We’ve seen how the devonwall agenda is driven by the corporate interests of devonwall institutions – principally Pennon/South West Water and the Plymouth newspaper the Western Morning News. It’s then given legitimacy by academics at Exeter and Plymouth Universities and other business interests. Moreover, its missionaries have penetrated Cornwall-based institutions, particularly the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
These corporate interests demand more handouts in the shape of spending on digital and physical infrastructure and training in order to maximise their incomes. That also means maximising the number of consumers for their products. Cornwall and its communities become collateral damage in this project, earmarked in their business plan as a leisure refuge and a site for massive population growth. The actual aim of social transformation is masked by a lot of windy rhetoric about software companies and lifestyle economics.
Their economic project needs to open up political and cultural fronts in order to succeed. Politically, this can be partially achieved by relying on the devonwall apologists embedded deep within Cornwall-based institutions such as the LEP and Cornwall Council. But it also requires the power of central government to be brought into play on its behalf. For this, they can always depend on the Conservative and Unionist Party, which needs little urging to fall into line behind the regional corporate agenda.
In order for Cornwall to be made safe for business, any pretensions to self-government or democratic devolution to Cornwall have to be quashed. Unlike the first phase of devonwall back in the 1980s and 90s, Cornish devolution and an assembly are now live issues and even get some limited support in the corridors of power. Their greater salience demands more effort from the devonwall elite to destroy such ambitions before they get out of hand and become ‘practical politics’. This is why Sajid Javid’s hostility to the possibility of meaningful devolution to Cornwall was so welcome to the devonwallers.
Is it just a coincidence that this devonwall move coincides with the way in which funding for the revived Cornish language was brutally binned earlier this year? Anything that might potentially enhance Cornish self-confidence is best snuffed out, anything that undermines Cornish self-belief must be encouraged. This is why Tory MPs and the Government adopt such a hard line on the cross-border constituency. Border-blurring is a key element in helping to efface the cultural integrity of Cornwall.
From the devonwallers’ perspective the asset of the Cornish heritage and Cornwall’s case for special treatment are threats that could potentially weaken their corporate campaign for devonwall. In the long-run Cornish ‘difference’ must be erased or sanitised and domesticated, so that it’s safe for tourism but drained of any insurrectionary potential.
Look beyond the fine, if vague, words and the PR hype that surrounded the South West Growth Summit and we find an altogether blunter real world agenda. This demands never-ending material growth and population expansion in order to feed never-ending profits, profits for the devonwall companies and for their corporate house-building chums. Is this why South West Water, which enjoys the unique privilege for a private sector organisation of being a statutory consultee on every planning application, appears never to object to any of those applications, however much they overload the sewerage system or increase the risk of flooding?
In pursuit of this aim South West Water’s carefully crafted image as a ‘really good corporate citizen’, according to Exeter University Chancellor Lord Myners, dissolves into the seedier reality of being the bully on the block. Just before he was ignominiously ejected from the Commons by the electorate in 2015, Lib Dem MP Steve Gilbert tabled an early day motion. In full, it read as follows:
That this House notes that residents of Brooks Corner, Par, Cornwall, have suffered from flooding on scores of occasions over more than a decade; further notes that South West Water Limited has failed to resolve the flooding issues in the area; acknowledges that South West Water Limited has paid a settlement to some residents in return for a non-disclosure agreement; is concerned that South West Water Limited’s parent company, the Pennon Group Plc, has subsequently sought to prevent residents from raising concerns about South West Water Limited’s handling of the issues at Brooks Corner with their elected representatives and legal representatives; is deeply concerned that lawyers at the Pennon Group Plc have sought to apply pressure on both the residents and their legal counsel; and encourages South West Water Limited to take the necessary steps to fulfil promises made to residents to resolve the flooding issues and to desist from threatening residents and their legal representatives from sanctions subsequent to raising their concerns.
It comes as little surprise that this long-running scandal at Par has received sparse coverage in the local media. What coverage it did get in the Cornish Guardian is now suspiciously difficult to access or has disappeared from the paper’s website.
It can’t be a coincidence that the Cornish Guardian (and the West Briton) is part of the same media group as the Western Morning News. Always keen to publicise devonwall events where those attending pat each other on the backs and tell each other what grand chaps (and chapesses) they are, they’re less willing to investigate and expose their everyday activities on the ground.
Do we want to be part of a devonwall run by the likes of South West Water? Or do we want a Cornwall run by people who live and work here in Cornwall, people who put its communities first? The answer seems obvious.