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The 'nucleus of global change'

According to the Prime Minister, Cornwall was the venue for G7 in June 2021 because it’s the ‘nucleus of global change.’ Let’s examine this …

Cornwall is one of the poorest and most socially deprived areas in Europe. That may come as a surprise to the half million people that holiday on the Cornish coast each year, but it’s true. Alongside the lifestyle Cornwall of glossy magazines and estate agents hyperbole, there is life-struggle. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are in the poorest 5% of the UK. That’s why the EU committed millions of pounds to level us up, but that crutch has vanished.

We did not need such help in the past. English China Clays (1919 to 1999) employed five thousand souls to extract the brilliant white ore around what is now the Eden Project. Today, it’s less than a thousand. Further back, our tin mines and engineering were the envy of the world. No longer. Fishing continues to be significant, as are farming and food processing. The mainstay of the local economy is - you’ve guessed it - tourism, which supports one in five jobs. Here’s the crux: much of the profit leaves Cornwall. Large numbers of tourists stay in homes that don’t belong to the Cornish, eat in restaurants owned by companies outside the region, and use public services that the local authority can’t afford to run. The headquarters of the company that extracts the china clay is in France, not Cornwall. If that’s the nucleus of a global change, we’re all in trouble.

Seeds of growth are everywhere: in renewable energy, in digital, and also in great food and drink. The artisanal, ethical, environmental movement is strong and we’re justly proud of our provenance. Local heritage and culture are non-violent and cherish the land and sea; the Cornish as a people are an officially recognized minority. The landscape remains beautiful, but under the grind of commercialization and the glib neglect of centralized planning laws, that too is changing fast. Over the past fifty years, the population has nearly doubled, at three times the rate of the national average. Most of this growth is from inward migration, and everyone needs a home. The result? House prices have boomed to a point where locals can’t afford to buy a home. If this is the case, we had all better find a nice van to live in.

The dirty little secret behind the slogans ‘Levelling Up’ and ‘Build Back Better’ is that our highly centralized Government has, for the last twenty years, spent eleven times more money in the south-east than the south-west. Politicians scatter crumbs to attract votes when the time is right. If we are to be the ‘nucleus of global change’, it will take a lot more than a charade of dignitaries on a three-day jolly. For the G7, it was a choice of a charming venue at a dramatically important time in history. For Cornwall, it was two weeks of road closures and the kick-off for a summer of spiralling CoVid cases. We poor country cousins had no choice but to tug our forelocks in homage to the glamorous city folk, in the vain hope that a legacy will magically come our way. The greatest gift would be the freedom to choose our own destiny.



©Copyright 2024 Orlando Kimber. All rights reserved. Updated Oct 2022