Mebyon Kernow

Mebyon Kernow – The Party for Cornwall ([mɛbjɔn kərnou], MK; Cornish for Sons of Cornwall)[4] is a Cornish nationalist, centre-left political party in Cornwall, a county in the southwestern United Kingdom. It currently has four elected councillors on Cornwall Council,[5] and several town and parish councillors across the county.[6]

Influenced by the growth of Cornish nationalism in the first half of the twentieth century, Mebyon Kernow formed as a pressure group in 1951. Helena Charles was its first chair, while the novelist Daphne du Maurier was another early member. In 1953 Charles won a seat on a local council, although lost it in 1955. Support for MK grew in the 1960s in opposition to growing migration into Cornwall from other parts of England. In the 1970s, MK became a fully-fledged political party, and since then it has fielded candidates in elections to the House of Commons and the European Parliament, as well as local government in Cornwall. Infighting during the 1980s decimated the party but it revived in the 1990s.

Ideologically positioned on the centre-left of British politics, the central tenet of Mebyon Kernow's platform is Cornish nationalism. It believes that Cornwall should not be categorised as a county of England but as an independent nation within the United Kingdom alongside England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It emphasises a distinct Cornish identity, including the Cornish language and elements of Cornish culture. It campaigns for devolution to Cornwall in the form of a Cornish Assembly. Economically, it is social democratic, calling for continued public ownership of education and healthcare and the renationalisation of railways. It also calls for greater environmental protection and continued UK membership of the European Union.

The party is a member of the European Free Alliance and has close links with Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and the Breton Democratic Union. Several former Cornish MPs have been supporters of MK, including Andrew George (Liberal Democrat), Peter Bessell (Liberal Party), John Pardoe (Liberal Party), David Mudd (Conservative), and David Penhaligon (Liberal Party).[7] George was himself a member of MK in his youth.[8]

Mebyon Kernow – The Party for Cornwall
LeaderDick Cole
Founded6 January 1951
Fraddon Hill
St Columb
Youth wingKernow X
IdeologyCornish nationalism
Civic nationalism
Social democracy
Political positionCentre-left
European affiliationEuropean Free Alliance
International affiliationNone
Old gold, Black and White
Cornwall Council[2][3]
4 / 123
House of Commons (Cornwall seats)
0 / 6
European Parliament (South West England seats)
0 / 6


Founding (1950s)

In the half-century preceding its foundation, Cornish identity had been strengthened by the Celtic Revival, especially by the revival of the Cornish language.[9] Cornish politics was dominated by the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, with the Labour Party a distant third in the Duchy, in part because of Cornwall's declining tin-mining industry.[10] Both the Liberal Party and the Labour Party had courted Cornish nationalism in their local campaigns, with both parties portraying "a distinctly Cornish image"; in turn, this meant that Cornish nationalism was from its inception associated with centre-left politics.[11] Many of MK's initial supporters came from the Liberal Party, which had endorsed Home Rule for Ireland.[12] Early members of MK cited their absence from Cornwall during their university years and the war as instrumental in the formation of their Cornish identity.[13] A catalyst for the party's foundation was the Celtic Congress of 1950, held at the Royal Institution of Cornwall in Truro, which facilitated the exchange of ideas between Cornish nationalists and other Celtic groups.[14][15]

MK was founded as a pressure group on 6 January 1951.[16] At the party's inaugural meeting, held at the Oates Temperance Hotel in Redruth,[16] thirteen people were present and a further seven sent their apologies. Helena Charles was elected as the organisation's first chair. MK adopted the following objectives:[4]

  1. To study local conditions and attempt to remedy any that may be prejudicial to the best interests of Cornwall by the creation of public opinion or other means.
  2. To foster the Cornish language and Cornish literature.
  3. To encourage the study of Cornish history from a Cornish point of view.
  4. By self-knowledge to further the acceptance of the idea of the Celtic character of Cornwall, one of the six Celtic nations.
  5. To publish pamphlets, broadsheets, articles and letters in the Press whenever possible, putting forward the foregoing aims.
  6. To arrange concerts and entertainments with a Cornish-Celtic flavour through which these aims can be further advanced.
  7. To co-operate with all societies concerned with preserving the character of Cornwall.

By September 1951 they had officially come to a stance of supporting self-government for Cornwall,[16] when the fourth objective was replaced with: "To further the acceptance of the Celtic character of Cornwall and its right to self-government in domestic affairs in a Federated United Kingdom."[17]

In its early years, MK engaged in cultural activities, such as producing Cornish calendars and sending a birthday prayer in Cornish to the Duke of Cornwall. It highlighted the high proportion of executives in local government which were not Cornish and campaigned against inward migration to Cornwall from the rest of the United Kingdom.[18] From 1952, the party was supported by New Cornwall, a magazine which was edited by Charles until 1956.[19] MK's agenda received support from the Liberal Party, whose candidates endorsed Home Rule for Cornwall.[20] MK won its first seat in local government in 1953, when Charles won a seat on Redruth-Camborne Urban District Council, under the slogan of 'A Square Deal for the Cornish'.[4][19] Charles lost her seat in 1955.[21]

Following infighting between senior members who were frustrated at her radical separatism, in contrast to the passive culturalism of the broader Cultural nationalist movement,[21][22] and following frustration at the party's dispersed and unenthusiastic membership,[21] Charles resigned as Chairman of MK in 1956.[19] Charles was replaced by Major Cecil Beer, a former civil servant who sought to reunify the Cornish nationalist movement.[23] Beer's three years as chairman of MK provided "a period of quiet but steady growth", in which MK increased its membership and focussed on cultural rather than political issues.[22][24] Party meetings largely focussed on "calendars, Christmas cards, serviettes, Cornish language classes and proposals for things like the Cornish kilt."[25]

Daphne du Maurier, the well-known novelist, was an early member of MK.[8] From its founding until the 1980s, the party was divided between proponents of ethnic nationalism and proponents of civic nationalism.[26]

Young Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Maurier, perhaps the best known supporter of Mebyon Kernow.

