Monday, May 25, 2015

Welcome to the Party

On this day last year we were delighted to mention Wessex Society’s success in persuading a third of the county and unitary councils in Wessex to fly the Wyvern for St Ealdhelm’s Day.  (The picture below was taken at Somerset County Hall in Taunton.)  This year, many councils are doing the same, with Bath & North East Somerset and Portsmouth City reported to be joining the list.  

Inexplicably, there is one loss.  South Gloucestershire will not be repeating last year's display of regional consciousness.  The reason advanced is that the council has changed hands from ‘No Overall Control’ to Conservative, and the ruling Conservative group doesn't want to fly the flag.  Very odd, considering that it was a Conservative minister, Eric Pickles, who relaxed the rules on flying the Wyvern and went on to declare 25th May as Wessex Day.  No doubt there are still some years of such confusion ahead of us as the London parties grapple with the fact of Wessex identity, stop regarding it as some sort of crime, and join in the celebration of our patron saint’s day.  The protestations that ‘WESSEX DOESN’T EXIST!’ will continue, but nowadays are too shrill even to be worth refuting.  One way or another, today's culture is always the foundation of tomorrow's constitution.  It's the pace of change that's uncertain.

Wessex itself is not a party-political idea.  It’s for everyone to make of it what they will.  We welcome the growth of other organisations, such as Wessex Society, with the means to reach out to and engage with a much larger audience than we can expect to attract.  The stronger and more varied the suite of Wessex organisations becomes, the stronger Wessex will be.  But let’s not run before we can walk.  The organisations we have need to be nurtured: putting down roots comes before sending out shoots.  So dissipating our energy wouldn’t be clever.

This is especially so in the political field, where there’s huge potential for a territorial party to tap into the frustration that exists with the London parties, and the admiration that exists for the SNP’s onward-rolling bandwagon.  Let everyone who cares for Wessex speak up for Wessex and do it NOW.

Let’s do it though in ways that are complementary and not divisive.  The establishment would love us to fall out over something.  It could be our name, or how we define Wessex, or any other faultline of convenience that’s open to exploitation if we allow it to be, but the fact is that changing political reality is about sustained hard work and nothing else.  Magic bullets don’t exist.  Things will move faster if we stick together: the greatest risk at times like this is for the impatient to split off, burn brightly for a season and then sink without trace.  People’s Front of Wessex versus Wessaxon People’s Front?

Quite unnecessary, of course.  WR is a broad church, and open to influence from within.  Scotland and Wales have learnt from the tragedy of Ireland that the room for diverse oppositional politics in a time of revolutionary change is not unlimited.  We’re aware of at least five groups – or possibly lone individuals – claiming to speak for Mercia, which is one reason why any formal alliance of English regionalists isn’t practical, because who do you recognise or not recognise as a legitimate ally?

WR has emerged stronger from the 2015 election, especially in terms of social media interest.  This blog attracted some 3,000 visits last month, twice the figure seen during the Eastleigh by-election in 2013.  However, one of the features of social media is the absence of any financial or organisational commitment.  It costs nothing to like on Facebook or follow on Twitter.  That’s why our cyber membership is growing a lot faster than the actual membership by which we are, unfairly, judged.  This is not a sustainable model in the long-term: it’s the actual membership whose subscriptions pay for the website that serves as the hub of our media operations. 

Real-world politics – standing in elections as committed challengers to the status quo – costs real money, for deposits (£500 a go for Parliament), for leaflets (expect 50,000 of them in a Westminster contest) and for all the expenses of canvassing and travel to media locations.  Being a Wessex Regionalist is free.  Being a member of the Wessex Regionalists is not, and for good reason.  That’s why wishing for a free Wessex is nowhere near as effective as applying for membership today.  It can be a great party, but bring a bottle.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Onwards and Upwards

Defying expectations, David Cameron, far from being locked out of Downing Street, now has the full bunch of keys (with just 37% of the vote), at least until his slim Commons majority is whittled away over the next five years.  He has promised a land of hope and glory, a Britain greater still and greater, one nation, with further devolution to some of the smaller nations the ‘nation’ paradoxically contains.  ‘Fairness’ for England even.  But the self-governing devolved assemblies that are good enough for others will not do for the English.  We can look forward only to more unwanted metro mayors, city ‘deals’ and a continuing denial of regional realities.  If things are done for the regions they will be done to the regions, not by them.

Witney might seem unpromising territory for WR.  Oxfordshire is a border shire which, despite the defining role of Burford, Dorchester-on-Thames and Oxford in Wessex history and culture, can sometimes seem unsure of its place.  Yet we do have growing support there and a good candidate can make a lasting positive impression.

At Witney, our candidate (2nd from left) almost doubled his previous vote there, finishing 7th of 12 candidates.  It was our best result since 2001.  Colin’s campaign attracted widespread and sincere interest, even from those who ended up placing their cross elsewhere.  One emailer to Colin and his team confessed that, “I just wanted to write and say how touched I am by your passion to make this world a better place.  And that is so appreciated.  You are beautiful human beings.”  It is a particular pleasure to record the assistance of the McLoone family, who volunteered as WR counting agents for the long night at the leisure centre, awaiting a declaration that came just before 6.

