Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Tale of Two Cities

Bristol City Council is still weathering the storm it brought down upon itself for not marking St George’s Day this year, having argued that the city is ‘too multicultural’ for such an event.  Lack of interest might have been a plausible excuse, but not that all cultures are valued except one.

Others do things differently.  Professor John Denham is Director of Winchester University’s Centre for English Identity and Politics.  Interviewed by Wessex Society for its magazine The Wessex Chronicle, he recalled the situation in Southampton during his time as a Labour MP there:

“I helped organise St George’s Day in Southampton and Southampton’s a very diverse city – so how do you have a St George’s Day which can involve everybody and yet is still an English festival?  The story we tell is that Southampton is a great English city, that’s been there throughout English history, and it’s always been made up of all the people who’ve lived there, which because it’s a port city has always been people from all over the world.  People can understand that you can be both English and very diverse, through your history and everybody that’s come together to make the city.  A couple of years ago I was working on this with a young Sikh woman councillor, born in Southampton, and we discovered that we both had had relatives in the British forces serving in the Far East during the Second World War.  That’s an example of how family and local histories can be inter-twined as part of a common story.”

The difference then is that Southampton projects the primacy of territory, locally and nationally – loyalty to place rather than to race – whereas Bristol appears scared of any continuity with its foundational past.  Curiously, when it comes to Wessex and the marking of St Ealdhelm’s Day, the roles are reversed.  Bristol is happy to fly the Wyvern outside the Council House (or ‘City Hall’, for the Anti-Mayor and his fellow deniers of distinctiveness); Southampton still sits in stony silence, unmoved by calls to fly.  Perhaps this will be the year Southampton sees sense?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review of 2015

Every year when we submit our accounts to the Electoral Commission we are also required to provide a 'Review of Political Activities' covering the year just gone.

The 2015 Review has recently been forwarded to the Commission and here is what it says:

“The major event of the year was the General Election, which saw our President, Colin Bex return to Oxfordshire to again challenge David Cameron for the safe Tory seat of Witney.  The overall result was no surprise but Colin was pleased to see a 77% increase in his own vote and a midway ranking among the candidates, concluding that if voters remain willing to keep their options open this bodes well for the future.  Indeed, it was our best result since 2001.  The first-past-the-post voting system continues to disadvantage smaller parties; it creates presumptions about who is worth hearing that prevent a minor party candidate even putting forward an alternative point of view.  This was again the case at Witney, where Colin and other minor party candidates were barred from even attending the hustings.  Local press coverage was seriously incompetent, even to the point of publishing inexcusable untruths, though full colour feature articles in both editions of the Wall Street Journal ensured global awareness of the Wessex cause.

The importance of online activities was underlined by a sharp spike in viewing figures for the Party’s blog during the campaign.  In April, there were nearly 3,000 page-views, nearly double the peak of interest during the Eastleigh by-election in 2013.  In May, the Party was left without a core website following the catastrophic failure of the Zyweb platform that hosted it.  Thanks to Rick Heyse, a new Full Member with the requisite skills, the Party now has a new site – – to which are gradually being added the range of features increasingly expected of a party website in the 21st century.  Colin Bex has been an active ambassador for the Party, attending conferences on climate change, in Paris, and democracy, in Brussels, and the June march in London against austerity.  On the march, he spoke with Jeremy Corbyn, soon to be the Labour Leader, about the need for regionalism.

A wholly Conservative Government took office in May with some two-thirds of the electorate either not supporting or actively opposing it.  It has demonstrated a deep hostility towards regionalism and local democracy, even as financial pressures compel public services to re-organise on a regional basis.  It continues to advance the view – shared with Labour – that the imposition of unwanted elected mayors is a preferable substitute for substantial devolution to democratic regional assemblies.  In the second half of 2015 our attention shifted to the May 2016 local elections.  Nick Xylas was endorsed as the Party’s candidate for Bristol City Council, Eastville Ward and much activity has focused on developing a framework for that campaign.

