One swallow doesn’t make a summer; one election doesn’t make a democracy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MAY 11, 2014

As I gaze out my window and wonder when and if summer is going to arrive, I hear rumours of another rare event in Cornwall – an election. True, it’s only for the European Parliament, one in which Cornwall is so marginal it’s invisible. In fact, it’s hardly worth summoning up the energy to stagger down to the polling station. Or to take all those postal voting forms I’ve collected along to the postbox.

In these elections, we’re tagged onto an English mega-region. Cornish issues can thus be ignored with impunity as it ranks somewhere with Gibraltar on the priority list. Only two of the nominated 48 candidates live in Cornwall even though on population grounds alone we might have expected five. At number 5 in the preference lists for their respective parties, neither stands any chance of election and neither is actually Cornish,

Moreover, they’re both standing for parties that surely no sane person would ever consider voting for. Although, according to the latest polls, we have to conclude that well over half of those who intend to vote are in danger of a visit from the men in the white coats. Half of those might be excused as they’re looking for a home for a well-deserved protest vote. The other half is completely inexplicable.

No MK this time round. I realise this decision makes perfect sense when, despite gaining 6.8% of the votes in the last Euro-election in Cornwall in 2009, MK lost its deposit. This is because it didn’t get enough people in Bournemouth and Swindon to vote for it. While other parties have to win just 2.5% of their target voters to get their £5,000 back, effectively MK has to convince at least 25-30% of the voters in Cornwall to do so. A fair deal for Cornwall? Might as well publicly burn the cash. Probably get more publicity that way in any case.

Now that we have national minority status I guess all those Lib Dem, Tory and Labour politicians who rushed to express their joy will be equally prominent in their loud support for MK’s right to stand in future European elections on the same basis as Plaid or the SNP. Or perhaps they’ll go back to sleep again for another 15 years.

In a way, the timing of the national minority status concession means it’s a pity there was no MK option to tap the brief flurry of Cornish patriotism induced by it. MK might have missed a trick, by not trying to organise a pro-devolution, pro-localist list across the mega-region, something along the lines of the UDB’s ‘La Bretagne pour une Europe Sociale’ list in the western region of the French hexagon. On the other hand, it may have been difficult to find enough sympathetic folk with similar ideas in Cornwall and the English south-west. Or with some cash to stump up towards it.

But let’s stop bleating about being disfranchised. Who can any self-respecting Cornish nationalist/autonomist/regionalist vote for?

Did Danny Alexander, egged on by Andrew George and Dan Rogerson, really believe that national minority status was enough to make us vote Lib Dem? People may have short memories but not that short, surely. The pasty tax, Lib Dem support for a Devonwall constituency, their collusion with austerity policies that punish the poor to satisfy the lifestyles of the rich, their support for privatisation and, with the exception of Andrew George, the ‘reforms’ of the NHS, are seared into our memories. Or should be. Not to mention the broken and worthless pledge on student fees.

Closer to home, we can be thoroughly depressed by the Lib Dems’ continuation of the mindless housing and population growth policies that are steadily eroding the Cornishness of Cornwall, or their feeble resistance to central government cuts. National minority status can’t begin to wipe all that from the record.

However, at the Euro-election we have one alternative to the left to the Labour/Lib Dem/Tory right wing, neo-liberal consensus. The Greens have a real chance of snaffling a seat in the region, although they seem to be suffering from a news black-out as the media continue their macabre love-hate fascination with Ukip.

Meanwhile, Ukip itself was the one centralist party in Cornwall whose leader publicly denounced the granting of national minority status, thus at a stroke forfeiting any right to a Cornish vote.

Although the media are keeping it quiet, the Greens have been neck and neck with the Lib Dems in some polls and look to be a far better home for a more cerebral protest vote. In addition, they’ve come out in support of MK’s campaign for a Cornish Assembly. Although, unaccountably, their message in this week’s Wet Brit contains not a single word about Cornwall. And I continue to harbour some doubts about their stance on Cornwall Council’s unsustainable population and housing growth strategy.

Still, at least they don’t deny climate change is taking place and even suggest we should do something serious about it. Although such extremist views might not appeal to the average Western Morning News reader, at the moment a Green vote looks a slightly better bet than spoiling my paper. A pity they have no candidate on their list who lives in Cornwall though.

Where is the Green Party standing?
Where is the Green Party standing?

In the unlikely event that anyone living in the English conurbations, or the minority of English districts that have local elections this year, is reading these rambling, directionless musings, they do have another possible alternative on the left. If the Greens are suffering a media boycott, then the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has been cast by the press into the depths of the deep-freeze, which has been firmly locked for the duration of the elections. (Although Dave Nellist was spotted last week on some BBC politics show that no-one watches.)

Yet they’re standing almost 550 candidates for the local elections and contesting around 13% of the available seats, mounting the largest left of Labour challenge probably ever. Despite this, TUSC receives less publicity on the BBC’s website than the English Democrats, an outfit that has just 36 candidates (60 down on the last round of these elections in 2010). TUSC is standing a curiously high number of candidates in places hitherto not known for their Trotskyite leanings, such as Plymouth, Exeter, Lincoln, Stevenage and Grimsby.

Where is TUSC standing?
Where is TUSC standing?
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