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Admirable politician 12: Dick Cole

Twenty years ago, at the Mebyon Kernow National Conference on 4th October 1997, Dick Cole was elected the Leader of the Party for Cornwall. Two decades on, Cllr Cole continues to be a prominent public figure who is still at the helm of MK and serving his local parish of St Enoder on the unitary authority. First elected to Restormel Borough Council in 1999, he was re-elected in 2003 and 2007.

During this time, he balanced his civic duties with his work as an archaeologist (Cornwall County Council). When Cornwall Council was created in 2009, Dick stood down from his employment, so that he would be able to stand for the new authority. He was subsequently elected in 2009, 2013 and 2017.

Mebyon Kernow party leader, Dick Cole

In the most recent local election from earlier this year, he polled a vote share of 83%. His majority was the largest achieved by any candidate in Cornwall, and this was his fifth consecutive local election contest in which he polled over 75% of the vote.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall – is a modern and progressive left-of-centre political party, campaigning for a better deal for Cornwall and a fairer, more equitable world. It exists to fight for ALL the people of Cornwall, with a political programme that puts Cornwall first and offers an alternative to the London-centred parties.

Speaking on behalf of MK’s ruling National Executive, Deputy Leader Cllr Loveday Jenkin has paid tribute to Dick’s work as Party Leader. She said: “Dick’s long-standing commitment to Cornwall and its people is extraordinary. He has been at the heart of so many campaigns and it is truly remarkable that he has found so much energy to battle for Cornish communities over such a significant period of time.

“It is inspiring how hard he has worked as the leader of Mebyon Kernow and as a proactive local councillor. We are extremely proud of the work that he has done pushing for meaningful devolution to Cornwall, fair funding for Cornwall and its public services, as well as his interventions on a host of planning, housing and other matters. It is disappointing that so much of MK’s pro-Cornwall agenda has not found favour with the other political parties in Cornwall and Westminster, but we are determined to continue to campaign with Dick to secure a better deal for one and all in Cornwall.”

Earlier this year, Dick was listed as No. 3 on the “Cornish List” of the top 50 people who “lead the way in campaigning on Cornish issues” and “flying the black and white flag for Cornwall.”

The list was prepared by the Cornwall Live website, for the Cornish Guardian, Cornishman and West Briton newspapers. He has been at the forefront of numerous campaigns for a better deal for Cornwall, its communities, economy and environment. Read about six of his many achievements here.

Cole addressing MK conference

Extract: Statement on the 2017 General Election

“Over the past few months, the UK Prime Minister made numerous assertions that there would be no snap General Election. She also repeatedly stated that the next General Election would take place in 2020, as specified by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. As a consequence, Mebyon Kernow has not been making preparations for parliamentary elections and, in 2017, we have focused our efforts on the elections to the unitary authority and town and parish councils across Cornwall. Our members consider that the Prime Minister and other Westminster politicians have shamefully misled voters on this matter and are extremely angry at the disrespectful way in which the General Election was announced during local elections. General Election campaigning undoubtedly over-shadowed and subverted the elections to Cornwall Council, where the focus was shifted away from important local issues and onto Westminster party politics, to the obvious benefit of the Conservative Party.”

Dick commented on Facebook that it had been hard to generate coverage in the mainstream media for MK. It announced that the party would not be contesting seats at the 2017 General Election. As a consequence, he then had to spend much of the day dealing with the media – a live interview with Radio Cornwall at 7.00, and recorded interviews with both ITV and BBC Spotlight. It seemed strange that there was almost zero coverage of MK’s local election campaign on television and yet when they announced they were we not going to stand they got full coverage.

In his time as a councillor, Dick has been particularly well-known for the active support he has given to local groups in his division.

He has been personally responsible for more than forty successful grant applications, large and small. In all, over £570,000 has been secured for St Enoder Parish Council and other community groups.

These projects have included the construction of new community buildings, improvements to existing village halls, as well as the purchase and installation of new play equipment and skate parks. 

Hopefully one day there will be proportional representation in England, giving Mebyon Kernow and the Green Party the chances that the SNP have in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales.

 2014 meeting with Natalie Bennett, then Green Party leader and Emily McIver of East Devon Green Party

 

 

 

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Tim Farron – the second disappointment

 In 2008 Mr Farron appeared to be a doughty supporter of food producers who then, as now, are often paid below costs of production, endangering the country’s future food security.

As primary sponsor, he introduced the EDM 1067: Country Living magazine Fair Trade for British Farmers campaign.

Then he became silent and left all to his colleague Andrew George who never faltered in forming and backing the campaign for a Groceries Ombudsman, despite strong opposition from large retailers. The fact that this has proved of little help to farmers is due to the government’s emasculation of the original proposal.

Opportunist youth or principled maturity?

Now, in a politically understandable but ethically reprehensible move, he is not only courting former party members who left during their spell in coalition but making headlines for a delighted establishment media, with unsubstantiated claims that Labour Party members are contacting him – the implication being that they might join the party.

