Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Cornish Recognition What It Means ?

Cornish recognition what it means? some thoughts 

Rob Simmons 


The article can be found here

Mebyon Kernow

I'm no legal expert and this early days for Cornish recognition for the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, so this is more of a discussion piece than a definitive account of what this historic decision means. Take a pinch of salt where necessary add a comment where you wish but these are my thoughts on what it means. There are a number of discussions at the moment taking place and I'm not going to try to summarise them all. But here I'll take a quick look at what the Framework means, what it means for equality legislation and what changes might occour now.

Of course I must echo Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole in saying this is fantastic news, but I also agree with Andrew Long when he said:

‘It is excellent news Government are finally recognising something the European Union have recognised for years and the Cornish have known for generations.’
On the Cornish Times website.

What is the Framework Convention?:

Fantastic, historic, momentous, groundbreaking there are certainly a plethora of positive descriptions that could be given. But what is the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities? In short it's an agreement between the states of Europe to protect identities of peoples in the aim of creating and ensuring harmony. As the preamble explains:

"Considering that the upheavals of European history have shown that the protection of national minorities is essential to stability, democratic security and peace in this continent;

Considering that a pluralist and genuinely democratic society should not only respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of each person belonging to a national minority, but also create appropriate conditions enabling them to express, preserve and develop this identity;

Considering that the creation of a climate of tolerance and dialogue is necessary to enable cultural diversity to be a source and a factor, not of division, but of enrichment for each society;"


This is not something emanating from the European Union, it is from the Council of Europe and it is up to members of the council to decide whether to implement it. This map from wikipedia goes some way to illustrating how the Framework stands across Europe:

European states that aren't members of the EU (e.g. Switzerland) are signatories, other EU members like France ignore it completely. It is at the behest of state governments to implement this and to define groups individual governments consider a national minority. This is why so much lobbying for Cornish recognition has taken place over the years and finally and thankfully Westminster has relented. In short this is a multilateral treaty that seeks equality and protection of identities of cultures between national majorities (such as the English) and national minorities (such as the Cornish) specifically duties of the state to ensure this. 
How might it apply to Kernewek and broadcasting?:

