As the political map of Kernow goes ‘Blue’ the shock is almost tangible

A message from the Convener of the Kernow Branch Celtic League and Assistant General Secretary of the Celtic League: celticcleague“I and many others watched with horror as the outline of our beloved Kernow slowly ‘turned blue’ in the wake of the recent General Election.

The outcome has puzzled me because speaking as someone who is active in the community, I simply cannot understand why people have voted for more of what I have already seen happen in Kernow these past years.

During the Westminster ‘Coalition years’, I have witnessed queues increase at foodbanks, which are a relatively new phenomenon. I know many people and indeed Tory politicians are dismissive of them, but as an entrusted holder of food bank ‘cheques’ which I issue as though they were each worth a thousand pounds, I can assure people that there is real poverty in our community.

I pay credit here to Don Gardner, his wife and team at the Camborne Pool Redruth Foodbank for recognising that fact and for the incredible amount of hard work they do.

I will give an example here, a person in her late fifties with real physical disabilities who, due to an inability to fill out complex forms sent her, had her benefits sanctioned – in other words stopped. She was left with one tea bag in the cupboard of her social housing flat. I know. I visited her when she called out for help. She could get no sense from the DWP and could not afford the phone call to an office hundreds of miles away.

Sadly there are many more like her. I recently attended a meeting to discuss how best to address the increasing amounts of personal debt in the area.

The average household debt in the Hayle Camborne Redruth area is £28,000 and that doesn’t include mortgages. Debt accounts for 35% of the work of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Across Cornwall, the CAB have helped 5,600 people with debt problems.CAB have attended to a total of £3,000,000 (yes £3 million!) in personal debt in this area alone. They cannot cope as the Westminster government has cut their funding, hence the meeting I recently attended. This personal debt has arisen for a very real reason. Don’t believe what you might read in the London tabloid press. The reason is that low wages and zero hour contracts have resulted in desperate people borrowing to live. Cornwall Council have a staggering amount of Council tax debt. People simply cannot afford to pay. I give you another example of a local family I know who opened their door to a bailiff and having willingly invited him in saw him leave empty handed because they quite simply had nothing to give. No money, no luxury goods, nothing. This is the reality.

We are seeing housing and other ‘development’ occur at a frightening rate. Our countryside is disappearing. The price of this is housing is well above what ordinary people can afford. Banks are asking people for £25,000, £35,000 and more as down payment for mortgages and demand for social housing is subsequently spiraling. Rental costs are souring. And this new Government? Their stated intention is to force Housing Associations to sell. People in social housing in expensive areas will sell up and move to more affordable areas, like Cornwall. The Cornish will be forced to retreat into their reservations. Perhaps that is the intention?

I see local families, and I mean local, living in overcrowded, damp homes with children suffering from asthma as parents are forced to sleep in the front room due to inadequate accommodation. This last week alone, I have written half a dozen letters on behalf of people begging for help. These are real people, not film stars, second home owners, millionaires, wealthy holiday makers eating in expensive restaurants and the like.

So, in the face of an increased influx of people from areas to here where they can afford our property prices, we are seeing medical centres which cannot cope, children being bussed around to schools miles away because the local ones are full up and a hospital in permanent crisis because it has been seen fit to run down ‘local’ hospitals’. We see our Councils limping along due to decreasing funding, being forced to sell off more and more amenities, the libraries are probably next, and demoralised public services, police, ambulance and fire, who cannot cope. The Police Commissioner points out in his recent report that despite the flood of tourists each year, we are left with a bill to look after them because we receive nothing to cope with the massive influx in the face of a decreasing budget. The same Commissioner informed me that he cannot see financially past the next two years.

I am not a politician. I am a campaigner. I am forced to respect the democratic outcome of the election. I am however critical of the decision to turn Kernow entirely blue and I believe that, in casting aside some MPs who were acutely aware of these issues, real problems have been stored up for the not too distant future.

Already, I am seeing comments made by electors in the press expressing shock at what has happened. Well, despite the denials, it is the electors vote which has caused this, no one elses’.
Here are some of those comments I have read, warts, errors and all:

‘Absolutely gutted.’

‘Cornish children going to school without breakfast due to poverty, food banks helping local families on the breadline, front line staff cuts, privatisation of some units of the NHS, cuts & changes to disability benefits affecting genuine people, giving millions of tax payers money to foreign countries, zero hour contracts – need I go on – why are you happy the conservatives are in power? I’m struggling to understand.’

‘It is blue all over now and so are the true people of Cornwall higher fuel bills to pay on low wages so it will be cold ,the NH S will not cope because there is only one hospital open more food banks will be needed so I hope the government send the over sea aid to Cornwall’

‘another 5 years before we can get rid of them, those who say we didn’t vote because it never changes anything remember nothing will change unless you vote and now we have 5 more years of helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’

‘Im never been so ashamed of Kernow.’

‘Well some have got what they voted for, now let’s watch as DC moves the boundaries so that it remains easier for the Blues to continue privatising the Country and making the rich richer and the poor poorer. What about the bankers who f’d things up, don’t see them at food banks! NHS, what NHS. Be careful what you wish for – oops too late. Just remember what happened in 1939!!!’

There are many, many more like these. Some are so shocked, they believe the ballot was rigged. After all, ‘they are capable of anything’ as I was told. ‘We went to war in Iraq on a lie’ didn’t we? But no, I suspect that apathy is to blame and the 40% of people who just couldn’t be bothered to vote and who will doubtless be the first to complain during times ahead have let something terrible happen.

Meanwhile many Cornish people will continue to talk with passion about the best pasty, the nicest view (make the most of it before it’s built over), that long forgotten shop or tradition and so on. Yes, sadly the ‘cream tea brigade’ will continue dreaming of things that were instead of things that will be and people like me and my colleagues will be criticised for being too vocal, for ‘rocking the boat’ and being ‘too political’.

I had so hoped that this would have been the opportunity to make a real change in Cornwall. It obviously wasn’t. People in Cornwall lack confidence and despite the tools given us in the form of the Framework Convention, have declined to pick those tools up. Ironically, a similar situation has occurred in Wales. For too long, we have been told ‘you are too small’. ‘you’ll never manage’ ‘you need our Government’ and the like, and sadly many have come to believe this. Compare this with what has happened in Scotland, where people did vote with their hearts for a big change – people with confidence and pride who have seen through the failures of the Westminster parliaments and government and all the scandals and lies.

This next few years will certainly see things worsen for the ordinary people of Cornwall. It’s going to be divide and rule from hereon in. The border between Cornwall and Devon and what lays thereafter will again be threatened sooner rather than later (a review by the Boundary Commission is due this year with a report in 2018, and many campaign organisations and NGO’s such as our own will be faced with very difficult challenges in our battle for what we hold dear. Our pre English and England heritage and culture will be threatened as never before by out of control developers whose only interest is profit. More and more will be sold off in the name of profit and the Westminster government will become ever more authoritarian and increasingly dismissive of the people of Cornwall.

Our campaigns will continue, their effectiveness blunted by a government made up of MPs not known for their sympathies to the Cornish.But it won’t be easy for those of us who care for our beloved homeland. One thing is for sure though, those of us who do care will be able to say in a few years, ‘Don’t blame us, we didn’t vote for this!'”

9th May, 2015
Councillor Mike Chappell
Caderyor – An Kesunyans Keltek Scoren Gernewek