Labour Party members in North Cornwall have elected Bude’s Ray Shemilt to represent them at this year’s national party conference in Liverpool – and he has the chance to make history, if enough activists back calls for the creation of a Cornwall Labour Party.
Ray Shemilt, North Cornwall delegate to Labour Conference 2018
The Labour Party is traditionally organised into local branches, Parliamentary constituency parties and regional groups. In addition to dozens of local branches, there are six constituency Labour parties in Cornwall. The current South West regional group has its head office in Bristol.
But when Ray gets to Liverpool in September he will have the job of proposing a North Cornwall constituency motion calling for a new, Cornwall-based Labour Party with many aspects of internal organisation devolved to the Duchy – in the same way that Scotland and Wales already have their own Labour Parties.
“This will be my first national Labour Party conference,” said Mr Shemilt, “and I’m really looking forward to it. There will be lots of interesting debates on a wide range of policies, but the proposal from my own local party has the potential to fundamentally change the way the Labour Party is organised in Cornwall and that’s really quite exciting.”
If successful, the North Cornwall proposal will make Labour the first major national party to have its own bespoke Cornwall-wide organisation, with its own party leader. Party activists believe that such an organisation would be better able to influence local government issues, particularly the £1.2 billion annual budget administered by Cornwall Council at County Hall in Truro.
Labour Party membership in Cornwall has rocketed since last year’s general election. There are now several thousand individual members in Cornwall and the idea is that Labour’s internal organisation needs to adapt to the new situation. Labour now has two target seats in Cornwall and at last year’s election, beat the Liberal Democrats into third place in Cornwall.
The North Cornwall proposal calls for the creation of a Cornwall Labour Party which shall
- be funded from a percentage of individual national membership fees and affiliated organisations
- developLabour Party policy and co-ordinate organisation across the whole of Cornwall
- have powers to appoint full-time professional organisers, including a general secretary
- hold an annual conference to consider policies relevant to Cornwall, particularly in relation to Cornwall Council, one of the largest and most powerful unitary authorities in Britain
- elect, from the widest possible franchise of individual Labour Party members and affiliated organisations, the leader of the Labour group on Cornwall Council and the leader of the Cornwall Labour Party, and
- that such a Cornwall Labour Party shall be launched, formally, before 2020, at a special conference to be attended by the national Labour Party leader.
Work is already underway to hold a Cornwall Labour Party conference in early 2020. Activists have invited party leader Jeremy Corbyn and hope he will be able to attend.