Friday, May 30, 2014

Frying-Pans & Fires

With the dust now settled on the Euro-elections, let’s take a look at who will be speaking for Wessex in Brussels and Strasbourg.  Well, not just Wessex.  We have 16 MEPs, 6 of them shared with Cornwall and the other 10 shared with just a few of the more peripheral parts of the Londonian region.

In terms of share of the electorate, ‘none of the above’ were the runaway winners.  There’s been the usual snotty whining from the Left about non-voters failing to plump for the least worst option and so letting UKIP in.  The London cartel are all in favour of greater turnout just as long as they benefit.  They’re not in favour of re-writing electoral law to remove the barriers to smaller, alternative parties getting a foot in the door.

So much for votes, what about the seats?  We have 6 UKIP MEPs (including Nigel Farage), 5 Tories, 2 Labour, 2 Greens, and the one surviving FibDem.  Among those not retaining their seats this time was Sir Graham Watson, the ‘Southwest’ FibDem most memorable for thinking that Wessex is another name for Dorset.  (So clearly no great loss.)  Compare these results with 2009, when we had 4 UKIP, 7 Tories, 3 FibDems, and one each for Labour and the Greens.

The media frenzy has focused on UKIP’s gains.  Most unfairly.  The hard core of Euroscepticism has run at about 25% for the past 40 years, so all that the results achieve is to give it unmistakeable party political expression for the first time.  The pro-EU bloc won the election, both within the UK and across Europe generally.  The Tories are only upset because they didn’t do it single-handedly.  Be assured, come next May’s Westminster election the protest votes will return to the Tory fold as quickly as you can say ‘oh no, Labour government ahead’.

Which may be true.  But that’s not to say that a protest vote can be dismissed as such.  The fact that life-long Tories can cast a protest vote at all is bound to chill the air at Tory Central Office.  In Wessex the UKIP vote leapt by 10 percentage points in ‘The South West’ and 13 points in ‘The South East’, in both areas passing 32% of votes cast.  (Within Wessex, district by district, UKIP did best in the far west and the far south, the areas of more restricted prosperity.)

Why?  Black propaganda, of course.  Regulations for straight bananas and all that.  But also a refusal to open up European politics to the possibility of reform.  Of the major London parties, only the Greens really attempted to get that debate moving.  The other contenders appear locked in the Punch-and-Judy-show politics that views the EU as either the Fourth Reich or as a set of sacred texts, without which the sky would fall.  (Nick Clegg went so far as to say that the EU in ten years’ time will be like the EU today, which is hardly a stirring vision.)  Even David Cameron can get things right sometimes, more by accident than by design, but in questioning the doctrine of ‘ever closer union’ he has both hit on the truth and made many enemies among an unthinking elite of continental politicians.

The commitment to ‘ever closer union’, however much sense it made in the 1950s, has outlived its usefulness.  Either it goes or Europe will fail.  Either it is to be interpreted literally – as an unalterable trajectory towards a European unitary state whose regions have no power to choose their own destinies in isolation – or it is meaningless waffle of which we need have no fear.  It isn’t satisfactory that it hangs in the balance, either as something very sinister indeed or as really nothing at all.  Whichever it is, it has become the greatest obstacle to reasoned discussion on the future of Europe because it mandates, in theory even when not in practice, a one-way street from which there is no escape.  We should not consider ourselves bound by this dictatorship of the dead.

The EU wields huge judicial and financial power, but ultimately it all remains delegated power.  The judicial power could be curtailed by amending section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972 to make European Court rulings advisory rather than binding.  The financial power?  Stop sending the money.  If the EU is worth 1% of what it claims, send 1%.

It’s always been assumed that such things are impossible because of the diplomatic storm they would generate.  But a more Eurosceptic Europe creates an environment in which such storms are more easily weathered.  No-one is going to be expelled for unilaterally re-writing treaties that no longer work; others don’t always believe in ‘my word is my bond’.  Someone has to do the job of reforming Europe and it may as well start here.  Let the rest catch up when they’re ready.  In every way, a two-speed Europe: one stuck in the centralist past, the other forging ahead into a largely decentralist future.

