Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Long And Winding Road

The vilification of Nicola Sturgeon in the London press is delightful, not because it is at all pleasant but because here at last is a phenomenon that ‘they’ can do nothing to stop.  No matter what their rage, no matter what their war chest, they cannot win, and the SNP cannot lose.  The only detail left to determine is whether any other party gets a Scottish seat.  It’s looking increasingly unlikely, which means a second referendum within 10 years is not just inevitable, it’s a huge waste of time and money.  Scotland has left.

Four weeks ago, the main parties started out more or less where they seem likely to end up.  What’s all that about then?  So long as David Cameron has no chance of achieving an overall majority, the outcome is pre-determined: Ed Miliband in power, even if he comes second.  Because the SNP were never going to renew Cameron’s tenure and the FibDems weren’t ever going to be numerous enough to out-vote them.  The real shifts come between elections: voting only confirms them.  Wessex had better get used to five more years of Labour control-freakery, five more years, that is, to think more deeply about the regional alternative that is now the only really worthwhile game in town.

A recent article points out that, with the end of the two-party system, hardly any MP south of the border will be returned with over 50% of the vote (let alone the backing of over 50% of the electorate).  Because of the SNP surge, the position north of the border will be the exact opposite.  It will be very ungentlemanly if anyone complains about Scottish nationalist influence over the government of the UK if the SNP turn out to be only ones with any democratic mandate at all.

If it’s ‘the economy, stupid’, then stupidity over the economy, putting all the eggs in the London basket, is about to deliver some very nasty shocks to an Anglo-British establishment that has been splendidly outmanoeuvred.  The SNP, with their special appeal to the young of a reborn nation, do think not tactically, nor even strategically, but transgenerationally.  We in Wessex must do the same, continually making the future of our own young people central to everything we do.  Those passing through our schools and universities today will be those to govern a free Wessex: make no mistake about that.

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of a small book entitled Our Three Nations.  It was sponsored jointly by Plaid Cymru, the SNP and, from England, Common Wealth, each of the parties contributing three representatives to undertake the writing.  Gwynfor Evans from Plaid Cymru and Robert McIntyre from the SNP are well-known names, John Banks, Douglas Stuckey and Don Bannister from Common Wealth much less so.

John Banks later wrote Federal Britain?, the 1971 classic on regionalism, and served WR as both President and Secretary-General, drafting our 1982 constitutional policy document, The Statute of Wessex.  Douglas Stuckey, now in his 90s, is another long-standing WR office-holder.  Today he offered the view that instead of flying into a constitutional panic, those in charge might just re-read O3N, 79 pages of advice that has dated remarkably little.

O3N proposed that the UK be replaced by a “confraternity” of free and equal nations; of Common Wealth it said that “Not the least of its tasks is that of making the programmes of the two National Parties as acceptable to ‘progressive’ circles in England as Irish Home Rule was in the early part of the century.  As Dr McIntyre has said, Nationalism in the British Isles is an English rather than a Scottish, Welsh or Irish problem.  Let England replace the conception of Empire with that of Commonwealth, within these islands as well as beyond the seas, and the problem is solved… 

The Imperial power wielded by England over centuries would receive a mortal blow.  The proof of this will be the bitter opposition of all who believe that imperialism, colonialism and playing a part in Power Politics is still a desirable policy for the people of the British Isles to follow.  Only those who believe that the future for the English people lies along the road of freely accepted co-operation between friendly but independent peoples at home and abroad will welcome these developments and will seek to re-orientate English political life and institutions accordingly…

Under the new conditions brought about by Confraternity, the impact of new ideas about politics will relax the grip of the two-party system.  With Welsh and Scottish examples before them, workers in English industries will start talking about a share in running their own show…  Paradoxically, there may even be a resurgence of English patriotism and national consciousness to take the place of the lost sense of Empire…  Under the pressure of these accumulative influences we would expect to see a fairer system of election at last introduced into Parliamentary contests and a considerable measure of devolution to new Provincial Assemblies…  On a small scale the experience of the Isle of Man and of the Channel Islands can be very instructive, and may provide the model for the future administration of such highly individualistic areas of England as Cornwall.”

