David Cameron has just created another 45 peers to sit in the House of Lords, bringing the total membership of the so-called “Upper House” to 826.
And somewhat predictably, this latest list of new Lords include retired MPs, a number of MPs who lost their seats at the recent General Election, political fixers, various donors to the Conservative Party and corporate lobbyists.
Some of the newly ennobled former MPs had even been caught up in the 2009 expenses scandal, such as the Conservative Douglas Hogg who left the House of Commons after being pilloried for claiming taxpayers’ money to, amongst other things, clean the moat at his rather impressive country house.
Other new boys and girls on the block include James Lupson, a city financier, who has donated around £3 million to the Conservative Party; Ruby McGregor-Smith from the out-sourcing company Mitie whose “MiHomecare” branch has recently been exposed for paying its staff less than the minimum wage; and Spencer Livermore, a Labour “strategist” who worked for Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.
As a life-long campaigner for democratic reform, I am appalled that such unelected and unaccountable individuals, appointed through political patronage, will be allowed real and far-reaching legislative influence.
Is it any wonder that the Scottish National Party has branded the new peers to be a “sorry list of rejected politicians, cronies and hangers-on with big chequebooks.”
It is certainly to be welcomed that there has been a massive backlash against the latest appointments from across the whole of the United Kingdom, both in the media and local communities.
One newspaper headline rightly screamed: “The honours that shame Britain … PM accused of stacking Lords with cronies in undemocratic outrage.”
Another newspaper resorted to sarcasm, telling its readers: “Selling peerages is illegal, and there is nothing to suggest wrongdoing on behalf of anyone in today’s list, but an academic study has shown that giving large sums to a political party does have a remarkedly positive effect on the chances of said donor having their talents recognised in an honours list.”
The present House of Lords is an out-dated institution that has no place in twenty-first century Britain. For the sake of our democracy, it must be reformed into a fully elected second chamber or abolished altogether.
[This is my article which will appear in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian].
Saturday, 29 August 2015
David Cameron has just created another 45 peers to sit in the House of Lords, bringing the total membership of the so-called “Upper House” to 826.
Posted by Dick Cole at 20:43
Friday, 28 August 2015
Thanks to the sixty-plus people, who attended last night’s meeting at the New Memorial Hall in Summercourt to find out more about First Kernow’s plans for bus services in the area.
It was a very positive meeting and I am especially grateful to Alex Carter, the managing director of First Kernow, and four members of his management team, for coming to meet local people in the village.
Further to my blog post on Monday, Mr Carter gave a firm commitment to include an hourly stop at Summercourt (both directions of the Newquay / Truro route) in the very near future.
Posted by Dick Cole at 16:42
Tuesday, 25 August 2015
Kernow King will be performing his latest show “Minority Rapport” at Indian Queens Pit on Saturday 12th September.
Why not come along and enjoy what the King has to offer in one of Cornwall’s most iconic venues.
Tickets cost £10.00 and will be available on the gate, though local people can get them in advance from me on 07791 876607. They are also available online at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-kernow-king-1939102361
The gates open at 7.00, with the gig starting at 8.00.
Be great to see you at the Pit …
Posted by Dick Cole at 23:19
Monday, 24 August 2015
I have organised an open meeting in Summercourt, which will take place on Thursday 27th August at the New Memorial Hall. The meeting will be addressed by Alex Carter, the managing director of the bus company First Kernow. It will start at 8.00.
First Kernow have purchased the Western Greyhound depot in St Austell Street, Summercourt, and Mr Carter is keen to meet with local people to discuss his plans for the site and to discuss how he might be able to increase bus services to the village.
He has prepared a statement which I circulated around Summercourt today. It was as follows:
A MESSAGE FROM ALEX CARTER, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF FIRST KERNOW
In March 2015, the Western Greyhound company abruptly ceased trading, leaving users of its extensive network of local bus routes unserved. Over the course of a frenetic weekend, and in liaison with Cornwall Council, First Kernow was able to restore the majority of the routes with minimal disruption to passengers.
The additional vehicles and staff required to service these routes have placed a severe strain on First Kernow’s existing support depots, the majority of which already were operating at near capacity. The Western Greyhound administrators then placed the Summercourt premises for sale, and they were purchased by First.
Because this has happened unusually quickly compared to a normal business planning process to source and develop additional premises, our plans for the usage of Summercourt are still not fully formed. However, we envisage the following:-
We will maintain a fleet of 60 buses and coaches at Summercourt. These will be vehicles allocated to Summercourt itself, and to other non-maintenance locations, notably Eden and Newquay.
