THE ISLE OF MAN: The Isle of Man is too small for big nationalist political parties

The National:

Last month the Isle of Man celebrated its national holiday, Tynwald Day, named for the parliament of the island which is reckoned to be the oldest continuously operated parliament in the world.

It is an establishment of which the Manx people are proud, and they are also glad to be a Crown Dependency rather than a fully incorporated part of the United Kingdom – in the past it was ruled by Scotland and England, but never joined the UK.

The trouble with Man is that it is too small for big political parties and the only real Manx Nationalist Party – though they never call themselves nationalists – is Mec Vannin, the name meaning Sons of Mann.

The party has been around since the early 1960s, and while members of the Tynwald are usually non-party political in name, many supporters of Mec Vennin have made it into the Tynwald.

Some try to portray Mec Vannin as an anti-immigrant party, and that’s fair enough as their policy is stated as such: “The rapid and unnatural population increase, due to an open door policy on immigration, has increased the burden on the island’s infrastructure and environment whilst eroding the fabric of community life. As a result, Mec Vannin believes the immediate introduction of immigration controls to be a priority.

“A careful balance between population, infrastructure and environment must be maintained to ensure the long-term viability of the island’s economy, ecology and quality of life.”

In all other aspects, however, Mec Vannin is social democratic and even left-wing in nature. Its declared aim is “to achieve national independence for Mann as a sovereign state, based on a republican form of government. To further and safeguard the interests of Mann. To protect the individual and collective rights of its people”.

On the lax tax regime which makes Man so attractive to the wealthy, the party states: “Although such Mec Vannin policies as have been adopted by governments in the Isle of Man have proven successful, the administrations continue to be quite obviously the hand-maidens of wealthy tax-avoiders, both individual and corporate.

“The policies that attract these entities to the Island have overwhelmingly been to the detriment of the Manx people who have been subject to marginalisation, minoritisation and discrimination.”

The party doesn’t like the international financial institutions which have set up home in the island’s capital, Douglas, and elsewhere on Man.

“Mec Vannin remains fundamentally opposed to the presence of the international finance industry in Mann,” they state.

“We believe it to be morally dubious for both ourselves and for its effects upon the Third World.

“From an economic standpoint, we do not believe that reliance upon this transient industry will secure our long-term future.”

In May’s elections, the Tynwald saw a distinct lurch to the right in its membership which brought a stinging condemnation from Mec Vannin.

They stated: “This does not augur well for the less privileged in our community or the Manx people as a nation.

“At a time of financial hardship, the working and disabled poor are the ones that take the biggest hit.

“We should be ashamed that in our country, where riches abound, there are food banks.

“Obviously continuing the tradition of being in bed with the Chamber of Commerce, rather than investing in the local people who have a vested interest in succeeding, another open invitation to the wide boys for whom it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work – it’s our money not theirs going down the pan. Further erosion of the work permit regulations is a sure way of inviting a low-wage economy for workers with rich pickings for the bosses.

“Strict work permit regulations must be implemented. Government must not kowtow to the narrow interests of Chamber of Commerce.

“The Government must invest in future of its people, particularly the traditional industries that will provide food security and restrict imports that we ourselves can provide.

“We need a progressive income tax to pay for essential services and utilities. Essential, means those things that a civilised nation should expect – freedom from hunger, shelter, physical and mental health care, the means through education to achieve a productive future for subsequent generations.

“We need a government that will act as a national government rather than an English county council with income tax powers. The objective should be to protect and nurture the people of the Isle of Man, in particular the vulnerable. This is surely not too much to ask.

“Mec Vannin has tasked itself to challenge the Government on every occasion it strays from doing what it is honour-bound to do – that is, to do what is in the best interests of the Isle of Man and its people.”

There is no overwhelming demand for a referendum on the future of the Isle of Man, but after more than 50 years, Mec Vannin is still campaigning for a different future.


