Times of Tension


It was good to hear Nick Clegg last week distancing himself from the PM. We’re all Thatcherites now, claimed Cameron. Oh no, we’re not, insisted Clegg. Any reminder that the man is Deputy Prime Minister and not Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party is very welcome.

So too was another breaking of ranks last week, when agriculture minister David Heath drew attention to the looming disaster that is food security, or rather the UK’s lack of it. Heath, the LibDem MP for Somerton & Frome, may have been voicing his own views. Or those agreed by his party’s leadership. Certainly not the views of his Coalition partners, notably Osborne and Pickles, who remain desperate to destroy as much farmland as possible in the search for that strangely elusive growth they keep telling us that we need. Meanwhile, those who look ahead are buying farmland and laying the foundations for the new feudalism. The more land in others’ hands that is lost to development, the higher their own profits will in due course be.

Missing from Heath’s statement was any acknowledgement of the fact that WR have been making an issue of food security for years, while all the London parties have had their heads well into the sand. Just read this blog. Maybe Heath does. If so, he’ll know it won’t be the first time we’ve been proved right. We were right about the need to fundamentally restructure the financial sector. We were right about declining public enthusiasm for elected mayors and the whole ‘cities first’ agenda. We were right that localism, Coalition-style, would be a con. We were right about the resurgence of interest in public ownership and industrial planning. So what else are we right about? Peak oil? The need to rebuild the rural rail network (making substantial progress in Scotland and Wales but little in Wessex)? The need to stabilise our population and move towards a truly sustainable society?

It won’t give us any satisfaction to say we told you so. (Welcoming you to membership of WR would be far more constructive.) We do sense that change is coming. Not all of it positive by any means. Earlier this month we received news that West Dorset District Council, under pressure to meet London’s demands for ever more housing, has proposed 1,000 homes on land south-east of Dorchester at Winterborne Came. There is concern that the countryside setting for the homes of two Wessex literary giants – William Barnes and Thomas Hardy – will be destroyed by the development. The lies of London party politicians – that any number of houses can always be accommodated without harming our heritage – just go on getting bigger. But it’s what local folk should expect. So long as they go on voting for this, then this, of course, is what they will get. They will get something different when Wessex Regionalist councillors and MPs are elected to give London diktat its marching orders.

The fact that localism is failing to deliver on its promise of parish democracy will continue to pit Coalition councillors against Coalition ministers until the day they too realise that those in power in London truly don’t care what the yokels think. We who live here are an irrelevance, an irritation, an impediment to their careers. Yet we have it in our hands to destroy those careers by refusing to return these folk to Parliament. We won’t take that step, yet, because we are an essentially deferential society. We really do seem to believe that the big man in London must know what’s best for us. The vicious circle of deference and defeat will continue to repeat down the generations unless we say ‘no’. And follow through on that ‘no’ by building the regionalist alternative.

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