Eurosceptics generally assume that you can only be ‘in’ or ‘out’ because they WANT to see the world in such stark terms, ones that re-inforce their own ideas about nation-state sovereignty versus regional and local autonomy.  The realpolitik is a lot more complex than that and will probably get a lot more so.  Europe is already many different Europes – the Council of Europe, the EU, the eurozone, Schengenland, etc – and no-one but a Jacobin would get upset over that.  A focus on pragmatism rather than uniformity might actually deliver some surprises.  Would the euro be a stronger currency if backed by the combined strength of Germany AND the UK?  Is the debate over whether economic union or political union is more important actually the wrong debate?  Should we look to cultural union instead, a celebration of Europe’s Graeco-Roman, Judaeo-Christian and Enlightenment heritage?  Would that create more opportunities for small nations and historic regions, as the practical bedrock of that pan-European culture, one long divided by centuries of war, imperialism and stereotypical mistrust?

Overt Euroscepticism has been on the rise not only in the UK but elsewhere across the EU.  As the UK has turned to UKIP, so France has turned to the Front National, which has condemned the EU for its failure to protect Europe from globalisation and, indeed, for being complicit in rolling it out.  The Left appear not to have any credible analysis of what’s going on (because they have no long-term historical memory), so let’s take a look at what the Right have been up to (because they do).

Guillaume Faye is a prominent thinker of the French New Right.  As a politician, his opinions are usually execrable.  As a philosopher, his theories are often challengeable.  As a prophet, he has an uncanny ability to be proved correct, so refusing to read his work would be unwise.  (Besides which, it’s always good to know what political rivals are thinking.)  Here he is, back in 2004, in Convergence of Catastrophes:

“European institutions, and especially the European Commission, are not defending Europe, but are destroying it…  Here are some points that underline this perverse trend:

1)                 By its directives, the European Commission arrogates to itself the powers of the Council of Ministers, completely illegally.  Manipulated by ‘committees of experts’, it systematically corrodes and undermines state sovereignties without replacing them with a federal political sovereignty and without being checked by the rump Parliament in Strasbourg.  The ‘Convention’ with Giscard d’Estaing as its President will probably make things worse.  The European Commission represents a technocratic despotism in a chemically pure state that exists nowhere else in the world.

2)                 European institutions flout the principle of subsidiarity and decentralisation and practice, on the contrary, a fussy and aggravated Jacobin centralism.  What business does Brussels have with the labelling of products in France or Italy, the procedures for making cheese in Normandy, or the maturing of oysters in Charental?  Have the ‘regionalists’ who support the current European Union not understood that the EU is in fact totally opposed to all regional autonomy?  In the USA, the states have great latitude in legislating in relevant areas – more so than European states!  Recently, several German Länder (regions) have noticed that the EU is eliminating the powers accorded them by the German federal state.

3)                 In all matters, the European Commission and the Parliament in Strasbourg are following a political and ideological line totally contrary to the interests of Europe: dogmatic global free trade, a low profile in the face of American commercial injunctions, encouraging the use of English, open borders immigrationism and militant Islamophilia and Holy Roller humanitarianism, matched by a total lack of political or geopolitical vision for Europe, which is replaced by the religious vulgate of human rights.

4)                 The expansion of the EU without any preparation into central Europe (indeed, into Turkey as well) will make whatever results unmanageable.  And it will cost a lot of money.  The countries that have applied for entry are first of all looking for subventions.  It is absurd to make countries participate in the same economic and monetary unit when the ratio of their standard of living is sometimes 1 to 5.  On 1 January 2004, the EU will grow from 15 to 25 members.  No one agrees on the size of the subventions to offer them.  A two-tier Europe will be established, and we shall see the unemployed of ten new countries pour into the West.  The ‘Convention’ with Giscard d’Estaing for its President has not made and will not make any proposal to revise the EU’s institutions to accommodate these new countries.

5)                 The initial project of the Treaty of Rome to construct an economy that was to be self-centred and protected over its large territory has been scandalously diverted from its objective and has generated a Europe open to the four winds as a result of immigration and the markets, whose currency is managed by no political authority.  The European Central Bank of Frankfurt lets the euro fluctuate at the will of the markets.  The result is that the European Union, stripped not only of its internal national boundaries, but of its external frontiers as well, cannot claim that it is becoming a ‘federal state’.

