Donald Maclean MP at his election celebrations in North Cornwall in 1931 (photograph courtesy of North Cornwall Liberal Democrats)

Investigating Cornwall’s political past and present

Cornwall’s political heritage and relationship with Westminster is being explored in a new research programme.

Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, launched the new Cornish Political Studies Programme based at the Institute of Cornish Studies, at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus.

Dr Garry Tregidga, Assistant Director of the Institute of Cornish Studies, said:“Our aim is to investigate the political culture of Cornwall both in the past and present. A sense of distinctiveness is evident at a variety of levels, including the regional strength of the Liberal Democrats and the recent challenge of Mebyon Kernow. In particular, the survival of an Independent tradition in local government makes Cornwall stand out, and it is these factors that will be explored, compared and contrasted with other Celtic and European regions.”

The new programme will cover research into historical 20th century personalities like Isaac Foot and Beatrice Rathbone, and wider themes including electoral behaviour, political traditions and community governance.

In addition, analysis of election statistics, including the results of forthcoming elections to Cornwall Council and the European Parliament, will be studied in depth. Researchers plan to make a series of oral history recordings with individuals from across the political spectrum. They intend to conduct interviews with all of Cornwall’s MPs, leading members of Cornwall Council and members of the public.

John Ault, a political historian at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus, said:“Cornwall’s political history stands out from the norm because of the nature of the area. As part of our research we want to build on the local communities’ memories of their involvement in or awareness of Cornish politics. Whatever people can find in their loft or remember from an event they attended, we want to hear from them.”

At a later stage in the research, findings from the Cornish Political Studies Programme will be shared with academics, policymakers and the general public through a series of publications, lectures and exhibitions.  

An inaugural conference will be held on the Cornwall Campus on Friday 21 June on the subject of ‘The Politics of the Celtic Fringe’. The event is free-of-charge and open to members of the public, for further information contact or telephone 01326 371 888.

Date: 15 April 2013

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