Growth (1960s–1970s)

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, MK was in essence a small political pressure group rather than a true political party, with members being able to join other political parties as well.[4] In February 1960, Beer was succeeded by Robert Dunstone as Chairman of MK.[27] By March 1962, the party had seventy members,[28][29] of which thirty were attending the party's infrequent meetings.[28]

Under Dunstone, the party followed a policy of "patient, persistent, and polite lobbying", the standard for which was set by its reaction to proposed railway closures in 1962, which included public meetings, letters of protest and the formation of a transport sub-committee of the party.[30] MK campaigned for the establishment of a Cornish University, a Cornish Industrial Board, and the repatriation of Heligoland Fresians whose land was used by the British government as a bombing range in the mid-1950s. It published numerous policy papers to support its positions.[4]

MK gained popularity in the 1960s, when it campaigned against 'overspill' housing developments in Cornwall to accommodate incomers from Greater London.[16] MK's opposition prompted opponents to label the party as racialist; the party denied the allegations and responded with What Cornishmen Can Do, a pamphlet published in September 1968 which proposed more investment in natural resources, food processing and technological industries, as well as a Cornish University, tidal barrages and more support for small farmers.[31] Partly due to its opposition to overspill, by 1965, the party numbered 700 members, rising to 1,000 by early 1968.[32] In April 1967, Colin Murley was elected for MK onto Cornwall County Council for the seat of St Day and Lanner; he had stood on an anti-overspill platform.[4][16] MK members also sat as independent councillors on the district council.[33] The party grew to become the leading champion for Cornish nationalism.[34]

On St. Piran's Day in 1968, the first edition of Cornish Nation was published; this is the party's magazine.[35][36][37] In the same year, Leonard Truran succeeded Dunstone as Chairman of MK;[31] Dunstone then became the party's first Honorary President.[38]

By the 1970s the group developed into a more coherent and unified organisation. At the annual conference in October 1967, party members voted for a resolution to contest elections to the House of Commons,[33] marking a turning point in MK's transition from a pressure group into a political party. The decision meant that councillors, prospective parliamentary candidates and MPs who held dual party membership began to disassociate themselves from MK.[39] Despite the decision, a faction in MK remained frustrated at the continuing possibility of dual party membership, the wide range of views on Cornish nationalism in the party and MK's slow transition into a political party; this dissident faction formed the Cornish National Party in July 1969. The CNP's members were expelled from MK, but the CNP had disappointing election results in the 1970 county council elections, leading most CNP members to rejoin MK by the mid-1970s.[40]

In the 1970 election, Richard Jenkin, who would succeed Truran as Chairman of MK in 1973,[41] won 2% of the vote in the Falmouth and Camborne constituency. James Whetter stood for MK in the Truro constituency in the general elections of February and October 1974, achieving 1.5% and 0.7% of the vote respectively. The party contested the constituencies of St Ives and Falmouth and Camborne in both the 1979 and 1983 elections.[42] MK also contested the 1979 European Parliament election, winning 5.9% of the vote in the constituency of Cornwall and West Plymouth.[43]

Following Dunstone's death in 1973, E.G. Retallack Hooper was elected the party's Honorary President; Hooper was a former Grand Bard of the Gorseth Kernow who had been a founding member of MK and was a prolific Cornish language writer and journalist.[38]

The CNP's formation highlighted deep fissures in MK between its constitutionalist and separatist wings; these were exacerbated by continuing inward migration to Cornwall, leading to a 26% increase in its population in the two decades to 1981. The Cornish Nation gave increasingly sympathetic coverage of Irish republicanism; MK warned of civil unrest in Cornwall and the extermination of the Cornish national identity if overspill continued; and its members talked openly of plans to install a shadow government "in the name of the Cornish people in the event of civil breakdown".[44] A motion to restrict party membership to those who were Cornish by "family trees going back through several centuries" was defeated in 1973;[45] and a September 1974 issue of the Cornish Nation describing Michael Gaughan, an IRA hunger striker, as a "Celtic hero" was widely criticised in the press and rebuked by the party.[46] MK's divisions came to a head in May 1975, when a motion to depose the party's leadership and integrate the party with the Stannary Parliament, which had newly reopened in 1974, was narrowly defeated.[47] On 28 May 1975, Whetter, who had led the defeated motion, resigned his membership of MK to form a second Cornish Nationalist Party, which campaigned for full Cornish independence on a pro-European platform.[48] This second CNP also had disappointing electoral results and has not contested elections since 1985.[49]

During the 1970s, MK held rallies in support of Cornwall's fishing industry and against regional unemployment and nuclear waste;[16][50] in the 1980s, these rallies were aggravated by the policies of the incumbent Thatcher government.[4] Following the 1975 split, the party was re-energised by an influx of new, younger members, which also pushed MK more firmly away from its separatist wing.[51] Citing concerns about its effect on Cornwall's fishing industry, the party opposed the Common Market;[52][53] MK only began to endorse the UK's membership of the EEC in the 1980s.[54]

Decline (1980s)

The party declined in the 1980s and was close to collapse by 1990.[16] In 1980, renewed infighting over the party's structure led to a spate of resignations which received media attention;[55] this included the resignation of Truran, who had served as party secretary after Jenkin had replaced him as Chairman of MK in 1973.[41] Leading the infighting was a new, youthful leftist faction of MK, which sought to define the party's policies on defence, the monarchy and public ownership, bringing the party away from its traditional nationalist focus.[56] While the infighting consolidated MK's economic stance as left-of-centre, the party's everchanging positions confused voters and presided over the decline of its magazines, including the Cornish Nation.[57] In 1983, Jenkin was replaced by Julyan Drew as the party leader;[49] Drew was succeeded by Pedyr Prior in 1985 and Loveday Carlyon in 1986.[58]