We have the worst alliance that can exist, combining ultra-liberalism and a subventionist and dirigist bureaucracy, quite the reverse of what should have been done.  Anyhow, if the USA has not been opposed to the ambition of the European Union, there is a reason.  This submissive, emasculated, headless Europe, which scores goals against its own side, suits the USA perfectly.  When asked the question, ‘Are you for or against the construction of the European Union?’ a high American functionary answered, ‘In favour, as long as it does not work.’”

The indictment is all too familiar, and has rarely been more boldly stated.  The case for the defence is founded in fear of the unknown, of the not-the-same-as-now, so don’t you dare.  Not in a positive rebuttal of the charge that the EU works for the destruction of all that variety of little things that make Europe Europe.  Après nous, le déluge.  The EU goes on gorging itself on the emotional capital of 1945 and the argument is wearing thin.  No wonder the parties viewed as the most anti-establishment are the parties picking up votes.  The Right in Denmark, France and the UK, the ‘alternatives’ in Spain, and both far Left and far Right in Greece.

In the UK, there could have been a real debate at the heart of this month’s elections.  Instead, for the next five years, the party of ‘Out’ has staked its claim to provide the sound and fury, signifying nothing.  The party of ‘In’ appears to have shuffled off this mortal coil, while power remains with the closed-ranks parties of ‘Am I Bothered?’  The parties of ‘Europe – But Not This Europe’ remain shoved to the margins in all but a few countries.

We are told, over and over, that the UKIP fire is the only alternative to the Brussels frying-pan, and vice versa.  It isn’t true – and that’s a point that needs to be argued a lot more loudly in future.  The EU will bend or it will break.  It’s time for the tired old defenders of Europe and Britain alike to give way to a more flexible view.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Wyvern Flies Again, No Thanks To Labour

News reaches us of a groundbreaking initiative by Wessex Society, the cultural association devoted to promoting our region’s identity.  To mark St Ealdhelm’s Day, which falls today, the Society offered Wyvern flags to all the county and unitary authorities in Wessex to fly outside their offices.

There has been a good take-up from county councils – Dorset, Isle of Wight, Somerset, Wiltshire – and some of the unitary districts – the Borough of Bournemouth, the City & County of Bristol, South Gloucestershire (who have two offices and so requested two flags), and the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.  Six of our eight shires are therefore included.  Wyvern flags are also flown, or have been flown recently, by the town councils in Wantage and Weston-super-Mare and at Oxford Castle and Winchester University.  Today’s omissions are mainly around the peripheries, where identity could be expected to be weaker, so give them time, but what happened to Hampshire County Council?  Are they trying to tell us that Winchester isn’t in Wessex?  How stupid do they want to look?

We are also told that Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities & Local Government planned to fly the Wyvern again this year outside their London headquarters but discovered, too late, that they had mislaid the flag.  You can just imagine what Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It would make of that.

While the political niche we fill is necessarily a narrow one – at this stage in the development of Wessex consciousness – the success of Wessex Society’s initiative should now silence those who insist that Wessex doesn’t exist at all and that there is no wider sense of identity into which a Wessex political movement can potentially tap.

What the initiative also reveals is where the real threat to Wessex lies.  Positive responses were received from half the county councils but only a quarter of the unitary districts.  Many unitaries are urban and three of them are controlled by Labour.  The overall response rate across Wessex was 33%; the response rate from Labour-run councils was precisely nil.  Nothing from Plymouth or Reading, while Southampton just dithered indefinitely.

Why?  The Labour movement is happy to come to Tolpuddle once a year; the RMT union’s Wessex branch even takes part with a gurt big wyvern on its banner.  Labour in government did nothing to lift the ban on our flag, leaving it to Eric Pickles to restore our freedom to fly.  But that’s history now.  Surely they’ve moved on?  So why the sour-faced refusal to join in the fun today?  Would Labour refuse to fly the Welsh dragon or the Scottish saltire in their respective home territories?

