Politicians speak out against Devonwall

News from Kernow Matters To Us:

As the days pass by and with the bus we have rented now fully booked by those heading up on 30th October in brave defence of our ancient border, our members from all about have been gathering responses from politicians, including surprisingly Tories who as we all know, are no real friends of Cornwall, having failed to deliver promise after promise to us. Yes, we are still waiting for that Minister for Cornwall, performed in Shadow role by Michael Prisk and indeed, we have recently revealed Boris Johnson's words to be false. It really is no wonder that the Prime Minister has to keep him firmly in his place:


Let's start with Geoffrey Cox QC, Tory MP for Torridge and West Devon:

I fully understand and agree with your concerns about a 'Devonwall' seat. I am very disappointed that the Boundary Commission has resorted once again to this flawed notion.

I believe it is not desirable to have a constituency that straddles the divide. 

These two counties are very distinct and have strong separate identities. I believe combining parts of the two counties in one constituency would give rise to competing pressures. Ultimately, while he or she would do their best, it would be very difficult for an MP to reconcile these wholly different and sometimes conflicting interests.

However, we should not necessarily assume these proposals will go through. The previous proposals released a few years ago came to nothing and there is a fair chance that this will happen again.

Also, I believe just over one year after the General Election there are more important things to focus on in the interest of my constituency, such as pushing forward on rural broadband; ensuring that the proposed redesign of our health services produces a fair and reasonable outcome for our communities, and ensuring the Brexit deal and the new national policies which will replace EU competences are good for the UK and for Torridge and West Devon.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to me.

Kind regards

Geoffrey Cox QC MP

Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon

House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA
0207 2194719

If only Cornwall's MPs spoke out in such a manner!  Thank you for messages from some of our members who are Tories, or should we say 'ex Tories'? The light is beginning to dawn, isn't it? And yes, one might view this as an outrageous act of gerrymandering. But there, we Cornish have seen politicians and political parties come and go haven't we?

Now from Lord Paul Tyler:

As you will know - from following the Cornish media for some 45 years or so - I have campaigned long and hard not just to protect the identity and integrity of Cornwall but to enhance it.  You will also know that my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Coalition secured the unprecedented recognition of our historic integrity.

You are right to celebrate the fact that so many people (of every political persuasion) are now galvanised to defend this, BUT I must emphasise both the serious nature of the Devonwall threat AND the short window of opportunity to prevent it.   We will do our best to frustrate the Government's partisan tinkering in Parliament.   However, the key responsibility must be that of the current six MPs in Cornwall.  The Government has only a nominal majority of 12.  If six local Conservative MPs refuse to let this nonsense through they will undoubtedly find common cause with others in different parts of the UK who are likely to lose their seats.  Writing to Ministers without this perceived likelihood of defeat is probably a waste of time.

For a full analysis of the context of the present threat and opportunity please see the comment I have written at the request of the Western Morning News (attached)
I will look forward to discussing the next steps for our campaign with you.
With Best Wishes

Paul Tyler

And now to the border itself, and the words just received from the Mayor of Launceston, Councillor Brian Hogan

“The people of Cornwall have fought long and hard to preserve their sense of identity. They are not keen on centuries of history being pushed aside because of Government red tape. There’s a lot of anger around here. Cornwall is passionate about its own identity. Launceston has always worn its Cornishness with pride and as a town at the very edge of these potentially catastrophic changes to our 1000 year old border with England we wholeheartedly echo the words of the Grand Bard.”

Paul Tyler's Comment To Western Morning News:

The threat of the constituency boundary changes to Cornwall’s political integrity is serious; even if I was not a direct descendant of Bishop Jonathan Trelawny, and therefore biased in favour of maintaining our identity, the practical implications are formidable. As MP for North Cornwall I knew for whom I was working, with no split allegiances or complicated relationships with distinctly different local authorities. David Cameron’s supercilious comparison of the Tamar with the Amazon (which is a vital link between communities, not a natural boundary) was typical evidence of London ignorance.