CORNWALL: Cornwall has its own distinct identity, language and culture

The National:

Ask most Cornish people whether or not Cornwall is a county and if they know its history they will tell you that it’s a whole lot bigger than that.

The men of Cornwall once marched on London in armed revolt, albeit several centuries ago, and nowadays many Cornish people would like to see greater autonomy for their land. Cornwall is also now recognised as a “minority” with its own language and status by the UK Government.

It also has a split nationalist movement and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is not the only national party leader in the UK to worry about the word “national” in its title.

The Cornish National Party that was founded in 1975 to promote the idea of self-determination for the people of Cornwall has suffered in the past from being linked in people’s minds to the British National Party. After all, the CNP is only one letter away from the BNP.

The party strongly denies any such links on its website, stating “we totally reject violence, extremism, or terrorist activity of any kind”.

Yet it is very much playing second fiddle to the Mebyon Kernow, Sons of Cornwall, aka the Party for Cornwall, which was formed in 1951 and is a member of the European Free Alliance and has links to the Breton Democratic Union, Plaid Cymru in Wales and the SNP.

The party now has four seats on Cornwall Council and its vote has grown steadily if not spectacularly, though not enough to contest Theresa May’s election in June.

Party leader Dick Cole, 49, has been in that job for 20 years, and he has been a councillor for the past eight years. He wrote the book which is seen as the bible of modern Cornish nationalism called Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism.

He was asked what “Cornish nationalist” means and gave this reply: “To me, the answer is quite simple. Cornwall is a historic entity with its own distinct identity, language and heritage. It is a nation – just like Scotland and Wales. Every person who seeks the greater recognition of the nation of Cornwall or campaigns for self-government for Cornwall or positively promotes Cornish identity, is therefore, by extension, a Cornish nationalist.

“What is important is that our approach to politics is inclusive and outward-looking. I am particularly proud that we campaign for a better deal for all the people of Cornwall and are never afraid to make a stand on global issues with significance far beyond our borders.”


YORKSHIRE: Another proud area left behind by Westminster

The National:

For many years now, it has been a standing joke that Yorkshire really is a wee country on its own, probably republican, definitely socialist or at least left-leaning.

For the past three years, Yorkshire has had its own political party advocating all things Yorkshire, and they are doing surprisingly well for such a young party, though all 21 candidates – a fifth of them LGBTI – at the June General Election lost their deposit.

It could not really be called a nationalist party, but it is most definitely a “regionalist” movement and is recognised as such by the European Free Alliance of which it is a member.

Party leader Stewart Arnold recently explained what the party is all about: “Set up in 2014 to fight the European Parliament elections, the Yorkshire Party is tapping into a sense of grievance that while other parts of the United Kingdom are making the most of the various devolution deals granted over the past 20 years, Yorkshire with its enormous potential, is being left behind.

“It took 10 months from her installation in office and the calling of a General Election to make the Prime Minister set foot in Yorkshire. Even then it was to a closed meeting of the party faithful in Leeds.

“But that disregard for Yorkshire by Westminster-based parties is not uncommon. Successive governments have chosen to simply leave Yorkshire behind, ignoring the value of the Yorkshire people in favour of centralising power and funds in London.

“The Yorkshire economy has had to totally re-engineer itself in less than a generation, but has continued to struggle without the appropriate support for education and skills, and infrastructure.

“Rural areas are equally neglected: villages now lack schools and other public services on which their contribution to the wider economy was founded.

“The important farming sector has been left in doubt about its future following the vote to leave the EU and little has been said to ease its fears.

“The nations, regions and cities that make up the rest of the UK are forging their own futures as powers (albeit limited in some cases) are decentralised. Yet Yorkshire with its five million people, its hugely significant economy and its sense of identity and community going back 1500 years, is unable to unleash the undoubted potential that exists here.”

That is an authentic Yorkshire voice speaking, and it is a reminder, as if any were needed, that England has its own regions that, like so many parts of Scotland, cannot abide Westminster rule.