We expect the operational fleet at Summercourt to be no more than 40 of these 60 maintained vehicles. The vehicles will be a mix of single and double deck vehicles, and coaches.
Currently we are clearing, tidying and improving the site, both internally and externally. We anticipate commencing vehicle maintenance on site in early September, and bus operations from mid-October 2015.
The bus operations are likely to be predominantly double deck college services, so departing depot around 0700-0730, returning around 1000hrs, and then out again for the return run at around 1530, returning by 1900. These are Monday to Friday term time operations. There will be other standard bus routes operated, but the College services will be the majority.
So, most of the operating fleet will travel to and from the site between 0700 and 1900hrs; maintenance shifts are more likely to be spread from 0500 through to 0100hrs, as part of the responsibility will be breakdown cover for vehicles operating across the area throughout those times.
All of the above is subject to confirmation as we develop and confirm plans, but it is what we anticipate at this stage
We fully recognise the sensitivities around a bus operating centre on the edge of a rural village. We very much wish to be good neighbours and have a positive relationship with our residents in and around Summercourt. Our presence brings a source of valuable employment to these rural communities.
Fundamentally, we shall of course comply fully with our obligations under the planning permission which is granted to the site. However, we wish to go beyond that and develop a code of conduct for our staff to observe in respect of site maintenance and cleanliness, selective use of approach roads, vehicle speed, noise levels and so on. We will be happy to publish and share this with residents of the village.
We also know that bus routes serving Summercourt have declined significantly since the demise of Western Greyhound. In addition to maintaining the two hourly St Austell – Newquay service which passes through the village, which is operated on behalf of Cornwall Council, we shall examine the possibility of diverting an hourly Truro-Newquay route via Summercourt.
We look forward to meeting our neighbours and customers and having the opportunity to further explain our plans
Posted by Dick Cole at 23:53
In my position as the leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I have just signed the “Rethink Trident” petition which is calling on central government to halt its plan to replace Britain’s nuclear weapon system.
The petition has significant support and the backing of, amongst others, the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, and the front-runner for the leadership of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.
In adding her signature, Nicola Sturgeon declared: “We must do everything we can to stop billions of taxpayers’ pounds being wasted on unusable and immoral weapons of mass destruction.” I am in total agreement with her sentiments.
Trident consists of four nuclear-armed submarines, which each carry up to 48 nuclear warheads. Each warhead has an explosive power of up to 100 kilotons, which is the equivalent of 100,000 tons of conventional high explosive. Shockingly, this is eight times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, which killed between 90,000 – 166,000 people.
I believe that the “Rethink Trident” campaign is correct to point out that “Britain’s security needs are not met by nuclear weapons which can do nothing to combat the threats posed by terrorism, climate change or cyber warfare.”
And I simply cannot understand how certain politicians are countenancing the expenditure of £100 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons, at a time when the United Kingdom is still facing the “deepest public spending cuts in living memory.”
This is just so wrong. Surely there are better ways to spend one hundred billion pounds. How about, as suggested by the “Rethink Trident” campaign, using the money to combat child poverty and youth unemployment, to provide local needs-housing, and to invest in education and the National Health Service.
If you agree, why don’t you sign the petition as well. It can be found at: http://act.rethinktrident.org.uk/
[This will be my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].
Posted by Dick Cole at 23:23
Friday, 21 August 2015
The Conservative Party won the two Camborne Pendarves by-elections which took place yesterday.
It was a heavily contested election and I would like to pay tribute to our candidates, Zoe Fox and Julia Prosser, who lead a team which worked really hard. I am disappointed for both of them that we failed to poll a higher share of the vote.
The Cornwall Council result was:
Conservative – 325 (30.3%)
Liberal Democrat – 311 (29.0%)
Labour – 220 (20.5%)
UKIP – 89 (8.3%)
Zoe Fox (Mebyon Kernow) – 85 (7.9%)
Green – 31 (2.9%)
Independent – 13 (1.2%)
Sadly for us, our share of the poll was considerably down on the result in 2013, when we polled 19.6%.
We polled much better in the town council contest however, achieving an additional one hundred votes.
The result was:
Conservative – 379 (35.7%)
Liberal Democrat – 272 (25.6%)
Labour – 226 (21.2%)
Julia Prosser (Mebyon Kernow) – 185 (17.4%)
In percentage terms, this is much better than the last town council by-election in the Pendarves ward which took place on the same day as the General Election when we polled 11%. [In that election, the full result was: Conservative – 841, Labour – 544 , UKIP – 520, Mebyon Kernow – 236.]