Or has some directive gone out from London that the boundaries of the Prescott zones are never, ever to be questioned, even in the interests of promoting a real regional identity capable of mobilising support for devolution across a significant chunk of the south of England?  Tell us, please, why DOES Labour hate Wessex so much?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Getting Our Own Back

Wessex Electricity, Wessex Trains, Wessex Water.  All run by managements located solely in Wessex.  All democratically accountable to a Wessex Witan.  Interfering London lawmakers and exploitative global finance just a fading memory of less pleasant times.

We can dream.  And why not?  A poll last autumn showed that two-thirds of the public – including some Tories – want to see public services taken back into public ownership.  One thing that transport and the utilities all have in common is a regional structure, so why not group them under regional assemblies?  There has always been a huge potential synergy between the case for devolution and the case for renewed public ownership.  The region – and its small nation equivalents – is the appropriate scale at which to rebuild our damaged democratic society.

What are the options?

Option 1 is a Labour government, scared of the City of London, that ignores public opinion, takes nothing into public ownership and – if past Labour governments are anything to go by – only speeds up the re-organisation of public services into foreign-owned profit centres.

Option 2 is a Labour government that attempts to re-run the 1940s, perhaps as part of a plan to re-invigorate 'the nation' in the aftermath of a 'No' vote in Scotland.  Services are re-nationalised but under monolithic British or Englandandwales corporations run from London.  Regional boards or offices, if they exist, are not really autonomous, their areas don’t match those used by other services and the folk they serve have no say over them except via Westminster and Whitehall.

Option 3 is a government, of any description, that devolves power to Wessex.  It’s the scenario described in the opening lines above.

Options 1 and 2 are real possibilities, 1 far more so than 2.  Option 3 is nothing but pure fantasy, if we expect Labour to deliver it.  Like it or not, the only way it will be delivered is through the Wessex Regionalist Party.  That will take time, of course, but no other way is possible.  (Prove us wrong!)

A Voice in Europe?

Postal ballot papers for the Euros have started to arrive, allowing some of us to see what ‘choice’, if any, the 'democratic' process has thrown up this time.

Although WR has contested European elections in the past, this was when the constituencies were smaller, single-member ones that did less damage to regional identity.  We have no candidates this time, having been systematically disadvantaged both geographically and financially.

The geography doesn’t help because the ‘regions’ used for the regional constituencies are still the (supposedly abolished) Prescott zones, not real regions with historic identities.  Wessex is split between two, the west added to Cornwall, the east embraced by the outer Londonian belt.

To contest two ‘regions’ would cost £10,000 in deposits before even a single leaflet could roll off the presses.  The election deposit is essentially a tax on smaller parties.  You get the money back if you poll more than 2.5% – but while you’re building up that support you’re repeatedly punished for having the nerve to challenge the established cartel.

Surely it would be worth it to get a party election broadcast though?  If only.  Stand in Scotland or Wales and you get your airtime even if you stand nowhere else.  Stand in one English ‘region’, or even two, and you don’t get a thing.  To qualify, you have to stand in all nine English ‘regions’.

That’s nonsense, of course.  It dismisses the whole point of a regional party.  Our audience is in Wessex, not Northumbria or East Anglia.  As Scotland and Wales show, there’s no technical reason why it can’t be done, since broadcasting in England still has a regional basis.  It’s pure ideological spite on the part of the London regime: a refusal to facilitate debate about the future of England, insisting that we are One – and that THEY are that One.

It would be possible to get round the rules by having some sort of ‘English regionalist list’, but why should it come to that?  It’s clearly not our business to stir up other parts of England that aren’t interested in rousing themselves.  And there’s no ‘Celtic nationalist list’, for good reason: the Celtic nations are all different, with different priorities.  And so are the English regions.  One thing we don’t want to do is play down our differences at the very point where proper constitutional accommodation of those differences is coming to be recognised as the real alternative to a dysfunctional UK dominated by London.

So you’re a Wessex Regionalist.  There’s no WR candidate.  Can you vote for any of the others?  Last time, in 2009, there was a Mebyon Kernow list in ‘The South West’, but that was a one-off.  MK were fortunate enough to find the funds to fight.  Despite polling 6.8% in Cornwall, they still lost their deposit because they weren’t so popular outside Cornwall.  Hardly surprising.  But hardly fair.  In the absence of both WR and MK, what about the Greens then?  Well, what about the Greens?