Policies adopted during the year have emphasised our radical difference from the current mainstream.  The Party now explicitly supports a confederal ‘Europe of a Hundred Flags’, more democratic governance of public limited companies and a referendum on the future of the monarchy, while opposing child genital mutilation, ritual slaughter and the renewal of Trident.  We continue to benefit from the ‘Scotland effect’ as the SNP consolidates its hold and voters in England also look around for alternatives to the failed London parties.  The level of justifiable optimism within the Party is higher than for many, many years.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Keeping It Under Your Hat

With 11.5 million documents to read through, we’ve not heard the last of the revelations from the Panama Papers.  David Cameron is on the defensive, though Jeremy Corbyn’s attacks are blunted by the fact that his party was once led by one half of the Blair couple, now rumoured to be worth a cool £60 million.  If Labour’s a party with the interests of the common man at heart, it certainly hasn’t acted like one.

Equally revealing is the information that Cameron blocked EU plans for greater transparency over trusts.  It brings into sharp relief what’s at stake in the EU referendum because the issue presented as pro- or anti-Brussels can in fact be reversed and presented as pro- or anti-London.  Brexit won’t deliver regionalism but it could very easily produce a London regime on steroids.  Johnson as Prime Minister, ousting the fatally discredited thinking of the Cameron / Osborne axis, but even more in thrall to City backers.  Massive deregulation paving the way for active promotion of the UK as the place for the globally corrupt to do business.  London helping itself to still more of the national wealth while denying other parts of the UK still more of the powers needed to turn themselves around.  Openly, the fight for Brexit is being fought in the name of democracy, and on that score sound points can be made, but, behind the scenes, kleptocracy would be the real winner.

A clear pointer to the direction of travel appeared this week when Dominic Grieve highlighted that tax-dodging is an industry that provides a great many much-needed jobs.  In places like the British Virgin Islands that matter so much to all of us, if we can just remember where they are.  It does indeed provide jobs, socially useless ones, just as it destroys socially useful jobs by denying the public purse the funds with which to sustain them.  Such is the mentally sick, insecure society that Thatcherism has spawned, ferreting around for whatever bits of work are on offer from a parasite class to whom caps must forever be doffed.  Dismantling the tax havens is technically a very easy thing to do; it’s just politically impossible to pass the necessary legislation because of a longstanding Wesm’ster consensus against it.

George Osborne’s plan to nationalise all local authority schools, and then privatise them – a bit like the Dissolution of the Monasteries – is another pointer to the direction of travel.  Academies don’t have to teach the national curriculum, so it will presumably disappear, along with parent governors and any other vestige of democracy that might give children the wrong idea about how our society can be run.  Why would you need a national curriculum, written down and open to challenge, when it can simply be ‘understood’ by the chief executives of the big McSchool academy chains?  Understood, that is, to mean teaching that a fraudster is just a better entrepreneur than the competition, that tax-dodging is wealth creation and that the only thing the law-abiding individual need ever fear is the over-mighty State?  Dis-education and mis-education are the new battleground because what you don’t know can’t hurt you, can it?

Englishness is many things but one of the most cherished is a love of secrecy, or privacy as it’s usually termed, a pathological distrust of the other that underpins the rejection of any potential for collective action.  It’s why we prefer houses, even in city centres, to the flats that those on the mainland regard as a far more rational use of land.  Across most of Scandinavia, tax returns are public documents: folk don’t have hang-ups about what they earn or the tax they pay on it.  Perhaps they believe they really have earned it: so many of our top ‘earners’ know deep down that their salaries are out of all proportion to their real social value.  English society, obsessed with covering up the truth in order to protect a ruling class who aren’t worth their privileges, is a society at war with itself.  The rulers keep winning by setting each serf against all the rest and presenting themselves as the good guys.  It’s been like that for 950 years.

The system was imposed from outside, from Normandy.  Can it be overthrown from within, or will it take some major help from Brussels to achieve our liberation?  The history of those 950 years furnishes one very clear answer.