News in April that Cornwall has been granted minority status by the Council of Europe was met with joy by some groups. Many locals are much less keen. The status puts Cornwall on a par with the Welsh, Scots and Irish as a minority entitled to protection against “assimilation”, whatever that means. It brings no legal status or money.
Typical of reactions on BBC Cornwall’s online discussion was Ben Lean: “I already knew I was Cornish. I don’t need some European mumbo-jumbo to tell me that.”
European bodies are not alone in promoting the politics of separate “identity”. Enthusiasts are now keen to promote the Cornish language through bilingual roadsigns to strengthen the Cornish “brand”, even though fewer than 1,000 of the 532,000 inhabitants speak it.
Cornwall has its particular problems with seasonal unemployment and housing bought as second homes. But it has far more in common with the rest of Britain: destruction of industry, lack of decent jobs and wages for locals, especially the young, pockets of real poverty side by side with growth of extreme wealth for a few individuals. The only identity we should recognise is that of the British working class. ■