The Greens are not regionalists.  They may talk about ‘small is beautiful’ but they don’t practise it, preferring to remain organised as ‘the Green Party of England & Wales’ and putting up candidates against nationalists and regionalists whose policies are actually far more green than the Green Party’s.  (The Greens, for example, favour renationalisation of the railways, not the decentralised common ownership that is needed but simply a return to the catastrophe of micro-management from London, meaning London’s demands get priority treatment every time.)

Recently, the Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, was spotted in Cornwall lending support to the campaign for an assembly there (rather as the FibDems did, long ago).  The Greens’ No 2 candidate for ‘The South West’, Emily McIvor, has a positive record on devolutionary issues.  But if you do vote Green, you won’t get Emily.

If the Greens are lucky, they will win one seat in ‘The South West’.  It would take a landslide to win two.  Which means that a vote for the Greens is not a vote for Emily but for the No 1 candidate, Molly Scott Cato, who currently leads the Green Group on Stroud District Council (but works in London).  And has a past.

In 1992, Cynog Dafis was elected as Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion & Pembroke North, with Green Party support.  The deal worked well enough for most members in both local parties, the Greens recognising that half an MP is better than no representation.  Not so Molly Scott Cato, who was one of the pact saboteurs who worked to break it.  An exasperated Dafis eventually withdrew from the deal, leaving the Greens with no presence in the House of Commons until the election of Caroline Lucas in 2010.

On his own website, Cato’s former partner, Chris Busby, explains the anti-pact campaign as motivated by a belief that the Blaid as a whole wasn’t green enough, on issues such as nuclear power or travellers’ rights.  However, a pamphlet co-authored by Busby, Cato and others in 1995, Nationalism in Wales, exposed the real agenda as one hostile to any way of thinking that failed to match their arrogant metropolitan prejudices.  (An example: they defined nationalism in Wales not empirically but by reference to selected dictionary definitions that enabled them to conflate it with Nazism.  Facts were not allowed to spoil their argument: the nationalists, obviously, were just concealing their true nature.)  Cato, settling in a community where Welsh was the normal medium of communication (and had been for many, many centuries), refused to learn the language and then complained of being lonely.  Given this track record, it is difficult to see her championing the cause of regional autonomy or cultural identity.  More a case of ‘save the world but sod the locals’.

Greens and regionalists share much in policy terms – and sit together in the European Parliament.  But they come to the same policies from very different starting points that must influence how those policies are understood and applied. 

Greens appear to have no concept of history, of being one part of a continuing local or regional story set in linear time and from which it is possible to learn useful things about the nature of the area.  Including its ecological nature.  According to Simon Schama, “Green politics is sited in the present and the future, with only the very remote past (at least in Europe) invoked as a sacred ancestor.”  This fits well the tired, post-war narrative of suppression that views all Europeans as incapable of making healthy use of their heritage.  (Interestingly, the intervening millennia of experience judged illegitimate are those not shared with the USA.)  The Greens, given their oft-alleged far-Right origins, are more sensitive than most to such accusations and therefore all the more keen to throw mud proactively.

Molly Scott Cato remains a fervent advocate of bio-regionalism, a neo-Jacobin project to erase all historic human communities and replace them with new identities defined solely by objective geographical resources.  For the Greens, ordinary humans are the problem, so their varied cultures obviously cannot be allowed to shape the universal solution.  Regionalism it may be, but not as we know it.  The question of power remains absent, especially the question of power projected from without.  Greens can be easily caricatured as those who have come to a community with the deliberate aim of undermining the sense of difference that attracted them in the first place, once that sense of difference demands anything of them in return.  Sometimes the caricature is really quite fair.

We have to conclude that there is no party standing in the Euro-elections in Wessex that we can support sufficiently to recommend a vote in its favour.  All to some extent oppose Wessex and desire its continued destruction by the London regime.  There is nothing concrete to suggest otherwise and therefore nothing to be gained by voting.

So you’re a Wessex Regionalist.  What do you do?  What you can do is the following (modified as necessary if yours is a postal vote).  Take a thick felt pen to the polling station.  Spread out the ballot paper.  Write WESSEX REGIONALIST across it.  Fold it, and place it in the ballot box.  Those supervising the count will notice such things: the papers end up in a separate pile.  Let’s aim for a record number of spoilt papers.  A wasted vote?  No.  A negative action?  Far from it.  Under the current electoral system, anti-democratic and centralist to the core, it is the only positive step we are allowed to take.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Another Fine Miss

“The slightly eccentric Wessex regionalists have been around for a while but tend to be backward-looking and potentially reactionary.”

