On Tuesday, the Coalition announced that it would no longer be giving money away to China, Russia and a long list of other countries. Opinion polling suggests that two-thirds of voters query the priority given to foreign aid during this gloomy ‘age of austerity’ at home. (After all, this is money we borrow in order to give away and therefore have to pay interest on.) Labour, having espoused ‘joined-up thinking’ while in office, now denounces the targeting of aid to achieve security and other foreign policy goals. A surer target might have been to point out that the Coalition wants a Pig Society at home, where charity replaces the State and bankers pocket the difference, but wants to not only ring-fence but increase State intervention in other peoples’ countries.
We have reason to be suspicious of all the wildly whirling agendas. Tying vulnerable economies into providing us with the food and other resources we won’t provide for ourselves is not an ‘ethical’ foreign policy. It would be far better to leave well alone so that others can choose for themselves their relationship with development. Instead we underwrite with guns the elites who seize the crops to keep us fed. And then we wonder where Third World immigration comes from. Wouldn’t you want to follow the crops to see where they go?
The latest wheeze, to link aid to security, has all the markings of Danegeld. Don’t bomb us or we won’t pay you not to. So for how long do we pay? We paid the Vikings until they decided to help themselves to England. We paid the Barbary pirates for two centuries, so it looks as if the Somali ones need never work again.
But the biggest part of the big picture is that which describes our place in the global economy. We are told that our quality of life must be sacrificed to enable UK plc to ‘compete’ in world markets. We must join the race to the bottom, striving to match the costs of economies that rely on what is little better than slave labour. The word ‘compete’ is used in quotes because we are told that China, India, etc. are our competitors in this life-and-death struggle, yet we have been happy to subsidise their space programmes and nuclear weapons development, however indirectly, through foreign aid. If the competition were genuine, we would not be doing all in our power to enable their industries to undercut ours. The reality is that UK plc is a monstrous myth. No British government has any interest in our prosperity. It only cares for its own.
The alternative is protectionism, which ticks all the boxes. Especially, it accustoms us to an economy less dependent on moving goods around, which will become less of an option as the Oil Age ends. Nothing scares the financial class like the ‘p’ word. Which is why we are not allowed to mention it in polite company. But we have. We have ever since our 12-point programme in 1979, which argued for current revenues from our natural resources to be invested in building a region self-sufficient in energy, nutrition and all essential manufactured goods. Since then, Wessex has lost 32 irreplaceable years, lost in a Maggie-in-Wonderland world of ever-increasing prosperity and ever-expanding credit for which the first of many bills has now arrived. So don’t dare say you weren’t warned.
Naturally, as regionalists, we are not talking about ‘Imperial Preference’ here. Goods imported from, say, Brittany or Normandy imply a smaller carbon footprint than those from Northumbria or Scotland, let alone Canada or New Zealand. We cannot have jingoists in London or Paris imposing malignant barriers to trade with our neighbours. But trade rules that reflect the true cost of burning precious oil to bring us what we could have obtained locally, regionally or inter-regionally cannot come soon enough. Many good trends are becoming evident right now - Wales has voted for more powers, oil prices are rocketing, London politicians are looking increasingly out-of-touch with reality. Now is the time to seize this opportunity and make the case for local life and regional rule. Here, there and everywhere.