The (Dis)United Kingdom has a new King and Cornwall has a new Duke. Perhaps Prince William would like to have a word with the water company that is relentlessly pouring raw sewage onto Cornish beaches, and with the MPs who have failed to stop this, suggests Tom Scott.
With politics suspended for ten days and the TV news dominated by an endless loop of royal clips and reminiscences, South West Water joined nearly every organisation in the land to pay tribute to Elizabeth II for “her unfaltering public service over the last 70 years and more”.
But as the nation pauses to reflect on the arcane mysteries of monarchic succession, life – and indeed business – must go on. And for South West Water, “unfaltering public service” has meant no interruption to the business of pumping raw sewage onto Cornish beaches.
On the very day that Elizabeth II joined her ancestors, anyone who took to the beach at Longrock, between Marazion and Penzance, perhaps to seek consolation in the natural beauties of “this precious stone set in the silver sea”, was hit by what local councillor Richard Stokoe described as the “vomit-inducing” stench of sewage that had been pumped just offshore from the beach – the nineteenth such incident at this spot so far this bathing season.
The following day, an interactive map by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), revealed that this was far from being an isolated incident: no fewer than 26 other beaches in Cornwall had pollution warnings in place.
In October, all but one of Cornwall’s MPs voted down an amendment that would have explicitly outlawed this desecration of our inshore waters. This was only to be expected of MPs whose main function is to act as lobby fodder for anything their government may wish to inflict on us. But Scott Mann, MP for North Cornwall, took to Facebook to explain his reasons for refusing to vote for such an amendment. Mainly, these boiled down to money:
“These costs would inevitably be passed onto taxpayers or water bill payers. No sensible legislator could have backed this.”
The fact that the privatised water companies responsible for this pollution have handed £72bn in dividends to their shareholders since privatisation seemed to trouble Mr Mann and his fellow MPs in Cornwall not at all. Many might ask what these “Conservatives” imagine they are conserving, other than the right for natural monopolies to make exceedingly large profits.
Mr Mann, along with almost every other MP in the country, has paid fulsome public tribute to the late Queen and loudly hailed the accession of Charles III.
Perhaps the representative for North Cornwall and his patriotic colleagues might like to reflect on the fact that all of Cornwall’s beaches are the property of the Crown. In Cornwall’s case, they belong to the Duchy of Cornwall, along with many stretches of river that have also seen a very high number of serious pollution incidents over the past few years.
I wonder how Prince William, the new Duke of Cornwall, feels about having Cornwall’s beaches plastered with human excrement because our elected representatives feel that it is too expensive to put a legal duty on the water companies to force them to end this disgusting practice?
He may need to explain to Mr Mann and his colleagues that when Shakespeare referred to “this royal throne of kings” he was not envisaging a filth-bespattered public toilet.