A formerly active Lib Dem member, who has joined the Labour Party under Corbyn, has forwarded Mr Farron’s claims in his e-letter – apparently referring to the Miliband administration:

“Labour shows no intention or desire to understand economic responsibility. They have given up challenging the Government on the economy, and given them the freedom to make punitive decisions against the most vulnerable”. This does not apply to Corbyn’s administration. And ends:

“We cannot let the Government go unchallenged, and it’s why the Liberal Democrats are now the only party of credible opposition. Liberal Democrats represent people in Britain who care about helping those in need, who believe that those with the broadest shoulders must carry the heaviest burden, who care about how free and fair our society is, and who believe we need to spend within our means to achieve it”.

If that sounds like you, I have one big offer to you: join the Liberal Democrats today and become a part of our movement – for only £1 a month.

jeremy corbyn (2)How much more logical and constructive it would have been for Farron to join the new politics being created by the current Labour administration and leaders of parties like NHAP, Plaid, the Greens and Mebyon Kernow. And many have welcomed the words of the SNP’s able Commons leader MP, Angus Robertson at the latest PMQs. In statesmanlike tones, and with an effective reproof after David Cameron’s lapse, he said that his party “looks forward to working with Jeremy Corbyn and against government austerity” adding “particularly on Trident”


Next: Times’ journalists: ignorant of John McDonnell’s work and alliances, economical with the truth, or under orders?

 

 

Time for ‘Real Labour’ to stand up? Another new small party?

andy burnhamThis post was triggered by news that Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has hosted another meeting of the long-suffering, politically sidelined organophosphate-affected victims, experts and campaigners in London. He is calling for more information on how farmers may have been affected by using sheep dip in the 1970s and ’80s when twice-yearly dipping in Britain was compulsory.

The news focussed the mind on a perceived need for the few remaining democratic socialist MPs to re-form and collaborate to add to the convincing alternatives to the two mainstream parties so long entrenched in misgovernment.

leanne woodAs recently reported here, Lianne Wood put forward the idea that a small parties’ coalition could work together – this could include the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens (plus Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall) and NHAP.

It seems feasible after looking at A Greenprint for the Valleys (2011), which included a job creation programme aimed at regenerating the former valleys coalfield areas, a Green Construction Skills College; an integrated transport plan, a land bank for renewable energy and food production, renovating heritage buildings, providing financial support for home energy efficiency measures and setting up green co-operatives.

Plus ‘Real Labour’?

jeremy corbynSuch measures might well be enthusiastically supported by the other small parties. If truly socialist MPs such as Andy Burnham, Jeremy Corbyn, George Galloway and Glenda Jackson could bring themselves to add another small party by forming ‘Real Labour’ – plus former Stroud MP David Drew, who is likely to be re-elected next year – we might at last see a truly honest and public-spirited government in action. As the leader of the Green Party said recently:

“Voters are desperate for alternatives to the three business-as-usual parties. They understand our current model is broken, our economy and society are failing to meet our needs. The coalition has governed for those who think prestige and personal wealth is more important than fairness and a decent life for everyone.

Broken Britain“This government has allowed giant, tax-dodging, low-paying, exploitative multinational companies to act at the direct expense of individual workers and communities.”

NB: the writer is well aware that  few of the politicians named support policies which she personally does not. But on balance such a coalition might well work in the public interest – an unfashionable stance in mainstream political circles.

What is ‘at the heart of the malaise in British politics’?

Earlier this month George Parker of the Financial Times  asserted: “it is the state of the economy that remains at the heart of the malaise in British politics”, but his other reflections were nearer the mark.

george parkerHe said that: “Panic over the rise of the populists is spreading across the Westminster establishment, which is turning on itself in a round of recrimination bordering on self-loathing. With a general election less than six months away, British politics is about to enter a volatile and unpredictable phase”.

Another comment: “Polls suggest voters regard the Westminster class as out of touch and incompetent . . . Global events have exposed the inability of the British elite to identify risks, let alone deal with them. From the financial crash, through the rise of Russian aggression in Ukraine to the surge in Islamic radicalism in the Middle East, Westminster politicians were initially blindsided, then appeared impotent in their response”.

A serious indictment – and he should have added to it a reference to the fatally corrosive effect of the corporate–political alliances which skew decision-making in favour of the already rich.

occupy wall st cartoon corp money

This is seen as corruption by many, here and in America (see cartoon). It is noted that – in this particular – the Westminster class are far from ignorant and incompetent when adding to their incomes and those of family and friends – aka ‘feathering their nests’.

Mr Parker expresses the sense, among some British voters, that they are victims rather than beneficiaries of globalisation, which – Political Concern adds – has offered so many opportunities for leaders of corporations and governments to enrich themselves at the expense of the ‘rank and file’, vastly increasing economic inequality and environmental pollution.

He continues: “If the mood continues, the next election could see a remarkable rejection of traditional politics . . . neither of Britain’s main parties can expect to win an overall Commons majority in the election, which will be held on May 7. A period of instability and multi-party coalitions – possibly including minority parties as diverse as UKIP, the Scottish National party, Ulster unionists and the Greens – is a real possibility”. And adds:

Both Tories and Labour acknowledge that supporting UKIP has become a cry of pain from people who no longer feel they have a stake in the future and have lost faith in Westminster politicians to help them.