No cavilling please.  This was five years after the formation of Mebyon Kernow put Cornish nationalism in the spotlight.  It was on the basis of that fact that John Banks insisted that the reference to Cornwall go in.  And not without some scepticism from the Scots and the Welsh.  Transgenerational thinking, by its very nature, takes time to reach fruition.  It often seems as if no fruit will ever be forthcoming.  Persevere though, and the bountiful harvest will be a most memorable occasion.

Empire at Sunset

All is explained so beautifully... here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Raising the Standard

Concerning the reputed 'hustings' held at Witney by Churches Together recently, Colin Bex states that:

"Of the twelve candidates nominated for Witney – all duly paid up to stand for Parliament – only five were chosen and just 1% of constituents were allowed to witness this 2015 travesty of democracy in a third millennium British general election."

Colin today issued a press release in response; the following is the draft circulated within the Party:

ELECTION SPECIAL – 28th April 2015


On Saturday 2nd May 2015 at noon – by the Butter Cross on Church Green (St. Mary's), Witney

Hosted by Colin Bex, candidate for the Wessex Regionalists


Weather permitting, this traditional Folkmoot on a town church green will be entirely informal, free and open to all including of course Freemen and Freewomen of Wessex and England in accordance with traditional common law rights to enjoy open space in the shire county of Oxon in Wessex.

A Town Crier will be elected from amongst those assembled by a minimum two-thirds majority, and will act as moderator for the proceedings – boos, cheers and applause proportionably permitted as and when may be appropriate.

Especially welcome will be any of some 35,000 Witney people who sought but were refused entry to witness the sanitised charade of theatrical hypocrisy staged on Friday 10th April by Churches Together against democracy.

Wessex Regionalists candidate Colin Bex will provide a welcome and he will present a summary of some of the Party’s key proposals and policies for which he seeks support for the region in the election.  This will be followed by a session for questions and answers from those in attendance.

Upon indication by the Moderator thereafter, each and any other candidate present who was excluded by Churches Together against democracy will be welcomed to speak for five minutes on matters of their choice, likewise followed by up to ten minutes of questions and answers to allow as many people as possible – especially the young – to participate in the moot.

Upon conclusion of the contributions, Colin Bex will summarise the main points and, after the Moderator's declaration of formal adjournment (and weather permitting), there will be an opportunity, for those who wish, to enjoy a picnic on the Green taking care to dispose of all wrappings, bottles and other debris in waste-bins nearby.

Whilst not confirmed – responses from invitations to Morris dancers from Wessex and Mercia are being awaited to provide entertainment if available.

Alternatively, and /or in addition, those so inclined may prefer to adjourn across the road to The Company of Weavers, or to one of many other inns and hotels in the vicinity.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Wealth of Possibilities

Last week, BBC1 aired a programme called Millionaire Basement Wars.  It described how, over the past decade, some 2,000 new basements have been excavated beneath high-value properties in central London, most notably in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.  The buildings are often listed, so there’s little scope to extend up or out.  That only leaves down.

Some basements are merely one-storey.  Some are two-storey.  Some, known as ‘icebergs’, are bigger than the house above them.  They provide room for all those essentials that wouldn’t otherwise fit.  The cinema.  The gym.  The sauna.  The swimming pool.  The hairdressing, manicure and pedicure suite.  The garage for five classic cars.  In one case, the developer provided an indoor, underground waterfall, 30 feet high.  Why?  Rich people get bored easily, he explained, so they need something to talk about.

That’s the problem with extreme wealth.  It’s so boring.  There’s a point beyond which increased wealth doesn’t make you any happier.  All it does is deprive others of the happiness that that wealth, better distributed, could have given them.  Economic efficiency without social efficiency doesn’t deliver the greatest good of the greatest number.  ‘Trickle-down economics’ just distorts priorities, increasing the production of, say, caviar rather than hospitals.