So writes Professor Paul Salveson in his online newsletter, Salvo.  It’s always good to see regionalism recognised, but it’s simply sloppy to misrepresent us.

We’d prefer to describe ourselves as more than usually different, and refreshingly so.  Has the prof read any of our recent stuff?  Pro-rail, conscious of Peak Oil, with no time for any of the London-obsessed dinosaur parties.  Far more forward-looking in fact than any of the alternatives.  Wessex is about the future; it’s the UK – with its silly wartime compass-point regions and utter paranoia about any identity but its own – that is stuck in the past.  All politics is ‘potentially reactionary’ – we don’t listen to lectures from New Labour on that – but it’s up to those of goodwill to work together to ensure it stays true to sound ideals.

Should we post the above response on the prof’s page perhaps?  Already done.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Terror Incognita

Channel 4’s Jon Snow is back from Scotland with his eyes opened: see his blog on the subject, and the many comments it’s attracted.  To sum up, London is loathed from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  Westminster politicians are vicious and corrupt; City slickers are the downfall of a decent society; the meejah couldn’t care less about anything beyond the M25.

It’s a narrative that is gaining traction and hurrah for that.  While England ponders whether to use UKIP to hit back at the disappointers, Scottish voters are wondering if Salmond might just triumph this September.  It would be such a way to make a point.  What’s more, it’s one we could all share in.  Scotland’s freedom is something to be celebrated wildly by everyone who hates the London system.  The rest-of-the-UK would self-evidently be on Death Row, presenting unprecedented opportunities for all who have even a partly articulated vision of how their own nations and regions should be governed once the Augean stables have been cleansed.  Dangerous times perhaps, but perhaps immensely rewarding ones too.

Then there’s the possibility of a ‘No’ vote.  No-one knows what it means.  Is it a vote for the status quo or not?  What might be promised in the run-up to the poll as a sweetener, if independence takes the lead?  Which is more the leap into the unknown, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’?

Either way, enjoy what could be the last few months of normal British politics.  You’d never believe there’s a UK-wide general election due twelve months on from today; think that one through and the West Lothian Question is child's play in comparison.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Leccy Goes Local

Until 1948, the electricity supply in Bristol, as in many towns, was run as a council department, with its own power stations at Temple Back, Avonbank and Portishead.  In that year it was effectively confiscated by the London regime, without payment of full compensation, only to be sold on in 1990 as part of South Western Electricity, which is now owned by the French Government.

Now it emerges that Bristol is one of a group of cities looking to re-enter the energy market, working alongside the Bristol-based Ovo Energy, one of the smaller suppliers offering an alternative to the Big Six.  This is precisely what is needed in a world where so many alternatives to shameless profiteering have been closed off by the totalitarian liberals who dominate all three main London parties.

Does it go far enough?  Not yet.  Locally-managed power can be a real boost to more sustainable cities, integrated with urban heat networks, micro-renewables, smart metering and energy-from-waste.  And certainly not forgetting everything that needs doing to reduce demand through improved energy saving.  City and borough councils are as well placed today as in the 19th century to organise a more efficient energy distribution system.  The reason they got involved in securing local monopolies – in electricity, gas, trams, water, and even telephones – was because all these things involve digging up the streets; a little co-ordination avoids a great deal of inconvenience.  As we move inevitably towards an energy-poor economy, a well thought out strategy for making the most of what we have will make the difference between those cities that have a future and those that don’t.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Masters & Servants

Not a working day goes by without London interference in local decision-making.  What makes the UK such a desolate place to live is that this interference is so widely accepted, at best as something that cannot be changed, at worst as something entirely natural, a system under which London provides ‘leadership’ for a grateful nation.

It is, ultimately, an assault upon democracy.  Because if locally elected representatives cannot be trusted to make the correct decisions, and regionally elected ones are dismissed as more of the same, how is it that nationally or internationally elected representatives suddenly acquire the wisdom to do things so much better?  Or is it just that they are more easily swayed by the moneybags, and by the high life in London or Brussels?

