Communists from across the South West region, from Gloucestershire to Cornwall and from Minehead to Bournemouth, met in Exeter on Saturday (19th Feb) to establish a new District of the party. The new District, to be called the South-West of England and Cornwall, matches the territory of the South West Regional TUC.
In a hall decked with the banners of the various branches there was a very positive mood and Ken Keable, who had played the interim and semi-official role of Branch Co-ordinator for the region since 2007, said “not only is the wind of change blowing through North Africa and the Middle East, but there is a breeze of change blowing through the South West as well. People who “don’t do politics” are finding that politics does them.”
All the CPB branches have grown in size and strength over the past year. In this region, an electoral stronghold of the Tories and Lib-Dems, the Coalition is in trouble and this will become more evident in the local elections on 5th May. The Somerset Branch, where the Tories are in control, reported how the Lib-Dems were opposing cuts locally that they were imposing nationally. Other members reported similar tensions elsewhere.
The congress affirmed Party policy recognising the special position of Cornwall as a Celtic nation within Britain, aspiring to have its own Assembly on a par with the Welsh Assembly. Cornish language scholar John Chambers, of Penzance, said that this “leaves the door open” for the Cornwall Branch to explore links with Cornish nationalist organisations.
The congress supported the idea of using the Local Government Act 1972 to require local referenda to be held in parishes in each constituency where the MP was a Lib-Dem minister in the Coalition, asking that those ministers resign from the government and return to the back benches.
The congress elected a District Committee of five men and three women, which in turn elected Liz Payne as Chair and Ken Keable as District Secretary.
In a wide-ranging speech on national and international affairs, CPB General Secretary Rob Griffiths told the congress “You have taken a tremendous step forward today”.