Mebyon Kernow

Mebyon Kernow
Mebyon Kernow
Leader Dick Cole
Founded 6 January 1951
Headquarters Meridian House
Heron Way
Youth wing Kernow X
Ideology Cornish devolution,
Cornish nationalism,
Civic nationalism,
Social democracy,
Environmental protection
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation None
European affiliation European Free Alliance
Official colours Old gold, Black and White
Cornwall Council
4 / 123
Cornish seats in the House of Commons
0 / 6
Politics of Cornwall
Political parties

Mebyon Kernow (Cornish for Sons of Cornwall, often abbreviated to MK) is a minor political party in the United Kingdom, the main objective of which is to establish greater autonomy in Cornwall, through the establishment of a legislative Cornish Assembly. Mebyon Kernow have four elected councillors on Cornwall Council, and 19 on town and parish councils.[1] The party has had no MPs elected to the UK Parliament, but for the first time had candidates running for all six Cornish constituencies in the 2010 election. They gained a total of 5,379 votes.



MK was founded as a pressure group on 6 January 1951 at a meeting held in Redruth. Helena Charles was elected the organisation's first chair. At the first meeting, MK adopted the following objectives:

  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 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 cooperate 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, in what they hoped at the time would be a federal United Kingdom. MK won its first seat at local level on the Redruth-Camborne Urban Council in 1953. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, MK was in essence a political pressure group rather than a true political party, with members being able to join other political parties as well. However, by the 1970s the group developed into a more coherent and unified organisation. During this decade, MK began contesting Westminster parliamentary seats as well as local government ones. On 28 May, 1975 James Whetter left MK to form the Cornish Nationalist Party which was campaigning for full Cornish independence.

They currently describe their philosophy as based on being: "Cornish, Green, Left of Centre, Decentralist." Mebyon Kernow is a member of the European Free Alliance[2] and although it did not contest European Parliament elections in 2004 or 1999, it has six candidates for the 2009 Euro elections.[3] The party has close links with Plaid Cymru (their partner in the EFA) including a twinning arrangement with Plaid's Blaenau Gwent branch, and to a lesser extent with the SNP.

Daphne du Maurier, the well known novelist, was at one point a member of Mebyon Kernow, as was Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP; he still remains sympathetic to many Cornish issues, but is no longer a member since they became a political party.

MK had an electoral partnership with the Greens in the 2005 Westminster elections. The party did not contest the St Ives constituency to make room for the Green Party candidate and, in return, the Greens did not stand against MK in any of the other four Cornish constituencies. MK has announced it will contest every seat in Cornwall at the next general election.

In 2009, three Mebyon Kernow candidates were elected to the newly formed Cornwall Council. Andrew Long for Callington, Stuart Cullimore for Camborne south and Dick Cole was elected to represent St Enoder.[4] In 2010 an independent councillor, Neil Plummer, joined the MK group.

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. Mebyon Kernow have requested the support of all of its members for this legal action.[5] 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.

Electoral performance

Town and parish councils

Mebyon Kernow have 19 elected town and parish councillors:[6]

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 percent 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.[10][11] 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.[12]

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." .[13] 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'.[9]

Cornwall Council

Mebyon Kernow have four councillors sitting in Cornwall Council:[14]

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.

2009 Cornwall Council elections

In April 2009 MK leader Dick Cole announced his resignation from his job as an archaeologist with the new Cornwall Council in order to become 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 local authority they work for.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

Cornwall Council provides a wide range of services to more than half a million residents, has an annual budget of more than £1 billion, and is the biggest employer in Cornwall.[18]

Having contested thirty-three of the 123 seats on the authority, Mebyon Kernow won three, or 2.4 per cent of the total.