At the 1983 general election, MK achieved 1.2% of the vote in both Falmouth and Camborne and St Ives, reduced from 3% and 4% respectively in the previous election.[42] It contested neither the 1984 European Parliament election nor the 1987 general election; it received 1.9% of the vote in Cornwall and West Plymouth in the 1989 European Parliament election.[43] During this period, the party focussed on its opposition to the creation of a South West England region[4] and the construction of a nuclear station at Luxulyan;[52] this latter campaign culminated in the formation of the Cornish Anti-Nuclear Alliance, which drew over 2,000 attendees to its first rallies in Truro in July 1980.[59] MK's vociferous response to the planned building of 40,000 new homes in Cornwall, manifested in the formation in 1987 of the Cornish Alternatives to the Structure Plan, gained high-profile notability in Cornwall.[52][60] MK also campaigned against tourism-centred economic development and the poll tax.[58] Nevertheless, public support for action was far lower than the previous decade and MK regressed into a pressure group.[61]

In 1988, MK established the Campaign for a Cornish Constituency, which won the support of Cornwall County Council, all the district authorities, several Cornish organisations and three of Cornwall's five MPs.[62][63] The campaign was well-publicised, attained national attention,[62] and collected over 3,000 signatures in three months.[63] The campaign called for an exclusively-Cornish European Parliament constituency and was founded on MK's long-standing opposition to amalgamating public boards and companies in Cornwall and Devon, a process which had steadily increased during the decade.[64]

Relaunch (1990s)

In 1989, Carlyon resigned as MK's leader, leading to a review of the party's long-term strategy. Being close to collapse, in April 1990, the party's London branch convened a general meeting of all party members to consider whether the party should disband; it was agreed that the party would continue.[65] Loveday Jenkin, daughter of Richard Jenkin, was promptly elected MK's leader.[66][67] At this time, Truran, who had become a leading light in the Social Democratic Party in Falmouth and Camborne since he had left the party in 1980, rejoined MK, re-energising the party.[41] Nevertheless, MK did not contest the 1992 general election, focusing its efforts on lobbying for an exclusively-Cornish European Parliament constituency, a Cornish unitary authority, and the recognition of Cornwall as a European region.[68]

Despite a promising local election result in 1993, obtaining an average of 17.5% per candidate in local government elections,[69] MK's vote share declined further to 1.5% of the vote in the 1994 European Parliament election, in the new constituency of Cornwall and West Plymouth.[43] Jenkin, who stood as the party's candidate, campaigned on a platform opposing out-of-town developments and a second Tamar crossing, and calling for greater Cornish representation in Europe.[70]

In 1996, MK published 'Cornwall 2000 – The Way Ahead', its most detailed manifesto to date.[4] The party fought the 1997 general election on its 18,000 words and delivered over 300,000 leaflets during the campaign; however, it polled merely 1,906 votes across four constituencies.[71] MK activists were heavily involved in the 500th-anniversary commemorations of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497; these included a march from St. Keverne to Blackheath retracing the steps of the rebels, following which the participants demanded a Cornish Development Agency, an exclusively-Cornish seat in the European Parliament, a university campus in Cornwall and a Cornish curriculum for Cornish schools.[72] The renewed interest in Cornish nationalism from this march led a group in MK to leave the party and form the An Gof National Party, another short-lived splinter group.[73]

On 4 October 1997, at the Mebyon Kernow National Conference, Jenkin was replaced by Dick Cole as the leader of MK.[74] One of Cole's earliest actions as leader was to launch the Cornish Millennium Convention on 8 March 1998, coinciding with protests at the closure of South Crofty, Cornwall's last working tin mine.[75] However, the Convention's launch was eclipsed by the formation of Cornish Solidarity, a pressure group involved in direct action which grew from the South Crofty protests and had similar aims as MK.[76] At the party's annual conference in 1998, Richard Jenkin was elected to succeed the late Hooper as Honorary President of MK.[41]

In 1999, over 95% of members voted in favour of relaunching MK as Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall in order to distance itself from the ethnic nationalist 'Sons of Cornwall' label; the name change was adopted.[77] The party did not contest the 1999 European Parliament election, given the size of the new South West England constituency and the large prerequisite £5,000 deposit. It contested the 2001 general election, winning 3,199 votes across three constituencies.[78]

Cornish Assembly Campaign

On 5 March 2000, MK launched a petition for a Cornish Assembly.[16][79] This was modelled from the "Declaration for a Cornish Assembly", which stated that:

1. Declaration for a Cornish Assembly
Picture of Mebyon Kernow's assembly petition

Cornwall is a distinct region. It has a clearly defined economic, administrative and social profile. Cornwall's unique identity reflects its Celtic character, culture and environment. We declare that the people of Cornwall will be best served in their future governance by a Cornish regional assembly. We therefore commit ourselves to setting up the Cornish Constitutional Convention with the intention of achieving a devolved Cornish Assembly.