Saying this isn’t ‘envy’ at all.  Envy is wanting a better life for yourself and expecting somebody else to do something about it.  Wanting a better life for everyone isn’t envy.  It’s justice.  The Scandinavians have a phrase for their supportive social welfare system that explains why they also have a culture of enterprise: ‘secure enough to dare’.

Of course, the same is true of power.  When you think what could be done, locally and regionally, with just a fraction of the taxes we send up to London every year to subsidise the infrastructure of imaginary money-making, it’s enough to leave you feeling genuinely sick.

We’ve allowed ourselves to become the easy victims of a narrative of aspiration.  One in which the minor folk turn on each other and not on those whose industrial-scale grasping is what makes us minor.  ‘Hard-working families’ has become the must-have soundbite for all politicians with ambition.  You can almost hear the anxious twitching of curtains and the rumbustious rustling of today’s Daily Mail.  There are two things wrong with it.  One, naturally. is the idea that only families count.  That those working too hard to have time to form a family contribute nothing to society.  The other is that ‘hard work’ is easily recognisable.  It isn’t.

In the commercial sector, hard work will get you nowhere if what you’re working hard on isn’t profitable.  It’s the quality – that's to say, the relevance – of what you’re doing that matters, not its quantity.  Working smarter, not harder, is the key to productivity and profitability.  All economy, as Karl Marx noted, is economy of labour time.  In 1932 Bertrand Russell wrote a very perceptive essay entitled In Praise of Idleness, in which he pointed out that ultimately the purpose of work is to create the ability to stop doing it.  That in turn poses other questions.  How much of the work we currently do is necessary work?  How much of it would we miss if it weren’t there? 

Arguably, a lot, perhaps most, of the work we do is highly damaging, psychologically, socially and environmentally, in which case our quality of life would be greatly improved not by economic growth but by economic shrinkage.  High net immigration is a sign of an unhealthy economy, one that is taking more than its fair share of the world’s resources and so dragging in the inhabitants of other countries who have come here to follow their wealth.  Internal migration, with London as the magnet, is another aspect of the same phenomenon, driven in that case by the power that London has to tax the provinces for its benefit.  The only solutions that the London parties can imagine – like HS2 – do not enable those provinces to serve themselves but only reinforce metropolitan dominance.  Underpinning them all is the silly idea that we can have more growth in total, let alone that we need it or want it.

We can see the outlines of a better solution forming but before we examine it further, let’s remind ourselves how irrelevant the London parties are to it.

The Blue Tories have been so busy lately promising give-aways it’s a wonder they’ve not been arrested for corrupt electoral practices.  Right-to-Buy is always a vote-winner because who’s going to vote against free money?  Since the super-rich don’t pay tax, it’s the squeezed middle who’ll foot the bill and they always vote for the Blue Tories anyway.  Plus, they can be pacified by exempting up-to-one-million-pound properties from Inheritance Tax.  Those whose homes have accelerated in value while they sat back and did nothing will enrich their children and consider it all their own really ‘hard work’.  As we’ve shown, half of all Inheritance Tax receipts come from London and the south-eastern corner of England.  It’s the taxes of every other corner that have created the boom economy there and it’s the taxes of every other corner too that will make up the shortfall in UK Government revenue if no tax is paid on homes up to £1 million.

Do we have the right to be angry?  Wait and see.

The Yellow Tories’ pitch to the public is that they’re the party to rein-in the extremes.  Without their moderating presence we could see radical change.  Cameron-Farage.  Or even Miliband-Sturgeon.  Time was when the Liberals viewed themselves as radicals.  Middle-of-the-road radicals maybe, but at least nominally radical.  There’s a strong possibility though that they’ve misread the times in which they now operate.  There’s a thirst for change, with Scotland leading the charge.  And that thirst for change operates in the wider context of a European revolt against Wall Street corporate colonialism and its dismantling of democracy.  The way money is being shovelled into the Purple Tories shows how far even the old guard have lost trust in the established parties and want things shaken up, just a little.

