow MPs will join with our sister parties Plaid Cymru and the SNP and plead, argue and fight against more damaging cuts. Say no to austerity and yes to fairness, equality and decent public services.
Compounding the affect of the cuts is the fact that Cornwall has suffered from underfunding by successive governments for decades. All of our public services suffer from this unfairness. From our schools, to our social services, our NHS, our Devonwall police force. The time has come to say enough is enough and demand fairness for Cornwall.
I have not gone through every MK policy line by line. I could be here all day talking about the policies Cornwall needs to fight low wages and high house prices. To address the fundamental inequalities in our society. To bring more decisions under democratic control. To say no to the great sell off of our public services. Deliver a stadium for Cornwall. How we need a zero waste strategy. Deliver a public transport network fit for this century, Scrap trident and so the list goes on.
I started off this speech quoting the great Cornishman Thomas Flamank:
“Speak the truth and only then can you be free of your chains.”
We may not be fighting a rebellion and risking our lives in this election campaign. But Mebyon Kernow is fighting for Cornwall and the stakes are just as high, for the life and soul of the Cornwall we all love. We need to free Cornwall from the dead hand of Westminster and devolve power here, and we need free our nation from the dead hand of Westminster politics.
We need the freedom to grow, to allow imagination and ambition into decision making and free ourselves from the uncaring central government and it’s policies and prescriptions that are apathetic to Cornwall’s needs and wants.
CORNWALL NEEDS CHANGE, we all know that, it is why we are all here. I urge all of you to look in your hearts and whether there you find a ferocious character like An Gof or a gentle one like Flamank. Ask yourselves what you can do to embody their spirit and what you can do to fight for Cornwall and join Mebyon Kernow in this election campaign in breaking the chains.