Three months later the Cornish Constitutional Convention was held with the objective of establishing a devolved Assembly. Within fifteen months, Mebyon Kernow's petition attracted the signatures of over 50,000 people calling for a referendum on a Cornish Assembly, which was a little over 10% of the total Cornish electorate.[16] A delegation including Cole, Andrew George, then the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, and representatives of the Convention presented the Declaration to 10 Downing Street on 12 December 2001.[79]

Early 21st century (2001–2009)

Ahead of the 2004 European Parliament election, MK reached an electoral partnership with the Green Party of England of Wales. MK agreed not to stand its own candidates in the European election; in return, the Green Party would back MK candidates at the 2005 general election.[80] In this latter election, MK did not contest George's seat of St Ives;[81] in return, the Greens did not contest other seats in Cornwall.[82][83][84][85] The electoral partnership was not renewed for the 2009 European Parliament election.[86]

In August 2008 MK deputy leader, Conan Jenkin, expressed Mebyon Kernow's support for a proposed legal challenge by Cornwall 2000 over the UK Government's exclusion of the Cornish from the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Cornwall 2000 need to show that they have exhausted all domestic legal avenues by having the case summarily dismissed by the High Court, the Appeal Court and the House of Lords, before the case can be put to the European Court of Human Rights. MK requested the support of all of its members for this legal action. However the fund failed to meet the required target of £100,000 by the end of December 2008, having received just over £33,000 in pledges, and the plan was abandoned.

Unitary authority (2009–present)

In 2009, the former Cornwall County Council was replaced by the unitary authority of Cornwall Council. In the first election to the new body, three MK candidates were elected: Andrew Long (Callington), Stuart Cullimore (Camborne South) and Dick Cole (St Enoder).[87] In August 2010, an independent councillor, Neil Plummer (Stithians), joined the MK group, citing his increasing disillusionment with the independent group.[88][89] In November 2011, former chair of the party Loveday Jenkin was elected in a by-election in Wendron.[90] In September 2012, Tamsin Williams (Penzance Central) defected to MK from the Liberal Democrats, increasing MK's number of councillors on Cornwall Council to six.[89]

Mebyon Kernow contested every seat in Cornwall in the 2010 general election.

In 2011, the party gained some prominence owing to the Devonwall affair; this was the proposal of a parliamentary constituency which would have been partly in Cornwall and partly in Devon.[91] The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill sought to equalise the size of constituencies in the United Kingdom. An amendment to the bill by Lord Teverson would have ensured that "all parts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly must be included in constituencies that are wholly in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly"; this amendment was defeated by 250 to 221 votes in the House of Lords[92] with 95% of Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers rejecting it. MK "accused the coalition government of treating Cornwall with "absolute contempt" as a result of this, stating that Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had "devised the bill to breach the territorial integrity of Cornwall", and that it broke election promises from their parties to protect Cornish interests.[93] Cameron replied to concerns by stating that "it's the Tamar, not the Amazon, for Heaven's sake"; his controversial remark was widely ridiculed in Cornwall.[8][94] MK welcomed the later rejection of the parliamentary constituency boundary review, which in turn prevented the introduction of a cross-border Devonwall constituency for the 2015 and 2017 general elections.

In 2011, Ann Trevenen Jenkin became Honorary President of MK, nine years after the last Honorary President, her husband, Richard Jenkin, had died.

In the 2013 Cornwall Council election, the party was reduced to three seats. Williams did not seek reelection and MK lost her seat; MK did not win any of the newly-redrawn seats in Camborne; and Plummer unsuccessfully contested Lanner and Stithians as an independent. Only Cole and Jenkin held their seats; the party also gained a seat in Penwithick and Boscoppa.[95] It held these seats and gained no further seats at the 2017 Cornwall Council election.[96]

MK decided not to stand candidates in the 2014 European elections, claiming the system is skewed against them winning seats.[97] MK contested all six Cornish constituencies in the 2015 general election. It complained against not being granted a party election broadcast: under current guidelines, it would need to stand in eighty-three constituencies outside of Cornwall in order to qualify for a broadcast.[98]

Ahead of the 2016 referendum on the issue, MK endorsed the United Kingdom's continued membership of the European Union.[99] On 23 June 2016, Cornwall voted to leave the European Union by 56.5%.[100] Following the vote, MK reiterated its promise to campaign for a devolved Cornish Assembly.[101]

MK declined to stand candidates in the snap 2017 general election, citing a lack of financing and resources.[102] It also did not stand candidates in the 2019 European Parliament election,[103] but its leadership endorsed the Green Party because of their historic cooperation, support for a Cornish Assembly and other similar policies.[104]

At a Policy Forum on 22 June 2018, Mebyon Kernow launched an updated version of its campaign publication titled “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall."[105]

Ideology and policies

MK is an advocate of Cornish nationalism, seeing Cornwall as a separate nation rather than an English county. It emphasises Cornwall's distinct Celtic culture and language, as well as its border along the River Tamar, which has largely remained unchanged since 936 AD.[34][106] The party's leaders identify as both Cornish and British but Cornish first.[16] It rejects that Cornwall is a region of the United Kingdom or a county of England, preferring the label of 'duchy'.[106] It advocates a National Curriculum for Cornwall, increased investment in the Cornish language, and a full inquiry into Cornwall's constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom.[107]

The party advocates the establishment of a "fully devolved, democratically elected" Cornish National Assembly, established by "a dedicated, stand-alone, bespoke Act of Parliament."[106][107] This would be complemented by a Cornish Civil Service.[107] It accuses the civil service and government of "deep-seated prejudice" against Cornwall.[106]

On economic policy, MK is left-of-centre.[108] It rejects "austerity politics, deregulation and support for trade treaties such as TTIP."[109] It is committed against poverty and social deprivation; it advocates free and equal access to education, health and welfare services. It advocates tackling tax avoidance.[107] It opposes the privatisation of the NHS and would renationalise railways and utilities.[110][111] The party regularly highlights problems with the Cornish economy: Cornwall has lower wages and higher unemployment than the rest of the United Kingdom.[107][112][113] MK describes its philosophy as based on being: "Cornish, Green, Left of Centre, Decentralist."