So what does this specifically mean? In my opinion parts of the Convention are quite woolly and open to interpretation. Such as the first paragraph of Article 9:
"The Parties undertake to recognise that the right to freedom of expression of every person belonging to a national minority includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas in the minority language, without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers. The Parties shall ensure, within the framework of their legal systems, that persons belonging to a national minority are not discriminated against in their access to the media."
What could this mean? and what limits might "within the framework of their legal systems" actually entail? We could read this and argue that the present form of broadcasting is sufficient "access" or we might argue that "access" requires Cornish language tv, radio and print media. It could also be argued that media is the preserve of the private sector and not the state and it is up to private enterprise, not the government to ensure "access". Although considering the UK has a state media in the BBC and statutory requirements with independent broadcasters are in place, it would be within the power of government to allow access to our minority language. 
What about housing policy?
There's an interesting debate about how the Convention affects Cornwall Council/ government housing policy specifically the local plan. Bernard Deacon has made the argument here that a housing policy predicated on an increased migration to Cornwall (from England) infringes the convention and specifically Article 16:
"The Parties shall refrain from measures which alter the proportions of the population in areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities."
The local plan explains that migration to Cornwall is a factor in increasing the house building rate to 2020 so does it therefore follow that the state is infringing article 16? 
Do other rights and protections now follow?:
Although the convention was ratified by the UK government in 1998, since then and until the Cornish have been excluded from it. However other groups were included in it. Most notably the Welsh, Scottish, Ulster-Scots, Gypsy and Irish traveller. Because the government took the view that groups native -if you will- to the UK that had been recognised under the Race Relations Act 1976 where covered by the convention. The Labour government's argument for denying the Cornish was that there had not been a case tried at court that had shown the Cornish to be defined as a 'national' or 'racial' group. So rather than challenging the arguments put to them that the Cornish fit the criteria as a nation (flag, common history, self identification, common geographical origin, language, culture etc). They left it up to the courts to decide, the story of John Angarrack's brave effort to do this and the Cornish Fighting Fund is summarised here
Other than a dig at Labour and their scornful attitude to Cornish identity and recognition, there is a point I am getting to here. If it follows that the same groups recognised as National Minorities are recognised in anti discrimination legislation such as the Race Relations Act, is the converse true do the Cornish now enjoy the protection of this legislation? Could prosecutions be made in cases where Cornish people are discriminated against and vice versa in cases of Cornish people discriminating against the English? Surely now not only the Race Relations Act but also the Equality Act 2010 ensure protections of the Cornish people. If the government denies this then surely they have broken articles of the Framework Convention? This point is significant because it seems the Convention applies to protections to a people, their culture and identity from the policies and acts of the state. Whereas the Equality act and Race Relations act provide protection against discrimination from individuals and organisations.  
On the subject of housing, remember the case in Illogan, whereby a locals were refused housing in the village because they were not from London (Scandal of Cornish homes for Londoners). Could the Equality Act be used here?
The Cornish should now get a tickbox in the census:
The last point I want to make here is on the census, hitherto the Cornish have been able to record that identity on the census but with a write in option rather than a tick box. In the 2011 census all national minorities recognised under the Framework Convention had a dedicated tickbox with their identity written beside. Cornish was the only national minority group recorded but not explicitly written on the form. My reading of Article 4 is quite clear:
"The Parties undertake to guarantee to persons belonging to national minorities the right of equality before the law and of equal protection of the law. In this respect, any discrimination based on belonging to a national minority shall be prohibited."
I don't see how the government (this or the next) can discriminate against the Cornish by not including a tickbox and denying our identity equal footing with English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh etc. Further there are many organisations that collect data on ethnic and national origins, some do already collect Cornish and some don't. It would now seem the all have to collect Cornish and allow it to be displayed to users on an equal footing with other identities.
The real effects of the recognition of Cornish national identity are yet to be known. Most of this will be a legal process. I would very much expect some of the issues and arguments I have touched upon here to be debated and perhaps tested in the legal system. I apologise for the rambling nature of the above blog and how it flits between subjects. But this is an issue with huge ramifications, this is a 'game-changer' and there ought to be a very real debate on how this all applies. I imagine there are a number of organisations governmental, councils, businesses, housing associations that will have to think how their existing equality policies now apply with respect of the Cornish. I'll leave you with one last thought: we may have laughed (or tried to) at the BBC programme W1A and the fictional Spotlight news presenter overlooked for promotion in the BBC because she was Cornish, but that fictional case might soon be impossible in reality or challenged in the courts....
A couple of articles have caught my eye on this subject of Cornish recognition:

Cornwall to join UEFA? (or indeed field a '7 Nations' rugby team? Commonwealth games?)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fred Gould MP - Frome, Somerset 1923

Labour's First South West England
Member of Parliament
Frederick "Fred" Gould MP - Frome

Frederick "Fred Gould was born 28th June 1879, one of 12 children from a family living at Midsomer Norton, Somerset, his father was a miner and a founder of the Somerset Miners Federation.

The Gould family were strong Methodist's and Fred would go onto be a lay Wesleyan preacher.

The young Fred Gould attended the local C of E school and left school aged 13 to become a "bootblack" in the household of a local ironmonger and fill in time with being a stable boy and later serving customers in the shop.

In his youth he became an expert "orchard raider", but he still found time read Robert Blatchford (Clarion) writings and heavier writers on politics and theology. In1908  he became an unpaid organiser for the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and helped establish several branches of the ILP locally.

When Fred Gould left the Ironmongers, after four years at cleaning boots he started making them and until 1920 worked in various factories, finding work as a "rounder" in Ollie Edwards Boots factory at Midsomer Norton

Gould was branch secretary of the small Midsomer Norton branch of National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives union,

In 1910 he won a seat on Radstock Urban District Council and later became Labour's first Chairman of Radstock Urban District Council. he was also elected as a Poor law Guardian, school manager and was active in the Co-operative Society

At the 1917 Boot and Shoe Operatives Union conference Gould was one of the few radicals challenging the unions leadership on issues such as "Workers control" stating "are we going to control machines or are we going to let them control us"

Due to a depression in the boot and shoe trade and no-doubt his role in the union, Gould found himself unemployed. Ten months out of work ended in Fred Gould's appointment in January 1921 a Labour Party divisional agent.