Is it the schools that ministers and their civil servants come from that give them the assumed right to overturn the supposedly narrow judgments of parish and shire?  Not always.  Labour ministers, even those that come from the comprehensives, are actually far more contemptuous of local choice.  Theirs is the legacy of vanguardism, Lenin’s idea that the working class are too thick not to have rings run round them and so need the protection of a party elite.  Hence, for example, Labour’s opposition to proportional representation.  Bugger democracy, let’s get the Labour man (or woman) in.  From its Jacobin and Christian Socialist traditions, Labour has also inherited the idea that everyone is equal, and therefore that difference cannot be tolerated.  The One True Answer is to be imposed nationally through centralism and ideally through a globalised tyranny.  Labour’s refusal to take issue with multi-national capitalism is entirely explicable in terms of its desire to break down borders and eliminate diversity.

Regardless of party, the London machine is dismissive of ‘Lilliputian’ local concerns.  It has an empire to run.  Yet cannot see that its own concerns are Lilliputian in global terms.  It’s a paradox for which it will heartily die in a ditch.  No foreigner may tell Britannia what to do.  But Britannia’s trident may poke each and every peasant who isn’t on-message.

There is a long-established view that ‘the Army is the State’, and therefore that states, in return for maintaining external security, have the right to demand internal subservience.  It’s a doctrine that has no place in a real democracy, where the government serves the citizens and not the other way round.  And yet it lingers.  The idea of military conflict, or even a fundamental economic disagreement, with France or Germany is now unthinkable.  Despite this, we are still ruled by a class of classicists who see it as their job to maintain the balance of power within Europe and to make whatever mischief is necessary to achieve this.  Talent being lost from London to Frankfurt or Geneva is a national crisis.  Talent being lost from Newcastle or Plymouth to London is not.

Desperate unionists recently launched the ‘No Borders’ campaign to stop the UK ‘sleepwalking into separation’.  It’s certainly a canny choice of name, appealing to all that imaginative generation of hippies who know their John Lennon.  The problem is that a world without borders is not a world without orders.  Somewhere in the borderless society resides the power to make decisions.  Borders between countries – and boundaries between regions, shires and parishes – are what prevent that power gravitating to one point.  The Left didn’t listen; they insisted it was all about class and not really about geography.  And what they got was Stalin and Mao.  The Right didn’t listen; they insisted it was all about individual enterprise and not really about the freedom of vast, often inherited wealth to flee where it pleases.

Lines on maps often appear arbitrary, and sometimes are.  But without them, there is no escape from either arbitrary government or arbitrary finance, or possibly both, as a corporatist cocktail.  That is why we need many more lines on maps, and why they need to mean more, both in practical terms and within the ideologies that defend them.

Borders get a bad press that associates them with chauvinism and racism.  Really?  You may as well refuse to drive a car because it might, just might, crash and kill somebody.  You can have borders and still have free movement across them: how liberal or restrictive an immigration policy should be is a matter of day-to-day politics, not necessarily something enshrined in the constitution.  Without borders, you don’t have the choice of making a choice.  There is a positive narrative to be championed about borders and boundaries, about how they secure freedom and democracy by excluding outside interference in the life of the community.  For that narrative to be free of hypocrisy, it is not enough to champion borders alone.  The boundaries that define local and regional autonomy are still more worthy of respect because it is within such communities that democratic values are learned and treasured.  Reduce democracy to a mass that benefits the big battalions, where there is no real debate and only the viral trending of donor-sponsored soundbites, and it ceases to be democracy.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hold That Door

Last week, the London regime finally bowed to pressure to recognise the Cornish as a national minority under the relevant Council of Europe agreement.  Or tried to, not very hard.  The official press release talks about having to ‘modify’ the application of the European convention to accommodate the idea of a national minority – the Cornish – existing, on their home ground, within some other nation’s territory – England.  It’s an unsustainable solution that defies the logic of language – the cornu-wealas are the Welsh of the far west and thus their land of Cornwall, by definition, cannot be part of a modern England that doesn’t invite itself to be denounced as imperialist.