By then the wider picture had been largely coloured in.  Above all there was the unmistakeable roar of the Scottish lion.  The fact that Ed Miliband could not do the juggling act of simultaneously keeping on board both the Scots and middle England shows how far rigid, class-based politics is no longer fit for purpose and has to be superseded.  Don’t expect fully synchronised universal trends.  The Scots will perhaps want to ask why Plaid Cymru and the Greens failed to increase their representation at Westminster, despite a good showing in the leaders’ debates.  In the north of Ireland, nationalism actually lost a seat.

This was Nicola Sturgeon’s night as much as it was David Cameron’s.  Two Scots with very different visions for Scotland and for the rest of us.  Never mind who got the power this time: it's the direction of travel that matters.  The Unionist debacle north of the border will change the Unionist parties, leaving them much less Scottish, while increasing Scots’ sense of being let down by others.  Not even the strongest devolved government in the world will alter that very much.  Salmond is the new Parnell, and the nationalist tide is still rising.  Trident replacement will propel it higher.  If Cameron believes that Scotland can be fixed he is likely to be disappointed.  Labour will now have to decide whether to go back to Blairism; having dipped their toe into socialist waters and got it shockingly wet, they won’t be offering a real alternative ever again, and so will remain damned in the eyes of the Scottish electorate.  Anti-austerity won a landslide; austerity-lite flopped, and deservedly so.

UKIP’s results have generated a new enthusiasm on the Right for proportional representation, once the lonely preserve of a minority on the Left.  (It would, among other things, make the SNP’s triumph a lot less triumphal.)  The UK’s relationship with the EU will move centre-stage, at least for a short while, during which time our relationship with the UK will be conveniently elbowed off the agenda.  Mistrust of the Conservatives, given their abuse of the word ‘localism’, especially over planning issues, is almost tangible in Cameron’s constituency and throughout Wessex.   

Anyone who expected this election to resolve the key constitutional issues – who gets to decide what, and what qualifies as real democracy – should now be plainly aware that interesting times are only going to get more interesting.  We shall be looking to position ourselves to benefit from the debates unfolding over the next five years, meanwhile looking into the possibility of entering the fray at local government level.  We urge supporters of a regional Wessex, wherever they live, to join us in making sure that the wyvern’s roar is heard loud and clear too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

For the Record

Guest contribution by Colin Bex, Wessex Regionalist candidate for Witney

The Editor
The Oxford Times
Newspaper House
Osney Mead


I refer to your report 'One of the safest seats in Britain' (Oxford Times 30 April 2015 p.7) by Luke Sproule.

Under the caption 'THE CANDIDATES', there is no mention of four of the candidates standing for Witney including myself – Colin Bex Wessex Regionalists – the party for Wessex.

A cursory note at the end of the report patronisingly lists 'other' candidates (including myself), two of whom already are featured as 'THE CANDIDATES'.

Contrary to the allegation so called 'other' candidates did not provide biography details – on Wednesday 22 April I personally visited Newspaper House at Osney Mead and hand delivered the press release attached together with my details, and further, I provided my biography to a reporter in person, and attended a photo-call at his request in which I saw results of some twenty images taken of my likeness all of which I was assured would be available for choice for future publication both in your organ and in your sister daily, the Oxford Mail.

For the time being as you should well know, all candidates standing in British elections do so on the same terms as all the others, so at the very least these omissions constitute journalistic incompetence – at worst they constitute culpable bias not least in depriving the Witney electorate of information crucial to their being able to cast a vote intelligently based on the information provided which must be made available to them.

Following the flagrant abuse by Churches Together against democracy on Friday 10 April in which seven candidates not only were excluded from addressing the 1% selectively cleansed minority of constituents, also they were banned from so much as witnessing this travesty of democracy – as were both the national and local press photographers present, I should have expected that local press such as yourselves would have made sure you would redress such democratic deficit – not compound it.

No wonder people need the opportunity to vote for me and others who are standing against such shenanigans being allowed to occur ever again.

Before deciding how to vote, all voters are entitled to know that I am standing to make Witney one of the safest seats in Britain – safe that is from the damage and betrayal being planned as I write by the three people whose likenesses feature at the head of the report, and that my aim is to poll more than 22,000 votes to be able to win Witney for a majority of its good people to be able to reclaim their lives and rightful freedoms from malicious debt and from any further damaging diktat from the next Westminster government – from what ever most likely unlawful concoction it may be contrived.

Kindly note, if you fail to publish this letter in the next issues both of the Oxford Times and the Oxford Mail together with a report on both the press releases attached, before and on the day of the election – in full together with a full and unambiguous apology, not only shall I lodge an election petition declaring the results of the election void – also I shall take legal advice on what action may be available to me against both your organs on account of your part in depriving me and the electorate of our respective democratic rights as set out by the Electoral Commission, the Representation of the People Act and the Levison Report.

Kindly acknowledge receipt of this letter and respond without delay.

Yours sincerely,
Colin Bex
Candidate, Witney,
Wessex Regionalists – the party for Wessex
tweet – X for Bex for Witney

Friday, May 1, 2015

X for Bex for Witney

This is the five-word tweet Colin is suggesting to all those he meets who are too young to vote, to send amongst their friends in Witney, to provide them with input to influence their parents to benefit the Wessex cause – and which has produced an enthusiastic response.

Meanwhile, Colin’s leaflet has been finalised for distribution to all households in the constituency, and uploaded to our website.