When the popular Cpt Edward Gill the Frome perspective Labour parliamentary candidate for the 1923 General election died expectantly in June 1923, it was Fred Gould who was selected and who won at the frome seat for Labour at the General election held on 5th December 1923. Gould held the seat until the General Election of 1924 when he lost, however, he won the seat again in 1929 and held it this time until 1931.

The Boot & Shoe workers union who sponsored Gould then decided he would have to stand in Leicester (with its sizable Boot & Shoe union membership) in future if he wanted union support. He did stand in Leicester but was ultimately unsuccessful in regaining a seat in parliament.

Fred Gould died 23 February 1971

Fred Gould's son Ronald Gould became a teacher in Midsomer Norton and national General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers


The Frome constituency covered most of North East Somerset and was abolished in 1949

Frome town was a textile town, but the rural parts of the constituency contained areas such as Radstock that had over 50 pits (The last two pit, Kilmersdon and Writhlington, closed in September 1973)

The Labour candidate for Frome in 1923 was expected to be Captain Edward Gill MC a popular local man he had been the Labour candidate in 1918 securing 44% of the vote, only losing because the Liberal candidate split the vote. Edward Gill died 30th June 1923


Rev G.A. Ramsay, The Rectory Writhlington, Bath
J.W. Ronayne, Frome Hill, Radstock
C. Webber, 48 St James Taunton
H.C.  Caswell, Kingston Road, Rowbarton, Taunton
T. Oaten, 27 Alber Marle Road, Taunton

Rev G. A Ramsay was also chairman of the Radstock Co-operative Society,

Miners leader A. J. Cook spoke at Radstock May 1926

Street Boot & Shoe Union Branch secretary 1913 Fred Laver (active in the ILP)

Taunton NUR Banner

Other South West MP's elected at 1923 General Election 1923
Walter Ayles -Bristol North
Walter Baker - Bristol East

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Supermarkets continue to undermine dairy industry - Need for planning

Britain’s 14,500 dairy farmers are facing an uncertain future as supermarkets continue to seek to drive down the price of farm gate milk, this despite a voluntary dairy code  of agreement reached in September 2012 after dairy farmers successfully blockaded supermarkets distribution centres in summer 2012.
Hundreds more dairy farmers could be forced out of business if the price paid by supermarkets for milk is not increased substantially, as many dairy farmers presently are not even covering the cost of production due to increased cost of feed, fuel and fertilizers.
The dairy farmers cause has been backed by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall who have urged the public to boycott supermarkets that’s used milk as “a loss leader”
The growing militancy amongst dairy farmers has been driven by the grassroots Farmers For Action (FFA) established in May 2000 which was established as a result of disillusionment by the infectiveness of farming organisations, In April 2013 the FFA even pulled out of the SOS Dairy Coalition believing it was blunting FFA’s ability to fight the dairy farmers corner
FFA have organised numerous rallies of dairy farmers and coordinate blockades of supermarket depots in Cheshire, Derbyshire and West Yorkshire.
In a typical short sighted move UK supermarkets keen to source the cheapest possible milk and dairy produce are scouring Europe for the cheapest prices, while ignoring the plight of UK farmers. Over reliance on an extended food chain is not only environmentally damaging  but undermines food sustainability and spells serious dangers as we recently witnessed in the horsemeat scandal.
Planning is vital in all aspects of farming and nowhere more necessary than in dairy farming, that’s why in America it is the “Dairy State” of  Vermont that returns the only avowed socialist to the American Senate. Senator Sanders and his party the Vermont Progressive Party is the most successful third party in America
An estimated 50,000 farmers and farm workers are employed in UK dairy farming, their are 14,500 dairy farms in 2012 down from 34,500 in 1996. Britain’s consume 5 billion litres of milk a year, 1.6 litres per person per week.  90% of herds are the famous black and white Holstein-Friesan (others Ayrshire, Jersey and Guernsey). The average size of UK dairy herd is 123

