Cotswold Voice: A futile freedom for Cornwall
PUBLISHED: 13:00 03 June 2014
The Cornish bleat that they are an oppressed minority with their own culture, but I would argue that the same case could be made for the Cotswolds
As futile gestures go it is difficult to imagine a more futile one than the announcement by Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, that Cornwall was not just another part of England but that it was now classified as having ‘minority status’ under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
The reason the Cornish have been given minority status is… well, to be absolutely honest, nobody has the faintest idea. Its only modern claim to fame is as a ‘chav Brittany’ with its inedible pasties, vulgar surfers and balsa wood models of fishing boats. It is also noted for, I suppose, bucket and spade holidays, a fish restaurant run by a celebrity chef and, in the winter, the longest dole queues in the UK.
Loveday Jenkins, the deputy leader of the Cornish Party, Mebyon Kernow, says that the minority status is a ‘milestone’ and it means that Cornwall will no longer be seen as ‘just another county in England’. She says; “We don’t want to be dictated to by Westminster in relation to, for instance, the number of houses that are needed or when we can use our language.” Meanwhile Cornish writer Petroc Trelawny says “Once the Cornish were a profoundly independent trading nation with its own royal line and language.” And he adds that the Cornish are intensely proud of who they are and furthermore he says “nowadays Cornwall is a world class tourist destination with Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury hotels and champagne flutes as standard in today’s Holiday Lets.”
I am not sure that a champagne flute in a Holiday Let is a good enough reason for the EEC to decide on giving ‘minority status’ to an obscure English county, but if Cornwall can lay claim to the title then I see no reason why we, in the Cotswolds, shouldn’t enjoy the same exclusive rights (we have champagne flutes too).
After all, both Cornwall and the Cotswolds can claim that the majority of its people are either retired or tourists. Both places are in a large part Areas of Outstanding Beauty, both were once powerful economic forces (tin and sheep respectively), both have miles and miles of stone walls and both put their name to a fudge.
Of course, the Cornish bleat that they are an oppressed minority descended from ancient Celts with their own culture, customs, traditions and language. But I would argue that the same case could be made for the Cotswolds.
Floras Day in Helston, Mazey Day in Penzance and the ’Obby Oss Day in Padstow are cited as ancient Cornish festivals. But in the Cotswolds we have our own celebrations – Cheese Rolling, Woolsack Racing and Morris dancing to say nothing of the annual toff and gypsy horse fairs at Badminton and Stow respectively.
We too in the Cotswolds have a royal line. Much of the eastern Cotswolds was hunting grounds for the kings of England from Ethelred the Unready to King Charles I, who also fought the Parliamentarians in 1644 at Stow-on-the-Wold. The Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal both have houses here and Prince William used to shop at the Cirencester Waitrose. And then there are the famous with strong connections to the Cotswolds from William Shakespeare to Kate Moss. The best Cornwall can manage is a few well known potters, Rick Stein and Mick Fleetwood, the drummer of Fleetwood Mac.
Furthermore the Cotswolds natives are more oppressed than the Cornish. Let’s face it, most people in England hate those of us who live in these hills. They hate the fact that we have more rich bankers and hedge funders per square mile than anywhere other than The Square Mile itself. They hate our red trousers, our £200 pairs of green gumboots, our new Chelsea Tractors, our Farrow & Ball colours and our smart dinner parties. In particular they hate our patois.
The mother tongue of the Cotswolds is inflammatory. The private school dialect, the exclusive Christian names, and the ‘okay yah’ slang is a minority language that is the butt of much British prejudice. Many practitioners of the Cotswolds lingo find they have to moderate their speech in order to be acceptable to ordinary folk. For like the Cornish, who when they speak in their native tongue find themselves reviled, so too do those who converse in a Cotswold Bray.
For all the above reasons I believe that the Cotswolds should be given ‘minority status’ by the EEC. It won’t happen of course because we don’t have a Liberal Democrat MP who is Chief Secretary to the Treasury. And who is desperate for his party to hang onto its seats in the west, and therefore needs to make a futile gesture.
This article by Adam Edwards is from the June 2014 issue of Cotswold Life