Cornwall’s achievement attracted huge goodwill from many quarters, tinged with sadness that several of those who fought most tenaciously for it died in recent months without seeing their life’s work crowned with success.  Others, for some reason, seemed aggrieved, as if their own lives are diminished by joys they do not comprehend.  ‘Cornwall is NOT a country.  End of.’  Well, no, start of, actually.  Recognition will now be the thin end of a wedge to be driven as a stake into the centralist heart.

Are we next in line?  Cornwall now joins Scotland as evidence that the tectonic plates of UK constitutional politics are on the move.  The idea that recognising the Cornish is some clever gambit to see off Scottish independence, showing how a multi-nation UK can exist successfully, is one that spectacularly misses the point.  Concessions are accumulating precisely because the UK doesn't work and because that fact is being grasped ever more widely.  Channel 4 even produced a map, with a bizarre interpretation of Wessex that managed to exclude both Wantage and Winchester.  The Southern Daily Echo grabbed a few quotes, then took them out of context to fit the already-written headline.  For now, the hacks are getting it a bit muddled, in a sometimes comical way.  It's all new to them, this freedom thing.  Come to this blog if you want a proper explanation.

Wessex is a region.  It’s not a nation and so cannot benefit directly from ideas about national minority status.  That’s not to say though that we can’t manage our own affairs as well as any Celtic nation can manage theirs.  Better government is better government, whatever you call the area governed.  So in that sense, we hope very much that Cornwall will hold the door open, first for the recognition from above that we exist and that our existence entitles us to fair treatment, then for the recognition from below that, at the end of the day, we need recognition from no-one, just the self-will to cast off the deadening London yoke.

Digital Devastation

As the implications of the Heartbleed bug continue to be revealed, it becomes clear that while a digital society, including a digital economy and digital government, delivers many benefits, many of these are exceedingly fragile.  Two items from the press last month further illustrate the point.

The first is from Metro, which reported on the launch of the London regime’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UK), tasked with fighting cyber attacks of national significance.  Cyber-security doesn’t come cheap and is never 100% guaranteed.  Scenario-writers are increasingly highlighting the threat that hackers pose to the operation of vital infrastructure, particularly where manual back-up has been scaled-down for reasons of cost-cutting.

On the same day as the Metro story, the London Evening Standard ran with a report on HFT – high-frequency trading – in short, the use of computer algorithms to drive stock markets.  So intense is the competition that even the use of microwave radio rather than cables to send the signal can shave off the crucial nanoseconds needed to close a deal.  Machines don’t think, so while the alternating euphoria and panic of the market are self-correcting with human intervention, they can easily get out of control in its absence.

The article was written by James Rickards, author of The Death of Money – The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System.  It takes the form of a review of work by another financial journalist, Michael Lewis, author of Flash Boys.  Rickards is no optimist:

“The gross notional value of derivatives of all kinds owed by banks is already greater than 100 per cent of global GDP.  Complexity theory tells us that the worst catastrophe that can occur in a system is an exponential function of the scale of the system.  This means that when you double the system scale, you increase systemic risk by a factor of 10 or more…  The collapse is already on its way but HFT will make it bigger, faster and impossible to stop.  The solution is to ban HFT and most other derivatives.  Don’t expect that to happen.  Instead, get ready for the avalanche.”

So, what does this mean for Wessex?

Firstly, that the free market is about to eat itself.  All that deregulation, explained away as promoting beneficial economies of scale, is revealed as the piling-up of system instability through removing barriers to growth.  Barriers to growth are an essential part of a sane, self-governing society that is not at the mercy of unaccountable forces.  They are unfair only in the sense that having a skin is unfair to diseases.

Secondly, that, since the UK is, politically-speaking, owned by the City of London and regularly robbed by it, reform driven from above is impossible.  Only the building of a resilient regional alternative makes any sense.

Thirdly, that progress towards building such an alternative needs to be stepped up.  That includes demanding, ceaselessly, the return of our taxes from London, to be spent in future on local and regional priorities.  In Sweden, 36% of the tax take is raised and spent locally and regionally.  In federal Germany, the figure is 29%.  The OECD average is 26%.  The UK figure?  5%.  Our paranoid Norman rulers still don’t allow us even to have a regional tier in the first place.