- Preparation for war has dominated Wessex for centuries. Defence procurement provides Bristol with one of its largest sources of office employment. Hampshire is ‘home’ to both the Royal Navy, at Portsmouth, and the Army, at Aldershot. Further north, air bases at Greenham Common and Upper Heyford became by-words for Cold War fear. Huge areas of Wiltshire and Dorset remain today fenced off as military establishments and training grounds. The villages of Imber in Wiltshire and Tyneham in Dorset, requisitioned ‘temporarily’ for the Second World War, have never been returned to their former inhabitants.
- Britain’s military spending budget for 1998/9 was £22.5 billion. Reducing it must be a priority but care is needed not only to avoid de-stabilising areas of the world where British forces keep the peace but to ease the consequences for Wessex: economically, socially and environmentally. Defence underpins much of the region’s economy, directly or through purchases in the aerospace and electronics sectors. While armoured vehicles have done damage to the archaeology of Wessex it is also true that the exclusion of modern development and agricultural practices has done much for the landscape and wildlife in areas like Tyneham. The future use of redundant defence sites poses huge issues for the planning system.
- Britain is the second largest arms exporter in the world (The five biggest arms exporters are the five permanent members of the Security Council). Eventually we get shot with our own weapons, as has happened in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsidies of arms exports cost taxpayers around £500 million a year. Wessex has a share in this too. Wessex Regionalists condemn the arms trade, whose consequences for global security cannot be limited to the countries to which arms are sold. The world’s resources are limited enough without squandering them on the means to fight over what there is.
- Belief in the value of common security needs to replace mutual threat. It is a responsibility that the whole world must share. The UN Security Council should therefore be reformed to reflect the interests of all. There should be no vetoes or permanent members. Since the Warsaw Pact has been disbanded there is no justification for retaining NATO. The Cold War may be over but there is plenty of decommissioning still to do. In Russia alone, there are over 8,000 nuclear warheads. They serve no rational purpose.
A regionalist government in Wessex will:
- seek the withdrawal of the Army from Imber and Tyneham, accompanied by their re-instatement to pre-war condition
- seek to ensure that money saved in defence cuts is redeployed to boost investment and employment in sustainable industries
- seek the decommissioning of weapons of mass destruction and an end to research into their further development
- work to strengthen international institutions for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:
- campaign for councils to give priority to employment rather than housing when planning the re-use of former defence sites, so as to curb population growth and provide local alternatives to long-distance commuting.