The Greens are promising to build 500,000 homes, against the 200,000 promised by both Blues and Reds.  (The Yellows want 300,000, including at least ten new garden cities.)  In the areas under pressure, there isn’t enough derelict land to provide anywhere near those sort of figures.  So if you’re not comfortable with seeing the Wessex countryside transformed into New West London, that’s yet another option to cross off the list.  What’s “green” about turning (mostly) greenfield sites into half a million houses?

The Red Tories look every bit as irrelevant as the rest.  When Miliband tries to position them as the voice of working people throughout the UK, it’s a muffled echo from the 70s that won’t do any more.  Who are really the selfish nationalists?  The SNP, who speak for Scotland and ignore the other home nations (while practising a genuine internationalism)?  Or Labour, who speak for the UK and ignore the rest of Europe (while boldly going wherever the White House directs)?  Labour are trying to tap into a sense of British-based solidarity that died with the industries Thatcher slaughtered.  For three decades they’ve been trying to get it back.  They can’t admit they’ve failed.  And that’s why they’re being superseded.

We look forward to the continuing wipe-out of the Unionist parties in Scotland.  In Wales, it will take longer.  Despite Leanne Wood’s master stroke in describing the London parties as four shades of grey, the fact is that the Welsh seem to like their bondage too much to break free of it right now.  It is, however, only a matter of time.  Renewed interest in regionalism and federalism within England points to a generalised demand for self-government that will not stop at Celtic borders.  And will not be content with any cobbled-together nonsense of metro mayors or combined authorities either.

What we’re seeing is a convergence of several themes.  Perhaps the most pivotal is the rise to real power of the first generation who lived through Thatcherism as young adults, who watched the kindlier world of their childhood being shattered by brash London loadsamoneys, backed up by a semi-fascist State with no respect for local democracy.  (A State that aped Labour instead of really challenging it.)  No wonder there’s a thirst for change: vengeance has been long awaited.

Such change requires a framework for action, one which the idea of a Europe of small nations and historic regions readily provides.  The scale of change throughout Europe over the next decade, as one country copies another, could well match that which followed the fall of the Berlin Wall.  This time it will be the turn of the old imperial states of western Europe and the smug elites they defend.  The only role here for dinosaurs like France, Spain or the UK is to keep getting in the way until patience can be contained no longer.

At the regional level, and that of small nations of equivalent scale, there’s a lot of work to be done, in creating new institutions, breathing life into long-suppressed identities, and in taking back our stolen wealth and power from London and its co-conspirators.  At the European level, there’s even more to be done.  To break the economic and political stranglehold of the USA and awake to our common interest as Europeans.  To take the banking system apart and bring to justice the thieves who run it.  To create the climate of thought that will allow our vital industries and services to be taken back into common ownership with little or no compensation payable to those who have sucked them dry.  To end private landed estates not through the minor irritant of taxation but through a radical re-evaluation of title.

Those who wait for the Labour Party to even consider such a programme will wait for ever.  The programme is one that needs to be more radical than anything on Attlee’s agenda in 1945.  Even to do as much as Attlee did is impossible in today’s Britain.  It won’t be done at the British level, because the British level is now irrelevant.  It’s a job for the Europe of a Hundred Flags.  Change will come about through the growth of nationalist and regionalist parties that are not afraid to define London as their adversary.  Not the London of ordinary Londoners but the London of assumptions, assumptions of innate superiority in politics, economics and culture.

Labour cannot deliver that.  Labour have their sights on way too many marginals in London and the surrounding shires to ever be credible as an authentic voice for marginalised Britain.  Labour have no plans to cut off London’s drip-feed of our tax money.  Labour have no plans to abolish entire Whitehall departments in favour of genuine localism.  They have no plans to get even with the parasitical City of London.  They have no plans to shut down huge swaths of London's cultural funding and disperse it across the UK.  That is why the nationalist and regionalist parties must do all of this for them.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Live and Let Live?

