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.