Cornwall Council election, 2009[19]
Party Seats Gains Losses Net gain/loss Seats % Votes % Votes +/-
  Conservative 50 33.8%
  Liberal Democrat 38 28.2%
  Independent 32 23.1%
  Mebyon Kernow 3 4.3%
  UKIP 0 3.8%
  Labour 0 3.4%

Andrew Long was elected to represent Callington with 54% of the votes.[20] Stuart Cullimore was elected to represent Camborne South with 28% of the votes[21] and Dick Cole was elected to represent St Enoder with 78% of the votes [22]

UK Parliament

Election Votes cast Share of Vote
1983 General election 1,151 1.2 2 candidates
1997 General election 1,906 0.8 4 candidates
2001 General election 3,199 1.3 3 candidates
2005 General election 3,552 1.7 4 candidates
2010 General election 5,379 1.9 6 candidates
2010 UK elections

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. Like many minor parties, MK did not qualify for a televised election broadcast as they did not meet the qualification (standing candidates in a minimum of 89 English seats). The other main parties spent more on their election campaigns.[23] MK also blamed bad results on a tactical voting campaign by the Liberal Democrats, whereby voters in Cornwall were urged to vote Lib-Dem to stop the Conservatives from getting in.[24]

In the other seats contested they achieved;

  • North Cornwall: 5th place, (last) 1.1% of votes, -2.1%
  • South Cornwall: 6th place (last) 1.3% of votes, -0.4%
  • Truro and Falmouth: 5th place (out of 6 candidates)2.1% of votes, -0.4%
  • Camborne and Redruth: 5th place (out of 6 candidates) 1.4% of votes +1.4%
  • St Ives 7th (last) 0.8% of votes, +0.8%

Overall they gained 1.9% of votes cast. All Mebyon Kernow candidates lost their deposits. [25]

Several former Cornish MPs have also been ex-members of Mebyon Kernow, including Peter Bessell (Liberal Party), John Pardoe (Liberal Party), David Mudd (Conservative), David Penhaligon (Liberal Party) and currently Andrew George (Liberal Democrats) [26]

European Parliament

In 1979, in the first elections to the European Parliament, Mebyon Kernow's candidate Richard Jenkin was able to attract almost ten percent of the vote in the Cornwall seat. Mebyon Kernow now campaigns for Cornwall in the South West England constituency.

Election Votes cast
1979 European election 10,205
1989 European election 4,224
1994 European election 3,315
2009 European election 14,922
2009 European Parliament elections

In April 2009 Mebyon Kernow announced that its list of candidates for the ‘South West Region’ seat in the European Parliament will comprise their six prospective parliamentary candidates for Westminster. The candidates are:- 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).[27] Mebyon Kernow has also committed itself to continuing the fight for a Cornwall only Euro-constituency that would give Cornwall a voice at the heart of Europe.[28]

Mebyon Kernow polled 14,922 votes in the 2009 European elections (11,534 votes in Cornwall, no seats, 7 percent of the vote in Cornwall) putting them ahead of the Labour Party in Cornwall.[29] In many places in Mid and West Cornwall, MK polled over 10%. This was in a constituency which included Gibraltar, Bristol, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Mebyon Kernow was not allowed a party political broadcast, but managed to outpoll a number of parties which had been allowed one, including Labour, NO2EU, and Libertas.[30]

Policies and Stances

Stance on Regional Development Agency

South West Region.

In July 2000 Mebyon Kernow issued the "Declaration for a Cornish Assembly" claiming;

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.

Senedh Kernow

Three months later the Cornish Constitutional Convention was held with the objective of establishing a devolved Assembly. In less than two years, it had collected signatures from over 50,000 people, of whom 41 650 were resident in Cornwall, which is about 10 percent of the total Cornish electorate.[citation needed] A delegation led by the West Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George and representatives of the Convention (Bert Biscoe, Richard Ford, Dick Cole, David Fieldsend and Andrew Climo) presented the declaration to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 12 December 2001.[31]

Cornwall is part of the South West Regional Assembly and the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) administrate economic development, housing and strategic planning. The claim that the SW area covered is an artificially imposed large region and not natural.[32][33] Mebyon Kernow wants to break up the SWRDA into small county areas and implement a Cornish Regional Development Agency.[34]


In 2011, MK issued a statement saying it "accused the Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition of treating Cornwall with absolute contempt" as a result of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, which seeks to equalise the size of constituencies.[35][36] An amendment to the bill by Lord Teverson that 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" was defeated by 250 to 221 votes in the House of Lords with 95% of the aforementioned parties rejecting it. This was despite promises during the election in 2010 of both parties saying they would "stand up for Cornwall. But Cameron and Clegg have devised this Bill which will breach the territorial integrity of Cornwall."[37] Mr Cameron replied to concerns about the "Devonwall" constituency by stating that "It's the Tamar, not the Amazon, for Heaven's sake"; a move that was read in the press as indicative of his plan not to oppose the merger of the constituencies in Devon and Cornwall.[38]

Protests were planned in Saltash, by the historical boundary between Devon and Cornwall since the 10th century. Adam Killeya, the mayor of Saltash and the convenor of the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign, said that of the border that it was "ancient and distinctive" and most people wanted to continue with that status.[39] However the campaign was unsuccessful, and the change may go ahead.[40]

Leaders of Mebyon Kernow

Kernow X

Kernow X or Young MK / MK Yowynk is the youth group of MK.

