Parliamentary sketch – Cornwall: Consensus is better than conflict

Posted on: 9th May 2013

The People of Cornwall have spoken. As the dust settles from the local election it is clear that voters have opted for everyone, and no-one.

No party has the right to claim victory or entitlement. The largest group, the Liberal Democrats, have fewer than 30% of the Councillors. “Independents” not far behind.

So, Cornwall has a choice. It could 1.) ignore the electorate; the challenges faced by the Council; put narrow party political interest above that of Cornwall and engage in the usual, routine tribalism which successfully destroys initiative and saps energy. Or it could 2.) put aside the soft toys of political tribalism, and seek common cause by putting the interests of Cornwall above partisan politics.

This is less hard to do than may appear on the surface. After all, most of those elected to Cornwall Council would agree that the Council should:

  • protect and enhance frontline services;
  • improve housing opportunities for local families;
  • embrace the “green” agenda to drive the economy, energy, waste and transport policy;
  • take more decisions in our communities than in remote County Hall;
  • always seek greater cost efficiency;
  • work to promote the Cornish economy and economic regeneration; and
  • jointly campaign for Cornwall, fair funding and to promote our distinctive case.


So, I hope they can concentrate on that. This means all parties should come together to draw up that agenda.

When seeking to govern in Cornwall’s best interests the immaturity of political tribalism is merely an obstacle, not a benefit. I appreciate that a jolly good lynching of your political opponents is one of the most effective ways of cheering your own party, inspiring some of your core supporters, but that is usually only within the narrow confines of the political, chattering and media classes.

Forming a Coalition – especially when it’s with parties you consider to be your “mortal enemy” – doesn’t just require nerves of steel and a strong stomach. It also requires abstaining from the customary comfort zone of opposition for oppositions’ sake antics.

Cornwall needs its new Councillors to come together; to identify where they agree rather than merely tediously relisting areas of disagreement. That may be a culture shock for some. Some have an outstanding record of castigating and finding fault with everyone, being consumed by vengeance and obsessed with vendettas. Perhaps, for them, the conversion to consensus politics may be too great?

Actually doing Coalition should be a relatively straight forward exercise, once you get used to it. You get on and do the things on which you agree; seek compromise where you don’t. And where you fail to achieve compromise, you widen rather than narrow the group of people you consult. So Cornwall’s full Council and the wider electorate should be consulted when those who emerge as leaders fail to achieve a consensus. They shouldn’t just do a back-room stitch up.

If the new Cornwall Council can pull off a broad “rainbow coalition”, I for one will feel there is hope of success for our Duchy.


Andrew George MP

7th May 2013