The proposed changes have wider significance. The EU referendum was a huge wake-up call to the political establishment. People who felt they simply hadn’t been listened to for decades tossed aside all those casual certainties amongst remote decision-makers. Now the Government seems set on ignoring the interests of local communities still further, particularly in the South West.

Conservatives claim that the process will create ‘equal votes of equal value’, by ensuring a roughly equal number of electors in each constituency. Yet the process will still leave a plethora of safe seats, all across the country, in which Conservative or Labour candidates are returned with little or no effort.

What the political and media establishment has not yet realised is the extent to which the process of re-allocating constituencies – a seemingly dry, technical exercise – will drive the UK even further from being the compassionate and united country most decent people want it to be. While Liberal Democrats are backing citizens’ rights to a say on the final ‘Brexit’ deal – a referendum on the facts about life outside the European Union – there will be huge pressures on moderate Conservative and Labour MPs to ignore what most people want, and instead cleave to the most extreme and dogmatic elements in their parties.

Tory scraps over what Brexit means (beyond just “it means Brexit”) will not stop at the door of Number Ten, or even at the limits of London. These arguments will seep into every corner of Conservative Britain as their local associations are reconstituted around the new constituencies and are given the opportunity to select their parliamentary candidates afresh. For a while, the Chairman of a Conservative Association will enjoy at least as much power over an MP’s career chances as the Prime Minister does. This group is likely to want the ‘hardest’ form of Brexit possible, with divisive controls on immigration prioritised over the UK jobs which depend on our membership of the EU’s single market.

Despite the majority of current Conservative MPs favouring continuing access to customers in the single market, Daily Telegraph research before the referendum showed 75% of the party faithful were for LEAVE, even when REMAIN still had a substantial lead in the country.

Meanwhile the result of the Labour leadership civil war reveals two bitterly opposed factions, betraying those who have looked to them to provide effective opposition to the Government. The boundary review will finally blow inside out the flimsy common umbrella under which their MPs have sheltered. Every Labour held constituency which faces substantial change – and most will – can now legitimately embark on deselection. I don’t fancy the chances of any MP who opposed Jeremy Corbyn.

A few days ago Laura Kuenssberg, BBC Political Editor, posed the question “Will MPs vote to sack themselves?” Faced with a certain challenge to their political careers – and in many cases complete loss of livelihood – both Conservative and Labour backbenchers may be emboldened to fight to retain their current constituencies. Ms Kuenssberg speculates “Theresa May is perfectly prepared to ditch the previous PM’s promises, still has a tiny majority and a difficult agenda to pursue. With risks of discontent over Brexit and grammars already, it would be one way of mollifying angry backbenchers as and when things get tough.”

For decades, arch defenders of first-past- the-post voting system have claimed that, despite its obvious defects, at least it prevents ‘extremism’. Not so while MPs look to their increasingly extreme constituency memberships for career security. Any election after October 2018, when these new boundaries come into play, would be full of candidates who have had to appeal to the most unrepresentative group of voters possible, their own party members. However, an early election would be contested, of course, within existing boundaries.

The only way to secure new legitimacy for our politics is to institute real ‘equal votes of equal value’, giving every voice and every view the opportunity to be heard in the House of Commons. That means cancelling this boundary-tinkering exercise and instead offering real reform of the electoral system. Doing so would not be some constitutional indulgence. It would be a rescue package for the open, tolerant, united Britain so many of us felt was left behind on June 23rd, hauling our politics away from territory on which I fear divisive nationalism and xenophobia could prosper.

Meanwhile the threat of “Devonwall” lies in the hands of Conservative MPs. For once the national interest, the clear preference of the communities most effected AND their own personal career prospects all point in the same direction; who will have the guts to say so ?

Paul Tyler was Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall 1992 - 2005


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