Posted by Dick Cole at 21:01
In this week’s Cornish Guardian, my article focussed on the crisis affecting dairy farmers. It was as follows:
Well done to all those farmers who, last week, staged imaginative protests against a number of large supermarkets, which have not been paying producers a fair price for their milk.
It must have been quite a sight to see a couple of cows being led through one of Asda’s stores in the Midlands.
There have been numerous reports that some of the supermarkets have “bowed to pressure” and agreed that the farmers, in future, would be paid more.
I understand that Aldi, Lidl and Asda have promised to pay a minimum of 28p a litre, while Morrison has pledged a figure of 26p a litre.
This may be better than the average price paid to farmers – reported in numerous newspapers of 23.66p –but it is a disgrace that the payments are below the average production costs of 30p for a litre of milk.
The Government does have a Supermarket Ombudsman within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – otherwise known as the Groceries Code Adjudicator – to regulate the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.
But this is just one person and the “adjudicator” is plainly failing to combat the dominance of the supermarkets.
This situation is still untenable. Dairy farmers and other primary producers need Cameron and his Ministers to intervene and to regulate the big supermarkets, to stop them forcing down farm prices to uneconomic levels.
The situation is dire and the NFU is doing a fantastic job in pointing out the precarious nature of future food production in the UK and the impact on the wider countryside.
As they recently told politicians; “Plummeting farm gate prices, a continued downward trend in global markets for household essentials like milk; and supermarkets continuing to devalue food have all highlighted the dire situation many British farmers are facing.”
They have also released figures showing that the United Kingdom only produces 62% of the food we consume. Or as they put it: “August 14 marks the day in the calendar when the British larder would run bare if we fed the nation British food from January 1.”
The NFU President Meurig Raymond has rightly described this as a “wake-up call” and demanded that the farming sector is “recognised not just as producers of quality food, but also for the value added to the economy, employment and our beautiful and diverse countryside.”
I just hope that the Government is listening.
Posted by Dick Cole at 13:10
Thursday, 6 August 2015
In this week’s Cornish Guardian, my column marks today’s anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. It is as follows:
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which took place on 6th August 1945. It was the first time that a nuclear bomb had been used and it is variously estimated that between 90,000 – 166,000 people lost their lives.
Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has vividly described the effect of the bomb, which destroyed 13 square kilometres of the city:
“The heart of the explosion reached a temperature of several million degrees centigrade, resulting in a heat flash over a wide area, vapourising all human tissue. Within a radius of half a mile of the centre of the blast, every person was killed. All that was left of people caught out in the open were their shadows burnt into stone. Beyond this central area, people were killed by the heat and blast waves, either out in the open or inside buildings collapsing and bursting into flames.”
On 9th August 1945, a second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing between 40,000 and 80,000 people.
As we mark these important anniversaries, I believe it is essential that we remember the terrible destructive powers of such weapons and the death and suffering that they cause.
In preparing this week’s column, I have read much about how the men, women and children of the two Japanese cities did not just die in the blast, but in subsequent months and years from the radiation and related illnesses.
I came across mention of Sadako Sasaki. She was only two years old when Hiroshima was bombed and, about ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukaemia. She was told that she had less than a year to live. Sadako knew of a Japanese legend that said: “if you make a thousand paper cranes, you get one wish.” She spent the rest of her life folding such cranes, but had only managed 644 by the time of her death.
Her school-friends then successfully raised the money to build a monument in her memory which, by association, also remembers the thousands of children who died in the Hiroshima bombing. It also symbolizes hope for a better future and, at the base of the monument, there is an inscription: “This is our cry. This our prayer. Building peace in the world.”
It is my hope that on 6th and 9th August, politicians from around the world will remember Sadako Sasaki and all the other victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that they will seriously push for full nuclear disarmament so that such weapons can never again be used.
Posted by Dick Cole at 19:06
Tuesday, 4 August 2015
I have just done an interview on Radio Cornwall about the campaign for “Cornish” tickbox on the 2011 census and the consultation presently being run by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) about the content of the 2021 census.
Anyone who misses it should be able to listen to the playback on BBC iplayer later today.
And why not join us in putting pressure on the ONS.
The consultation lasts until 27th August 2015 and further information can be found at:https://consultations.ons.gov.uk/census/2021-census-topics-consultation
Responses can also be sent to: The 2021 Census – Initial view on content for England and Wales, Office of National Statistics, Room 4300E, Segensworth Road, Titchfield , PO15 5RR ; or via email@example.com.
Posted by Dick Cole at 07:22