The party is environmentalist, advocating strong environmental safeguards and a "Green New Deal for Cornwall" aimed at creating jobs in the environmental sectors. It supports increasing planning restrictions to reverse the building of second homes in Cornwall. It would scrap the Trident nuclear programme. It supports debt forgiveness for third world countries and supports the UN target of committing 0.7% of the UK's GDP as foreign aid.[107]

The party would introduce proportional representation to UK elections through the Single Transferable Vote and would abolish the House of Lords.[107]

MK supported the UK's membership of the European Union.[99][109] It endorses a referendum on the final Brexit deal.[114]

Cornwall is part of the South West Regional Assembly and the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) administrate economic development, housing and strategic planning. MK claims that the area covered is an artificially imposed large region and not natural.[115][116] Mebyon Kernow wants to break up the SWRDA into small county areas and implement a Cornish Regional Development Agency.

The party supports making Saint Piran's day, the day of Cornwall's patron saint, which falls on 5 March, a public holiday.[117] It also advocates the establishment of a Cornish University.[4][107]

The party has resisted proposals to reduce the number of councillors in Cornwall.[118]

Mebyon Kernow is a member of the European Free Alliance.[119] The party has close links with Plaid Cymru, with whose Blaenau Gwent branch it cooperated in campaigns in 2000.[120]


MK is run on a day-to-day basis by a 20-member National Executive, which includes the leadership team, policy spokespersons, and local party representatives. Dick Cole is the current leader.[121] The party's youth wing for under-30s is known as Kernow X.[122]

Party leaders

Honorary presidents

Electoral performance

Elected representatives

MK has never won a parliamentary election to the House of Commons, nor has it ever won a seat in the European Parliament. Nonetheless, MK has been represented on Cornwall Council since its inception in 2009, with four councillors elected in the most recent elections in 2017. It is also represented in numerous town and parish councils across Cornwall.[6] A mixture of county and parish councillors serve as spokespeople on various topics.[123]

MK's current elected representatives on Cornwall Council are:

Councillor Ward First elected
Dick Cole St Enoder 2009
Matt Luke Penwithick and Boscoppa 2013
Loveday Jenkin Crowan and Wendron 2011
Andrew Long Callington 2009

Town and parish councils

In May 2007, Mebyon Kernow achieved its best-ever round of election results in Cornwall’s district and town and parish councils. There were 225 district council seats up for election and MK put up 24 candidates. MK won seven district council seats, a net gain of one; seventeen town/city council seats and four parish council places, a net gain of one town/parish seat. MK polled about 5 per cent of the total votes cast in the district council elections. The seats won included their first seat on Caradon Council for 24 years; defended their seat on North Cornwall District Council; three seats on Kerrier District Council, where they lost one seat; and two on Restormel Borough Council. The results put Mebyon Kernow in third position behind the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party and ahead of Labour in several seats including Kerrier, Restormel, North Cornwall and Caradon. The total MK vote in the May 2007 local elections was over 10,000 votes across Cornwall.[124] In June 2008 Mebyon Kernow's representation on Caradon increased to 3 following the defection of Glenn Renshaw (Saltash Essa) from the Lib Dems and Chris Thomas (Callington) from the Independent group, to join the party.

In the Town Council elections MK maintained groups of five councillors on both Camborne Town Council and Penzance Town Council, with three new councillors also elected to Truro City Council and is also represented on town councils in Callington, Liskeard and Penryn.

In June 2011 Mebyon Kernow lost one of its Truro City councillors, and prior general election candidate, Loic Rich, who moved to the Conservative group. Mr Rich gave as his reason; "I found it very frustrating being in a party that, along with the opposition parties, seemed to be in deliberate denial of the UK's economic and social needs." .[125] That loss was made up for in November 2011 when a Liberal Democrat councillor on St Austell town council, Derek Collins, defected to MK, claiming that his former party had 'failed Cornwall'.[126] In November 2011 Eileen Carter resigned as a member of Perranzabuloe Parish Council, Perranporth Ward.

Cornwall Council

Year Candidates Votes Share of votes Seats
2005 18 9,421 3.7%
0 / 82
2009 33 7,290 4.3%
3 / 123
2013 26 6,824 4.8%
4 / 123
2017 19 5,344 4.0%
4 / 123

From 2004 until the district councils were abolished in 2009, there were four MK councillors on Kerrier District Council, along with one in Restormel (the party leader Dick Cole) and, until his death in 2005, John Bolitho in North Cornwall. One of the MK councillors in Kerrier, Loveday Jenkin, joined the district council government in 2005 becoming the first MK councillor in such a position. In the final district council elections of 2007 MK won 8919 votes across the county.

In April 2009 MK leader Dick Cole announced his resignation from his job as an archaeologist with the new Cornwall Council to become the full-time leader of Mebyon Kernow and to stand for election to the Council. He had previously worked for Cornwall County Council for 14 years, but it is not permitted for employees of Councils to stand for election to a council they work for.[127]

On 12 May 2009, Dick Cole announced that thirty-three candidates would be standing for the party at the Cornwall Council elections on 4 June 2009.[128] This was the largest number of candidates that the party had ever fielded in a round of elections to a principal council or councils. Under the new arrangements, 123 members were to be elected to the new unitary Cornwall Council, in the place of the 82 councillors on the outgoing Cornwall County Council and another 249 on the six district councils within its area, all abolished.[129]

Having contested thirty-three of the 123 seats on the authority, Mebyon Kernow won three, or 2.4 per cent of the total. Andrew Long was elected to represent Callington with 54% of the votes.[130] Stuart Cullimore was elected to represent Camborne South with 28% of the votes[131] and Dick Cole was elected to represent St Enoder with 78% of the votes[132]

Prior to the 2013 election, Mebyon Kernow held six seats on the council, having gained two due to defections from other parties, and winning one in a by-election. Three Mebyon Kernow councillors did not stand again in 2013. Keeping the seat won in the by-election, and a gain of one seat elsewhere, left them with four in total. This dropped them to being the sixth largest group on the council, from the position of fourth largest prior to the election, being overtaken by UKIP and Labour.

