'Chefs in Cornish terror threat' ran the headline in The Sun of the 14th June 2007, reporting the news that "a new and sinister name in regional extremism" had emerged in the form of the Cornish National Liberation Army which had issued threats against the celebrity chefs Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver. As it happens, The Sun, in common with the rest of Fleet Street, was simply rehashing a story that had appeared in the previous day's Western Morning News, a local Cornish newspaper, which had received an email from a body describing itself as the CNLA Directing Council. This email, which was apparently sent through an Arabic web hosting service based in Egypt, announced that;
"At a recent joint meeting, members and financial supporters of the An Gof militant organisation (founded 1980 and reformed 2007) and the Cornish Liberation Army agreed to dissolve their respective organisations and to combine all resources and reform as the Cornish National Liberation Army (CNLA). Substantial funding has been received to continue what have previously been low-key activities with donors from the other Celtic nations as well as the United States."
The organisation An Gof - the Smith, was named in commemoration of Michael Joseph, a blacksmith who led the Cornish rebellion of 1497, and originally surfaced during the 1980s when it claimed responsibility for;
(If you are wondering why anyone would want to burn down a hairdresser's shop, the answer is that it was apparently mistaken for a branch of the Bristol and West Building Society
There were also reports that An Gof had claimed to have buried broken glass beneath Portreath beach in an attempt to disrupt the tourist trade, although others claim this was simply a piece of black propaganda put about by Special Branch. In any event no one was ever charged with any offence arising from these attacks, and the membership of the organisation remains unknown.
After two decades of inactivity An Gof later resurfaced in March 2007 and issued a statement threatening that "any attempts from hereon to fly the hated and oppressive Flag of St George, which we know as the blood banner in our country, will result in direct action by our organisation". The threatened 'direct action' was duly carried out at Tresillian and on "Bodmin Moor cafes" where An Gof activists removed the offending banners and replaced them with the Flag of St Piran.
As far as the Cornish Liberation Army are concerned they appear to be responsible for a graffiti campaign which involves painting slogans such as 'Free Cornwall' on motorway bridges.
Now these two organisations have decided to combine forces to
home rule for Cornwall and the provision of affordable housing. It is in pursuance of these objectives that the CNLA have threatened to bring a "rosy glow" to the premises of both Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver, so-called 'celebrity chefs'. They have additionally claimed that "One of our activists was a member of the Free Wales Army who were responsible for burning of English holiday homes in that Country", which presumably means that they might well possess the expertise to construct the neccessary time delayed incendiary devices.
At this point many will be in a similar position to Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives who was quoted as saying "what I really don't understand is why they're picking on celebrity chefs". To explain; Rick Stein has run a famous seafood restaurant in the Cornish resort of Padstow for a number of years, whereas Jamie Oliver is a more recent arrival, having only recently opened the Fifteen restaurant at Watergate Bay, near Newquay. The CNLA however regards them as examples of 'incomers' who have "caused the inflation of house and other living costs at Cornish expense". Which is in fact one of the major gripe of many Cornish natives, who complain that the steady influx of wealthy outsiders buying up second homes in the area are driving up prices beyond the reach of locals. To rub home the point the Western Morning News carried a story on the 22nd June on a mere parking space at St Ives which had just gone on the market for £24,000. Of course no one believes that this is all down to a few restaurateurs, but then they are 'celebrity' chefs, and by threatening their businesses the CNLA has achieved a quite remarkable level of nationwide publicity for an organisation whose membership is very likely only just scraping into double figures.
Nevertheless the Devon and Cornwall Police appear to have taken the matter seriously and have set up a task force to investigate the group. Possible evidence of the CNLA's operations emerged on the 20th June The Cornish Guardian (sister paper of the Western Morning News) received a further email from the CNLA which claimed responsibility for a fire at an empty office block located on the site of a former brewery at Redruth on Sunday 17th JUne. According to this communication the CNLA were "trying out various types of incendiary devices" and "needed to test the devices in an urban environment" although they apologised for the "inconvenience caused to our public services". (Then again maybe it was only some teenager firestarters.)
The Cornwall Tourist Board has been at pains to insist that none of the above should dissuade anyone from visiting Cornwall and similarly the European Union financed Objective One Partnership has expressed concerns that such activities will damage their attempts at economic regeneration. Dick Cole, the leader of Mebyon Kernow (the responsible face of Cornish Nationalism) offered the view that he was "very saddened that we seem to have a handful of people running around masquerading as some pseudo-terrorist group, threatening businesses and their customers." Which is quite possibly the only sensible thing anyone had to say on the subject.
- Lyn Barton, Death Threats To Stein And Oliver, Western Morning News, 13 June 2007
- Cornish Extremist 'Carried Out Arson Attack', Western Morning News, 21 June 2007
- John Coles, Chefs in Cornish terror threat, The Sun, June 14, 2007
- Richard Savill, Cornish firebomb threat to top chefs, Daily Telegraph 14/06/2007
- Patrick Foster, Celebrity chefs told ‘get out of Cornwall’ by separatists The Times June 14, 2007
- Fighting them on the beaches, The Guardian, June 15, 2007