Welcome publicity was received this week from the National Secular Society, the result of a survey of the views of minor parties on secularism and religion.

The NSS focused-in on our policy of phasing-out religious involvement in publicly-funded education.  Ironic, given King Alfred’s victory for Christianity over paganism?  Well, that was the accusation in one tweet that followed.  The fact is of course that we’re the party for the Wessex of today and tomorrow, not the Wessex of 878.  We’ve described before how our ruralist outlook, coupled with a radical distrust of privilege, cannot reconcile the London parties’ rhetoric about choice in education with the reality in many villages.  That is to say, the long shadow cast by Victorian aristocratic patronage of the Anglican cause.  In some counties, well over half the primary schools are Anglican-run.  Some choice.

Our schools policy sits alongside other policies – such as disestablishment of the Church of England within Wessex – that stem from a belief that in a successfully pluralist society the State must always strive to be impartial.  Defenders of the status quo routinely condemn any move to strip away religious privilege in the UK as ‘persecution’.  No, it isn’t.  Persecution is what Christians are suffering in the Middle East.  That persecution – and the corresponding privileging of a brutally intolerant brand of Mahometanism – is more easily countered if our own conscience is clear.  Are we truly different from, say, Iran?  Not while the UK is the only other country in the world to have clerics sitting in its legislature as of right.

Among the leading London parties, the cross-party consensus is now well established: public services are not to be provided by public bodies.  Instead, public money is to be given to private interests, with few if any conditions, to enable them to stoke the fires of sectarianism.  Faith schools today, faith hospitals tomorrow?  With faith welfare to follow, complete with tests of proper religious observance for the poor and needy?

If Ed Miliband can see no problem in deepening the consensus then his long-distance vision may need correcting.  A favourite scenario on the far Right is an England that has descended into civil war as immigrants battle it out with the English.  Bradford and Birmingham become Baghdad and Beirut.  As scenarios go, it may not attract a high degree of probability.  High enough though to ask whether policy-makers know what they’re doing when they hand millions from our taxes to those with a vested interest in the cultivation of mutual suspicion.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Denial of Service

Today we were contacted by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal.  

Yes, that Wall Street Journal.  Would we like to talk to them about our aims and aspirations?

Here are three reasons why the answer might not be a resounding ‘Yes’:

One.  Two.  Three.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cameron’s Cocoon

Guest contribution by Colin Bex, Wessex Regionalist candidate for Witney

It was a cynical charade of a hustings on Friday, organised by Churches Together against democracy, from which not only a majority of candidates was excluded, so too I learn were the local and national press, all of whom informed me they were not best pleased, and took numerous shots of all of us demonstrators outside the church.

The final straw came when I and the press were waiting to lobby Cameron as he exited from a secluded side-door of the church, when MI5, MI6 – and for all I know the FBI – surrounded the entourage and hustled them down a yet more remote path and on into one unmarked vehicle of a number of armoured Chelsea tractors in which they were whisked away into the Witney darkness to destinations unknown.

There should be a case against this with the Electoral Commission – any one up for it?  I'm rather tied up just now...

A letter in today's Oxford Mail by local Brigitte Hickman sums up the proceedings well, while a report in yesterday's edition includes a reference to Wessex Regionalists amongst those demonstrating outside for having been banned from participating.

I am keeping an eye out for hustings in the constituency and will post details.  That's all for now – back to the campaign trail.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Familiar Territory

In his first report from the campaign trail, Colin Bex has highlighted some familiar territory for us, and for smaller parties generally, and that’s the refusal of those in authority to allow our case to be heard.

Witney Churches Together have again arranged a hustings from which Colin – along with candidates from all the other less established parties – has been barred.  Not just from participating but even from attending.  The reason WCT – motto ‘The Churches of Witney are here to serve God and the community’ – reportedly gave for barring Colin was that ‘I don’t know you so I can’t trust you’.  It seems they’d rather vote for the devil they do know than give a platform to a candidate determined to open up our politics to a breath of fresh air.