Why there is a rural housing crisis

Why it is that massive shortage of rural housing Councillors all support affordable housing
yet non built ?. Is this because government not funding housing associations?
Despite the crocodile tears of Government ministers and many rural councils about the massive shortage of affordable homes in the countryside for local people the reasons are actually pretty straight forward and can be solved.
Firstly, the Nimby’s (Not In My BackYard) Brigade.  Often you find that those who are adequately housed in attractive countryside don’t want more homes to be built that they think may spoil their view out of the garden conservatory.  Especially if these homes are thought to house possible “working class people”!
Changes to planning law means that Councils are not obliged to insist on the building of affordable homes if they don’t want to - and many don’t, they simply don’t care regardless of the need.
We also seem to think that converting large chunks of the so called “green belt” into huge, ugly exploitative factory farms,  often set up solely to take advantage of generous EU and UK government subsidies is preferable to building some new homes. 
The countryside has in too many areas been colonised by a blight of retirement bungalows and weekend second homes for our wealthy urban middle class elites.  As well as wreaking village communities by destroying local schools, shops and pubs.  This results also in the double whammy of a lack of supply of homes and a very high demand - which pushes up prices completely out of reach for those who do not have access to a wealthy Bank of Mum and Dad.  
There is also far less existing social housing in rural areas than urban (13% compared to 22%) and low wages and lack of jobs.  The disastrous government policy of the so called “affordable rents” regime for new properties (and in many cases the new  lettings of existing stock) costing up to 80% of market rents compared to the traditional social rent of 50% of market rates is a death nail. The barking mad destruction of the Agricultural Wages Board which will even lower pay is yet another. 
The Bankers crisis and the huge cuts in Housing investment by this Tory Government have of course just made the problem far, far worse. 
There is some hope for the future since it seems that there is antidotal evidence at least that Tory MPs are being button holed in their Conservative Association Clubs by angry members who are fed up  with their kids living at home until in their thirties ,since even their offspring cannot afford their own place.  There is also concern expressed that there is no “help” available anymore to clean their homes, do their gardens or serve their food and drink at the local posh restaurant. 
There are also signs that the Countryside is turning and enough is enough.   Progressive Councillors are now being returned in Shire and district Council elections up and down the country. In July in rural Dorset we will celebrate the Tolpuddle martyrs and remember a time when the countryside was at the forefront of radical politics. Maybe, just maybe, our contemporary rural poverty and homelessness may spark something a little similar. 
John Gray

Housing Associations Branch Secretary and UNISON National Executive Council Member

Cry of the Wild - Wolves at the Gates of Paris

The European gray wolf has made an appearance in Denmark for the first since the last native Danish wolf was shot dead in 1813,

The sighting in a national park in northern Jutland is just the latest illustration of the wolfs recolonisation of western Europe.

Wolves were re introduced to the French Alps in 1993 and have since increased to 200 animals in 20 packs, their range has now spread to the sheep rearing area of Southern Auvergne (home of Roquefort cheese) and far to the north to Vosges on the Alsace-Lorraine border. With predication's that Wolves will be on the outskirts of Paris by the end of the decade.

In Italy there has been considerable success in reintroducing of the European Brown bear into the Dolomite mountains, ten adults captured in Slovenia were released and have now grown to a group of an estimated 50 adults and cubs.

Meanwhile, in England attempts are being made to reintroduce the Great Bustard, the world's heaviest flying bird which was hunted to extinction in England in 1832

The Great Bustard was reintroduced to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire in 2004 but has meet unfortunately with only little success to date.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Burston 2013


This years Burston Rural rally was according to many one of the best, good weather and wide variety of speakers and singers ensured the success of the hard  work of the organisers


Hardworking Euro MEP Richard Howitt was present showing his support for Country Standard, along with long time supporter Mike Ward (Unite)

London Clarion Cycling Club were also present, having  cycled from London

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Steinbeck on migrant workers 1930's USA

"Men of property were terrified for their property. Men who had never been hungry saw the eyes of the hungry. 

Men who had never wanted anything very much saw the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants. 

And the men of the towns and of the soft suburban country gathered to defend themselves; and they reassured themselves that they were good and the invaders bad, as a man must do before he fights. 

John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath 

Tom Joad

"I'll be ever'where–wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there..An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses the build–why I'll be there.” 



John Steinbeck The Grapes  


Salinas California SEIU office and we can do it mural