UK general elections

Year Candidates Votes Share of votes Seats
1983 2 1,151 1.2%
0 / 5
1987 0 N/A N/A
0 / 5
1992 0 N/A N/A
0 / 5
1997 4 1,906 0.8%
0 / 5
2001 3 3,199 1.3%
0 / 5
2005 4 3,552 1.7%
0 / 5
2010 6 5,379 1.9%
0 / 6
2015 6 5,675 1.9%
0 / 6
2017 0 N/A N/A
0 / 6

In the 2010 general election, Mebyon Kernow fielded candidates in each of the six constituencies in Cornwall. Their best result was in the St Austell and Newquay seat, where they came fourth, with 4.2% of the votes, up 4% from the previous election. The other main parties spent more on their election campaigns.[133] MK also blamed bad results on a tactical voting campaign whereby Labour voters in Cornwall were urged to vote Liberal Democrat to stop the Conservatives from getting in.[134] Overall they gained 1.9% of votes cast. All Mebyon Kernow candidates lost their deposits.[135]

European Parliament elections

In 1979, in the first elections to the European Parliament, Mebyon Kernow's candidate Richard Jenkin was able to attract more than five per cent of the vote in the Cornwall seat.

Year Candidate Votes Share of votes Position
1979 Richard Jenkin 10,205 5.9% 4th
1984 did not contest
1989 Colin Lawry 4,224 1.9% 6th
1994 Loveday Jenkin 3,315 1.5% 7th

In April 2009 Mebyon Kernow announced that its list of candidates for the 'South West Region' seat in the European Parliament would comprise their six prospective parliamentary candidates for Westminster. The candidates were: Dick Cole (St Austell and Newquay), Conan Jenkin (Truro and Falmouth), Loveday Jenkin (Camborne and Redruth), Simon Reed (St Ives), Glenn Renshaw (South East Cornwall), Joanie Willett (North Cornwall).[86] Mebyon Kernow had also committed itself to continue the fight for a "Cornwall only" Euro-constituency, to promote Cornwall in Europe.[136]

Mebyon Kernow polled 14,922 votes in the 2009 European elections (11,534 votes in Cornwall, no seats, 7 per cent of the vote in Cornwall) putting them ahead of the Labour Party in Cornwall.[137]

Since 2009, MK has not stood candidates in European Parliament elections, given the difficulties of winning a seat in a constituency encompassing electorates outside Cornwall.[97][103]

See also

Further reading

  • Deacon, Bernard; Cole, Dick; Tregidga, Garry (2003). Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism: The Concise History. Welsh Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-86057-075-9.


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  2. ^ Keith Edkins (30 November 2009). "Local Council Political Compositions". Retrieved 8 December 2009.
  3. ^ Nicholas Whyte (10 May 2005). "The 2005 Local Government Elections in Northern Ireland". Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dunkerley, Chris (3 December 2010). "Mebyon Kernow – 60 Years on – and still looking good!". Retrieved 4 July 2018.
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  6. ^ a b "City, Town and Parish Councillors – Our Team". Mebyon Kernow. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
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  9. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 14
  10. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 21
  11. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 19–21
  12. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 19
  13. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 27–8
  14. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 29
  15. ^ Williams 2014, p. 12
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Morris, Steven (26 January 2012). "Cornish party Mebyon Kernow sees the future in black and white". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
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  52. ^ a b c Zadražilová, Dagmar (2010). Revival of the Cornish Language: Its Reasons, Challenges and its Relation towards the Cornish Identity. Prague. p. 52. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
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  58. ^ a b Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 82
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  62. ^ a b Payton, Philip John (December 1989). Modern Cornwall: The Changing Nature of Peripherality (PDF). Plymouth: University of Plymouth. pp. 394–5. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  63. ^ a b Willett, Joanie; Rowe, John (2014). Neo-Liberal Economic Development, Competitiveness, and the Growth of Mebyon Kernow in Cornish Politics (PDF). Manchester: University of Exeter. p. 8. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  64. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 85–7
  65. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 90
  66. ^ "Mebyon Kernow Page in Australia". November 1997. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  67. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 132
  68. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 92–3
  69. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 93
  70. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 93–4
  71. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 96
  72. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 97
  73. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 97–8
  74. ^ "MK leader marks 20 years at helm". The Cornish Times. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  75. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 98–9
  76. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, pp. 99–100
  77. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 101
  78. ^ Deacon, Cole & Tregidga 2003, p. 104
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  125. ^ Former MK councillor joins Tory group. (21 June 2011).
  126. ^ Councillor defects to MK, claiming Lib Dems have 'failed Cornwall'. (1 November 2011).
  127. ^ Dick Cole to become full time leader of Mebyon Kernow.
  128. ^ MK Cornwall Council candidates 2009.
  129. ^ Cornwall Council June 2009 Electoral divisions.
  130. ^ Election results for Callington. (4 June 2009).
  131. ^ Election results for Camborne South#
  132. ^ Election results for St Enoder. (4 June 2009).
  133. ^ Figures reveal spending by parties at UK general election. Electoral Commission.
  134. ^ Brown: Vote Lib Dem where Labour can't win. (9 April 2010).
  135. ^ "BBC NEWS – Election 2010 – South West". BBC News.
  136. ^ Cole, Dick. (18 March 2009) MK fight for Cornwall only Euro-constituency.
  137. ^ European Election 2009: South West. BBC News (8 June 2009).