Colin intends to mount a protest outside, before and after the meeting.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Witney Reloaded

Bex is back.  Our President is taking on David Cameron, who this time is defending his Witney seat not as Leader of the Opposition but as Prime Minister, having presided over a government notable for its indifference to the suffering of ordinary folk, in Wessex and elsewhere across our Disunited Kingdom.

A vote for Cameron is a vote for more austerity.  A vote for the other leading London parties is little different, austerity-lite, but austerity all the same.  A vote for Bex is a vote to take back our stolen power and wealth and to shape our lives and communities for ourselves.

Anyone with help to offer should contact Colin at his campaign email address,

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Value of Difference

We recently reiterated that regionalisation doesn’t stop just because the ruling parties at Westminster have an ideological blindspot about it.

Budgetary pressures are forcing all the emergency services to think about sharing work to spread the burden.  The ambulance service is now fully regionalised, apart from the Isle of Wight.  Fire brigade mergers are all the rage and five Wessex counties already share a control room network, four being in the ‘South West’ and one in the ‘South East’.  The areas used for policing have transcended county boundaries for well over a generation now – only four Wessex counties still have their own force – and work-sharing is becoming more commonplace.

Last month the Devon & Cornwall and Dorset constabularies announced link-up plans.  In Cornwall, where the 1967 merger with a couple of English forces still rankles, the announcement was met with dismay, even though fears that a formal merger is planned seem, so far, to be exaggerated.  What they have done is prompt urgent discussion about what a Cornish-centred alternative would look like.  Could the three emergency services, four if the coastguard is included, work together as a unit under a National Assembly of Cornwall?

Well, why not?  Cornwall is geographically isolated, giving it coastal issues that are far more acute than elsewhere, and if it wants to do things its own way, nobody else will suffer.  Mergers for mergers’ sake make about as much sense as managing Shetland’s water supply from the Scottish mainland (and yes, that’s been the case since 1996).  If the Isle of Wight can have its autonomy in ambulance and fire cover, why not Cornwall, with four times its population?  And could that hold for policing too?

The emergency services working together sounds like common sense and it’s not an idea unique to Cornwall.  In Somerset, the three services are exploring the possibility of developing joint blue light response facilities, sharing workshops, offices and crew welfare provision.  At the same time, integration within each of the three services in different areas seems likely to continue alongside integration between them in the same area.  The balance to be struck will vary according to the terrain.  In an area like Wessex, where county boundaries can appear quite theoretical on the ground, closer links across them may be the way to make savings.  In more geographically distinct areas this may make much less sense than pooling resources locally.

That, of course, is the beauty of a regionalist and localist approach to problem-solving.  It’s not about one-size-fits-all.  It is all about capitalising on the value of difference.  But with the three services all now developing different local alliances, and therefore different operational boundaries, who, short of the-powers-that-be in London, will provide a strategic overview?  Time for devolution to get its act together.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Toward a Truly Free Market

Guest contribution by Nick Xylas, WR Council member

The following is a review of Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More, by John C. Médaille, published in 2011 by ISI Books of Wilmington, Delaware, USA.

When in my wife’s home town of Weirton, West Virginia, it is almost impossible not to notice the words “WEIRTON STEEL – AN ESOP COMPANY” written in giant lettering on the roof of the steel mill that dominates the town.  Weirton Steel was, for a long time, West Virginia’s biggest employer.  But these days, the mill is operating at less than a third of its total capacity and that mantle has been passed to Wal-Mart, a company, owned by the obscenely wealthy Walton family, which pays its employees so little that new entrants are given guides on how to claim welfare benefits in order to supplement their wages.  It brutally illustrates a theme running throughout this important book from John Médaille, namely that capitalism, far from being socialism’s polar opposite, inevitably leads to it when left unchecked.