Kernow X was established in 2007 and emerged from MK Bagas Yowynk (MK - Youth Group/MK - BY) - a group set up by Martin Sanders in 1999 and led by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot.[41] The name "Kernow X" was chosen following a discussion between MK - BY and Cymru X members at a conference in Mallorca in 2007. In that year MK activists were seeking a more dynamic, structured and attractive organisation to represent a growing number of politically minded young people in Cornwall who had recently joined MK. The organisation is open to anyone under the age of 30 who agree with the aims of the group, as set out in the constitution of Kernow X.

Kernow X is run by a leadership team who are elected on an annual basis at the organisation's General Assembly.

Over the last two years Kernow X has been negotiating its position within MK, with the aim of becoming more independent from the Party. Discussions have been held between the Leadership Team of Kernow X and MK to forge a new relationship between the two organisations. Representatives from Kernow X have taken an increasingly active part in the European Free Alliance Youth (EFAY) over the last five years, which has involved jointly organising a range of European projects together. In 2007 one of its members was elected to Truro City Council. In addition, Kernow X has also organised social events for their members and other young people in Cornwall, given talks about their role at conferences in other nations and encourage young people to get more involved in the election process. Kernow X is currently involved in jointly organising a round table event at the European Parliament in Strasbourg with EFAY, a Cornish Heritage (Ertach Kernewek) awareness campaign and a campaign exchange programme for the upcoming elections.

There have been link-ups with other political youth movements in Europe including Cymru X (Wales), Jeunes de l'UDB (Brittany) and Young Scots for Independence (YSI) (Scotland).

See also


  1. ^ Cornwall Council elections - Thursday, 4th June, 2009
  2. ^ The European Free Alliance (EFA) wants a Europe of the Peoples
  3. ^ South West, Members elected to the European Parliament on 10 June 2004
  4. ^
  5. ^ MK support the inclusion of the Cornish into the FCPNM
  6. ^ Mebyon Kernow - Town and Parish Councillors
  7. ^
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ a b Councillor defects to MK, claiming Lib Dems have 'failed Cornwall'
  10. ^ BBC - 2007 Local Election results
  11. ^ Cornish World Magazine
  12. ^ Mebyon Kernow achieve best ever election results in 2007 district and town/parish elections
  13. ^ [ Former MK councillor joins Tory group ]
  14. ^ Cornwall Council - list of councillors by party
  15. ^ Dick Cole to become full time leader of Mebyon Kernow
  16. ^ MK Cornwall Council candidates 2009
  17. ^ Cornwall Council June 2009 Electoral divisions
  18. ^ Cornwall Council 2009 elections
  19. ^ "Cornwall council". Cornwall Council. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  20. ^ Election results for Callington
  21. ^ Election results for Camborne South#
  22. ^ Election results for St Enoder
  23. ^
  24. ^$1370072.htm
  25. ^ "BBC NEWS – Election 2010 – South West". BBC News. 
  26. ^ Mebyon Kernow history
  27. ^ Mebyon Kernow announce candidates for the ‘South West Region’ seat in the European Parliament
  28. ^ MK fight for Cornwall only Euro-constituency
  29. ^ European Election 2009: South West - BBC News
  30. ^ [2]
  31. ^ BBC News 11 December 2001 [3]
  32. ^ Mebyon Kernow opposes SWRA
  33. ^ Mebyon Kernow says Cornwall needs its own Development Agency
  34. ^ Cornish MPs and Mebyon Kernow demand a Cornish Regional Development Agency
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ Morris, Steven (5 October 2010). "Cornwall activists to protest against creation of 'Devonwall' constituency". The Guardian (London). 
  40. ^ "'Devonwall' plan set for go-ahead". BBC (London). 2 November 2010. 
  41. ^ Mebyon Kernow news

External links

Official website

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