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2002 Penwith District Council election

Elections to Penwith District Council were held on 2 May 2002. One third of the council was up for election and the council stayed under no overall control. Overall turnout was 40.3%

After the election, the composition of the council was

Independent 11

Conservative 10

Liberal Democrat 9

Labour 3

Others 1

2009 Cornwall Council election

The Cornwall Council election, 2009, was an election for all 123 seats on the council. Cornwall Council is a unitary authority that covers the majority of the ceremonial county of Cornwall, with the exception of the Isles of Scilly which have an independent local authority. The elections took place concurrently with other local elections across England and Wales as well as the UK component of the elections to the European Parliament. Cornwall had seen its district and county councils abolished, replaced by a single 123-member Cornish unitary authority, for which councillors were elected for a full term.

All locally registered electors (British, Irish, Commonwealth and European Union citizens) who were aged 18 or over on Thursday 2 May 2013 were entitled to vote in the local elections. Those who were temporarily away from their ordinary address (for example, away working, on holiday, in student accommodation or in hospital) were also entitled to vote in the local elections, although those who had moved abroad and registered as overseas electors cannot vote in the local elections. It is possible to register to vote at more than one address (such as a university student who had a term-time address and lives at home during holidays) at the discretion of the local Electoral Register Office, but it remains an offence to vote more than once in the same local government election.

2013 Cornwall Council election

The Cornwall Council election, 2013, was an election for all 123 seats on the council. Cornwall Council is a unitary authority that covers the majority of the ceremonial county of Cornwall, with the exception of the Isles of Scilly which have an independent local authority. The elections took place concurrently with other local elections across England and Wales.

2017 Cornwall Council election

The 2017 Cornwall Council election was held on 4 May 2017 as part of the 2017 local elections in the United Kingdom. 122 councillors were elected from the 121 electoral divisions of Cornwall Council, which returned either one or two councillors each by first-past-the-post voting for a four-year term of office. Although originally scheduled to take place on the same day, the election in the Bodmin St Petroc ward was countermanded following the death of Liberal Democrat candidate Steve Rogerson and was held on 8 June.

Cornish nationalism

Cornish nationalism is a cultural, political and social movement that seeks the recognition of Cornwall – the south-westernmost part of the island of Great Britain – as a nation distinct from England. It is usually based on three general arguments:

that Cornwall has a Celtic cultural identity separate from that of England, and that the Cornish people have a national, civic or ethnic identity separate from that of English people;

that Cornwall should be granted a degree of devolution or autonomy, usually in the form of a Cornish national assembly;

and that Cornwall is legally a territorial and constitutional Duchy with the right to veto Westminster legislation, not merely a county of England, and has never been formally incorporated into England via an Act of Union.

Cornwall Council elections

Cornwall Council in England, UK, was established in 2009 and is elected every four years. From 1973 to 2005 elections were for Cornwall County Council, with the first election for the new unitary Cornwall Council held in June 2009. This election saw 123 members elected, replacing the previous 82 councillors on Cornwall County Council and the 249 on the six district and borough councils (Caradon, Carrick, Kerrier, North Cornwall, Penwith, and Restormel). In June 2013 the Local Government Boundary Commission for England announced a public consultation on its proposal that Cornwall Council should have 87 councillors in future.

Dick Cole (politician)

Dick Cole (born 6 April 1968) is a Cornish politician, currently serving as an elected member of Cornwall Council and the leader of the Cornish devolutionist political party, Mebyon Kernow, a role he has held since 1997. He is currently one of the longest serving political leaders in Britain. Cllr Cole was first elected MK leader in 1997. He lives in Fraddon, a village in Mid-Cornwall.

Graham Sandercock

Graham Sandercock is an author, journalist and former teacher living in Cornwall, England, UK, who once stood for the UK parliamentary seat of South East Cornwall. He was head of the Geography department at Devonport High School for Boys – he left the school in 2008 after teaching there for 29 years.

Helena Sanders

Helena Sanders née Charles (16 April 1911 – 14 June 1997) was a Cornish humanitarian, cultural activist, politician and poet. Sanders was the founder of the political party, Mebyon Kernow, in 1951. She was also well known for her feline welfare efforts in Venice.

James Whetter

James C. A. Whetter (20 September 1935 – 24 February 2018) was a British historian and politician, noted as a Cornish nationalist and editor of The Cornish Banner (An Baner Kernewek). He contested elections for two Cornish independence parties. A prolific writer, Dr James Whetter was the editor of Mebyon Kernow's monthly magazine Cornish Nation in the early 1970s before later becoming active in the Cornish Nationalist Party. While active in Mebyon Kernow he authored A Celtic Tomorrow - Essays in Cornish Nationalism (MK Publications 1973) and The Celtic Background of Kernow (MK Publications 1971), the latter intended to assist schoolchildren in a better understanding of Cornish Celtic history and culture.

Whetter's books include The History of Glasney College (Padstow: Tabb House, 1988), Cornwall in the Seventeenth Century (Padstow: Lodenek Press, 1974) and The History of Falmouth (Redruth: Dyllansow Truran, 1981).

Whetter gained a PhD from London University and was director of the Roseland Institute, a centre for Cornish Studies at Gorran Haven near St Austell. The institute contains a library of over 20,000 books in the process of being catalogued and put on-line and is the base for the publishing activities of Lyfrow Trelyspen and CNP Publications. The former produces works on Cornish history, essays and related subjects, and the latter, the quarterly Cornish magazine, The Cornish Banner (An Baner Kernewek).

John Bolitho

John Bolitho (1930–2005; Cornish Jowan Bolitho) was born in Bude in Cornwall, and spent his working life in the Royal Navy, the theatre and television (including performances in the Black and White Minstrel Show, the Royal Variety Performance and the Billy Cotton Band Show), and business.