Médaille is one of the leading advocates in America today of distributism, a political philosophy rooted in Catholic social teaching.  Whilst he can in no way be accused of running away from his Catholicism, Toward a Truly Free Market is written for a general audience, so the smell of incense is not as overpowering as it can be with some distributist works.

The first section of the book provides a general overview of economics.  Médaille prefers the term 'political economy', the name by which it was usually known until some time in the last century, when it changed as a result of economists’ desire to paint their discipline as a natural science like physics, rather than the result of conscious choices by governments and societies.  Speaking as someone for whom the business pages of the newspaper may as well be written in Estonian, it is testament to Médaille’s skills as a teacher that I was able to understand most of it.

There then follows a series of chapters on specific topics relating to the problems caused by morality-free capitalist economics and how to fix them.  The key doctrine, on which all the rest hinge, is that of the just wage.  Médaille avoids giving a specific figure for this wage, as that will be different in different times and places.  Rather, he bases it on general principles: that it should be enough to support a family’s basic needs on a single full-time income; that it should be enough to also allow that family to save money instead of living pay cheque to pay cheque; and that it should give them security against enforced periods of unemployment (sickness, layoffs etc) with minimal recourse to welfare benefits.

Finally, the book considers in detail two examples of distributism in practice: the region of Emilia-Romagna, on which more shortly; and the Mondragon co-operative.  The latter is a network of workers’ co-operatives in Spain with over 100,000 members and €33 billion in assets.  The survey of its activities provides the launch pad for a more general overview of the co-operative movement and of ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Program) companies, which give workers a stake in their ownership.  Médaille warns that there exist fake ESOPs such as Enron, created primarily as a tax dodge, but commends the real thing (I’m afraid I don’t know which category Weirton Steel falls into).  He also sees strong unions as vital for worker participation in the economy, though as he is writing within an American milieu, the restoration of the guilds doesn’t play as large a part in his thoughts as it traditionally did for English distributists such as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

There isn’t space in a review to do justice to the full range of Médaille’s arguments, but two things particularly commend it to Wessex Regionalists for me.  The first is the chapter on the role of government.  Médaille vigorously defends the ability of government to provide for the common good, as against the current political orthodoxy, which sees it as an impediment to the ultimate goal of capitalism without democracy (hence the current round of secret trade negotiations seeking to give corporations the right to sue governments for any regulations they deem too onerous).  His philosophy of government revolves around what he terms a horizontal and a vertical axis, represented by the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity respectively.  Solidarity means the creation of networks between different sectors of society, and different governments.  It particularly means the ‘preferential option for the poor’, examining all policies in the light of how they affect the most vulnerable in society.  Subsidiarity means that no decision should be taken at a higher level of government that could be implemented at a lower one.  It means both local control and local funding, since funding dispensed from central government to local communities can appear to be 'free' money, leading to irresponsibility in the decision-making process.  These principles have always been at the heart of Wessex Regionalist thinking, and it is a pleasure to see them so eloquently expressed.

The section on Emilia-Romagna, the Italian region centred on Bologna, will also be of interest to readers of this blog.  35% of the GDP of the region is supplied by co-operatives, but unlike Mondragon, where the co-operatives operate like divisions of a single company, the Emilian co-operatives are independent firms, of varying sizes, all supported by a regional development agency (ERVET) and the National Confederation of Artisans (CNA).  Unfortunately, the questions that Wessex Regionalists will naturally be asking themselves at this point are not ones that the book really concerns itself with.  How did co-operatives become such a large part of the economy?  How big a part did Italy’s decentralised system of government, with strong regions, play in allowing them to flourish in this way?  Which parties and political groupings supported the development and which opposed it (Médaille does mention that the Fascists suppressed the co-operatives in the 1930s)?  Nonetheless, I commend this book as a starting point that will hopefully lead Wessex Regionalists towards further investigation of Emilia-Romagna as a potential model for our region’s economy, rather than Wessex becoming one more plantation in the global slave state.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Only the Desperate

Today in 1320 the Scottish nobility issued the Declaration of Arbroath, with its ringing line about fighting not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

And the contemporary response is Frenchgate.  Nicola Sturgeon says she didn’t say it.  The French Ambassador says she didn’t hear it.  The French Consul-General says he didn’t report it.  And the irony is that if Sturgeon had said that Ed Miliband isn’t prime ministerial material, no-one, except possibly Miliband himself, would have any reason to disagree.

