The Cornish party Mebyon Kernow (MK), have launched their manifesto for the general election, calling for a devolved legislative assembly for Cornwall and for the replacement of council tax with a progressive income tax.
The party also placed strong emphasis on “fair funding for Cornwall”, which is one of the poorest areas of the UK.
This will be the first general election in which MK have contested all Cornish constituencies, a decision which they describe as a “step-change”. They are a left-of-centre party formed to campaign for greater autonomy for Cornwall, with links to Plaid Cymru in Wales.
MK's manifesto includes a commitment to defend public services and to support affordable homes. They want to use planning controls to restrict second homes, thus preventing wealthy people pushing up house prices to a level at which others cannot afford a first home.
The party's leader Dick Cole said, “This election offers a wonderful opportunity to put Cornwall on the map by voting for Mebyon Kernow’s team of independent-minded candidates, who are determined to speak up for the interests of Cornwall at every opportunity.”
The party's manifesto commits candidates to fighting for all the people of Cornwall, whatever their background. MK insists that Cornwall had its own distinct identity, language and heritage and had as much right to self-determination as Wales and Scotland.
“Cornwall has been under-funded for many, many years,” said Cole, “We receive less money for our schools, hospitals and public services than elsewhere in the UK”.
He added, “Now must be the time to demand that Cornwall receives its fair share of expenditure, which will help us cope with the difficult economic times that lie ahead”.
MK say that they made the decision to stand in every Cornish seat following their result in the European Elections in 2009, when they out-polled the Labour Party. They now have three councillors on Cornwall County Council.
Mebyon Kernow's name derives from the Cornish for “Sons of Cornwall”. The Cornish language, which is closely related to Welsh and Breton, almost died out during the twentieth century, but a recent revival has seen a growth in the number of people speaking Cornish as a second language.
Cornwall has long been a stronghold for the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg recently described a vote for Mebyon Kernow as “a wasted vote on a spectacular scale” and insisted that his party “has Cornwall sort of coursing through its veins”.
In response, Mebyon Kernow's deputy leader, Andrew Long, accused Clegg of choosing to “pour scorn on the democratic process”.