He was the Grand Bard of the Gorseth Kernow between 2000 and 2003 with the bardic name of "Jowan an Cleth". During this time he visited many Cornish bards in Australia and was made patron of the Cornish Association of Victoria. He also helped create the official website for Gorseth Kernow.It is recorded that John Bolitho was the first man to speak Cornish at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.He also served as a North Cornwall District councillor, a Bude-Stratton town councillor, and was Mebyon Kernow parliamentary candidate for North Cornwall.


Kernow may refer to:

Cornwall (Cornish: Kernow), a county of the UK

Kernow (bus company), a bus company in Cornwall

Mebyon Kernow, a political party in Cornwall

Loveday Carlyon

Loveday Carlyon is a Cornish nationalist politician.

Originally from Torpoint, Carlyon joined Mebyon Kernow. She married fellow party member Julyan Holmes, and moved to Liskeard. She was soon elected to the town council, and became a prominent spokesperson for the organisation, in particular commenting on local food production, as a member of the Cornish Association of Smallholders and Producers. Elected leader of Mebyon Kernow in 1986, she was successful in campaigning for the retention of Cornish language translations on road signs around Liskeard. She stood down as party leader in 1989, but remained politically active, and by 2014 was chair of St Keyne parish council.

Loveday Jenkin

Loveday Jenkin is a Cornish politician, biologist and language campaigner.

Jenkin is the daughter of Richard Jenkin and Ann Trevenen Jenkin, key figures in Cornish nationalist political party Mebyon Kernow. She attended Helston grammar school, later Helston comprehensive. Jenkin studied botany and biochemistry at Cardiff University and gained a doctorate in plant biochemistry the University of Cambridge. During the late 1980s and early 90s she worked as education officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust.In 1990, she was elected as leader of Mebyon Kernow, then at a low ebb. She served until 1997, focusing on reviving the party's electoral performance. She stood as the party's candidate for Cornwall and West Plymouth at the 1994 European election, taking 1.5% of the vote. Soon after, she was elected to Kerrier District Council, representing the Crowan district until the council was merged into Cornwall Council, a unitary authority. She subsequently stood, unsuccessfully, for Parliament on a number of occasions.

At the 2010 general election, Jenkin stood in Camborne and Redruth, taking 775 votes, coming fifth of seven candidates.At the 2015 general election, Jenkin again stood in Camborne and Redruth, taking 897 votes, giving her the last place of six candidates standing, but increasing her vote total and also her percentage of votes cast (+0.2%).

Jenkin was elected to Cornwall Council in a 2011 by-election, representing the Wendron district, and was subsequently re-elected in 2013 and 2017.Jenkin was a lecturer for the University of Exeter at the Camborne School of Mines, where she undertook studies into Japanese knotweed, She is also a bard of the Gorsedh Kernow, has served as Cornwall's Great Trees Officer for the National Trust, and chairs the Cornish Language Fellowship. Jenkin has two children, who were brought up speaking Cornish as their first language. Jenkin is a member of Akademi Kernewek, the official definitive body responsible for corpus planning for the Cornish language, serving on the terminology panel and the Cornish language place-names and signage panel.

Mebyon Kernow election results

Mebyon Kernow – The Party for Cornwall is a Cornish nationalist, centre-left political party in Cornwall, United Kingdom. It primarily campaigns for devolution to Cornwall in the form of a Cornish Assembly. It has representatives in local government (see main article), but has never succeeded in national elections.

Pedyr Prior

Pedyr Prior (died 4 June 2018) was a Cornish politician and a noted figure in the Cornish nationalist politics, being Chairman of Mebyon Kernow from 1985 to 1986 and later Chair of the Labour Party in Cornwall.Prior joined the Cornish Nationalist Party on its formation in 1976, and was adopted as its prospective candidate for the St Ives constituency. This candidacy did not happen, as he stood down in favour of the MK candidate for the constituency, and subsequently he defected to MK. He was the editor of Mebyon Kernow's journal, Cornish Nation, from 1978 to 1979, jointly with Julyan Holmes. In 1979, he stood for the St Ives South seat on Cornwall County Council; although he was not elected, he took one of the party's best vote shares.In 1981, Prior was elected as Treasurer of Mebyon Kernow, and at the 1983 general election, he was the party's candidate for the St Ives seat, taking fourth place with 1.2% of the vote. He was elected as MK's chairman in 1985, serving for one year.Prior later joined the Labour Party, and was elected to St Ives Town Council. In this role, he succeeded in getting a ban on new houses being built for use as second homes. For four years in the 2010s, he served as chair of the Cornwall Labour Party. He died from complications caused by chemotherapy for prostate cancer, the docetaxl causing pulmonary fibrosis, which made his lungs fail, in June 2018. He deteriorated over 3 weeks in critical care and could not be cured. He was married to the artist Mary Fletcher.

Politics of Cornwall

Cornwall is administered as a county of South West England whose politics are influenced by a number of issues that make it distinct from the general political scene in the wider United Kingdom, and the political trends of neighbouring counties. Its position on the geographical periphery of the island of Great Britain is also a factor.

Cornwall shares some of the political issues of the other Celtic nations, in particular Wales, and a notable movement exists seeking greater powers of self-government within the UK, similar to that achieved in Wales. Cornish politics is also defined by its historical relationship between the Liberal Democrats (and formerly the Liberal Party), and the Conservative Party.

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot (born Richard Stewart Talbot, Merthyr Tydfil, 1975) is a Welsh activist, Early Years lecturer and language expert who has been General Secretary of the Celtic League since 2006 and editor of Carn magazine since 2013. He is also the former president of the European Free Alliance Youth.

Richard Jenkin

Richard Garfield Jenkin (9 October 1925 – 29 October 2002), was a Cornish nationalist politician and one of the founding members of Mebyon Kernow. He was also a Grand Bard of the Gorseth Kernow.

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