Miliband – the same goes for Cameron, his equal in competence – is one of the last generation of old-style Westminster politicians, unable to understand why the political world no longer revolves around them.  They push the buttons and pull the levers that used to deliver power, only to find that the wires have been cut.

The Big Two keep trying to convince us that this election is about which of them we’d prefer as PM.  It isn’t.  It’s not about them at all.  You can’t tell the difference, so it really doesn’t matter.  Either of them would be equally good or equally bad at heading up the next administration.  The important question is what kind of administration they will lead.  If you want the Blue Tories, vote Cameron.  If you want the Red Tories, vote Miliband.  If you want something else, vote for something else and see it in coalition, applying pressure where it hurts.  Never before have the smaller parties had logic so firmly on their side.  It’s so frighteningly true that a grand coalition of the Blues and the Reds still looks a definite possibility as the way to head off irreversible change for the better.  Proportional representation.  Real localism.  And real regionalism.

Sturgeon said that last week’s televised debate between seven of the party leaders illustrated that "two-party politics at Westminster is over".  A ripple of surprise ran through the commentariat that interesting things are being said outside the rigidly controlled London circle.  England wants to vote SNP/Plaid in its millions, and it can’t.  It’s so frustrating, isn’t it?  And all because the media have been so obsessed with Farage and his twilight band of empire-loyalists that they failed to spot where the future really lies, in a Europe not looking back to the 19th century but forward to the 21st.  Plaid Cymru have put out a splendid little poster bearing the slogan ‘Don’t vote Labour for your fathers’ sake; vote Plaid for your children’s’.

We would have liked to be there in Salford.  Our invitation was presumably lost in the post.  (So too was Mebyon Kernow’s; they haven’t even been invited to the BBC South West regional debate in Plymouth, despite fighting every seat in Cornwall.)  The Twittersphere may have been too busy swooning over Leanne Wood’s Welsh accent to notice her policies but Wessex has a lovely accent too, and lovely policies to match.  Next time, will the regionalists will be joining the nationalists on stage?  That depends on how fast the decentralist trend now accelerates.

Last week saw the launch of the Northern Party, a pan-Northumbrian movement that has grown out of the relaunched Campaign for the North.  Its claimed territory overlaps with those of Yorkshire First and the North East Party.  Is that good or bad?  Lack of agreement on areas and boundaries is surely bad if it slows down the debate, but not if it brings it to the fore.  If regionalists up north can afford the luxury of disagreement then they must be making very good progress indeed.  And, for this election at least, there will be no clashing candidacies.

The Northern Party’s top team includes Harold Elletson, former Conservative MP for Blackpool North.  Its registered Leader is Michael Dawson, nephew of Hilton Dawson, the former Labour MP for Lancaster & Wyre who leads the North East Party.  Yorkshire First is led by Richard Carter, ex-Labour, and its candidates at this election include a former FibDem MEP.  Across the political spectrum then, devolutionary aspirations are being unlocked.  Those who have devoted their political lives to the unresponsive London parties are emerging, blinking, into the light.  We watch, fascinated and vindicated, as northerners cast off time-wasting pressure groups buzzing around the London leaderships and make a bid for actual, unfettered control of what goes on in their areas.  If that’s a universal trend, we can look forward to a few defections in Wessex too.

What the desperate London parties simply cannot grasp is the extent to which their rule is increasingly hated as London takes more and more and gives less and less.  What we loathe above all is the way we’re expected to feel grateful that London thrives on our taxes, yet treats us as ignorant peasants who need to be told what to think, even about ourselves.  There are some real shocks to the system coming up.  The 7th of May marks the day they start, not end.