Many will watch with interest campaigns by ‘minority parties’: SNP, the Greens, NHAP, Plaid Cymru, in Cornwall Mebyon Kernow and UKIP, which still gives cause for concern.

Time for change!

The ‘ancien regime’ besieged by ‘populist insurgents’: FT & Spectator

“The pillar of past stability – predictable government built on turn and turnabout between the Tories and Labour – is crumbling”, according to the FT’s Philip Stephens:

“The two parties used to command more than 90% of the national vote – in the early 1950s it was 98%. The duopoly was underwritten by the winner-takes-all electoral system. But the Tory and Labour tribes have shrunk. In 2010 their share fell to 65%. It could be less in 2015. The Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition turned two-party into three-party politics. Four or five parties could be in the game after 2015”.

Labour and Conservative in combat mode: “the threat insurgent parties pose to mainstream politics” . . .

Isabel Hardman in the Spectator says, “the Greens are creeping up on the left-ish parties, just as UKIP crept up on the Tories. Everyone is more aware of the threat insurgent parties pose to mainstream politics”.

isabel hardman brighton

The membership of smaller political parties is rising. Though most concern is expressed about UKIP there has been a less well-publicised focus on the Green Party. Ms Hardman reports that, in September, the Labour Party set up a Green attack unit in its headquarters, led by Sadiq Khan, including party staffers and Khan’s advisers. It intends to create a toolkit of local campaign materials for constituencies to use and advise on a national media strategy to combat the Greens.

brighton public buildings solarA few days later the Spectator mounted an emotive attack on the record of the Green Council in Brighton. 

Specific charges related to its recycling regime, (described below) and its support for wind turbines, omitting reference to its solar achievements.

chris williams latestGreen Cllr Chris Williams of Solihull Council’s main opposition party, responds to the recycling disatisfaction charge:

The last Council put in an order to use Italian-made communal street bins which don’t work and no other council in the country uses, and the Greens have been stuck with the contract”.

He sends a link which records some achievements of Brighton’s Green Council, saving energy and money. They include:

  • bringing down the number of buildings used by the council, cutting council running costs and reducing the council’s carbon footprint;
  • installing solar panels on council buildings to cut energy bills (planning to do this in other public buildings and sheltered housing);
  • installing automatic meters to monitor and reduce water waste;
  • launching a seafront anti-litter campaign to encourage tourists and visitors to the city to dispose of their rubbish responsibly or take it home;
  • introducing a requirement that dogs living in council-owned homes be micro-chipped, encouraging more tenants to behave responsibly as their pets are easier to trace;
  • introducing an ethical procurement strategy to improve minimum standards for the products the council buys, being awarded WWF Gold standard for timber purchasing;
  • introducing refuse collections on bank holidays outside the Christmas period;
  • expanding community composting sites across the city; in ten of the city’s 26 schemes, residents can turn their food waste into free compost. More than 500 people are now using the community compost service;
  • increasing recycling options for small electrical items and unused paint and exploring the possibility of a commercial waste and recycling collection service;
  • supporting community food growing in public parks such as Dyke Road Park and Wish Park & working with the local allotment federation on a new allotment strategy to publicise their role in promoting health, well-being, social contact, wildlife, biodiversity, as well as growing fresh nutritious, affordable local food;
  • successfully securing outside funding to transform the central Level Park – a large, decaying urban green space – with new gardens – with more diverse and sustainable planting – a new playground, new public toilets, a cycle café, better lighting and furniture, a new skate park, and more green space.

In yesterday’s FT article, Philip Stephens noted: “The stable political order of Thatcher’s boast has lost a vital centripetal force just as the populists harness the anger of those left behind by globalisation”.

He is missing the point. Those angered by the injustice and environmental damage caused by globalisation are rejecting those mainstream politicians who not only permitted but aided and abetted it, furthering the interests of large corporations over those of the people who had elected them to serve – not exploit.

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The writer is not a member of the Green Party, but welcomes the rise of smaller ethically based parties, including the National Health Action Party and – in Cornwall – regionalist Mebyon Kernow.

Time for a real alternative? The two main parties offer no hope

Jeremiad: The Berlin Wall and the election of Blair and Obama 

These events have been greeted with euphoria – shared by all but a few. The first had the best outcome, though East Germany is still not on a par with the West.

The reigns of Blair and Obama have caused many unnecessary deaths of soldiers and civilians – a slaughter which continues. 

The present political actors are failing politically, economically, socially and environmentally and it’s time to look elsewhere.   

Could we find parties with radically different policies who are not indebted to corporate donors? We briefly look at three: 

A quick websearch finds reports of UKIP, now bankrolled by former Tory funder Stewart Wheeler, and Kent businessman Alan Bown, who has already donated £500,000 and is prepared to make good “any shortfall” caused by the withdrawal of Paul Sykes who had donated £1.4m. 

No such news was seen of the Green Party and the regional Mebyon Kernow. 

If the public turns to them and significant numbers are elected, will their MPs be able to put the electorate first and resist the lure of corporate hospitality and present/future employment offers?