Last week, the London regime finally bowed to pressure to recognise the Cornish as a national minority under the relevant Council of Europe agreement. Or tried to, not very hard. The official press release talks about having to ‘modify’ the application of the European convention to accommodate the idea of a national minority – the Cornish – existing, on their home ground, within some other nation’s territory – England. It’s an unsustainable solution that defies the logic of language – the cornu-wealasare the Welsh of the far west and thus their land of Cornwall, by definition, cannot be part of a modern England that doesn’t invite itself to be denounced as imperialist.
Cornwall’s achievement attracted huge goodwill from many quarters, tinged with sadness that several of those who fought most tenaciously for it died in recent months without seeing their life’s work crowned with success. Others, for some reason, seemed aggrieved, as if their own lives are diminished by joys they do not comprehend. ‘Cornwall is NOT a country. End of.’ Well, no, start of, actually. Recognition will now be the thin end of a wedge to be driven as a stake into the centralist heart.
Are we next in line? Cornwall now joins Scotland as evidence that the tectonic plates of UK constitutional politics are on the move. The idea that recognising the Cornish is some clever gambit to see off Scottish independence, showing how a multi-nation UK can exist successfully, is one that spectacularly misses the point. Concessions are accumulating precisely because the UK doesn’t work and because that fact is being grasped ever more widely. Channel 4 even produced a map, with a bizarre interpretation of Wessex that managed to exclude both Wantage and Winchester. The Southern Daily Echo grabbed a few quotes, then took them out of context to fit the already-written headline. For now, the hacks are getting it a bit muddled, in a sometimes comical way. It’s all new to them, this freedom thing. Come to this blog if you want a proper explanation.
Wessex is a region. It’s not a nation and so cannot benefit directly from ideas about national minority status. That’s not to say though that we can’t manage our own affairs as well as any Celtic nation can manage theirs. Better government is better government, whatever you call the area governed. So in that sense, we hope very much that Cornwall will hold the door open, first for the recognition from above that we exist and that our existence entitles us to fair treatment, then for the recognition from below that, at the end of the day, we need recognition from no-one, just the self-will to cast off the deadening London yoke.