- Wessex has its own distinctive identity, rooted in its history and cultural traditions. Yet it has been failed by the Westminster government’s inability to treat it as a region in its own right – as a cultural, economic and political unit. Indeed, the division between ‘South West’ and ‘South East’ is doing great damage to Wessex. It is also doomed to failure and attempts to entrench it through the setting up of bogus ‘regional assemblies’ for the South West and South East are just so much wasted opportunity. Successful economic regions in Europe are usually coherent cultural regions and we want Wessex to be free to join their number. The people of Wessex have lost faith in the political system. There is a growing sense of disillusionment, despair and powerlessness. This is a direct result of vesting power in unaccountable quangos and aloof, condescending government. Our future can only be safeguarded if we take greater control of our own affairs. This will only happen when a Wessex Assembly is established.
- The Wessex Assembly will be elected by a system of single transferable vote, making it a more representative and inclusive form of democracy. It will:
- put an end to the division of Wessex and bring political power back to Wessex
- provide direction for Wessex, assisted by democratically accountable bodies such as a Wessex Development Agency
- give Wessex a strong voice in Britain and Europe.
- We propose that there will be a Wessex Senate, alongside the Assembly, representing professional and voluntary bodies, involved in the law-making process and able to block controversial legislation and require that it be put to a referendum. This arrangement mirrors the division of Parliament into House of Commons and House of Lords. The two chambers will be known collectively as the Witan, the name of the council that advised the kings of Wessex
- The Wessex Assembly will appoint the regional government, the Wessex Executive, which will take over the powers currently exercised by the regional quangos and the Government Offices. The precise distribution of functions between Wessex and Westminster will be negotiated through the all-party Wessex Constitutional Convention. However, the Wessex Regionalists believe that an effective regional government will need at least the powers currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament. A weak assembly like that in Wales, with no law-making or tax-varying powers, or even the ability to act outside narrowly-defined statutory provisions, would risk becoming more a burden than a benefit to the people of Wessex. The areas of competence should certainly include most aspects of agriculture & fisheries; economic development; education; environment & planning; health & social services; housing; police & emergency services; and transport. Powers retained at Westminster would be strictly limited to matters of wider importance such as defence and foreign affairs.
- Because the Wessex Regionalists believe that sovereignty resides with the people, from the bottom up, we assert the democratic right of the people of Wessex to increase the powers of the Wessex Assembly, as and when appropriate, in order to determine our own future as a community. It must be emphasised that this does not mean “going it alone”. In the modern world no region or state can ignore the rest of the world, whether it be Wessex, England or Britain. On the contrary, it means that Wessex will be able to seek out its own partners as and when necessary on a basis of equality. This will give us the flexibility denied at present to build for the future. Our long-term policy aim is for Wessex to take its rightful place as a self-governing cultural, economic and political community within a decentralised European confederation of small nations and historic regions. Wessex Regionalists believe that such a Europe is the only alternative to a Europe of uniformity, big business and bureaucracy.
- Fundamental to our plan for Wessex is the decentralisation of power to Wessex as a political and economic unit. The people of Wessex will be having a greater say in how Wessex is governed. However, we certainly do not want to replace one form of centralism with another. Wessex will have no permanent capital: the Witan will meet in different parts of Wessex and the government offices will be widely dispersed so that job opportunities are not concentrated in one big city.
A regionalist government in Wessex will:
- campaign for the powers needed to be an effective force in improving the quality of life of its people
- ensure that access to the legislative and executive bodies is evenly-distributed within Wessex.
Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:
- support the work of the Wessex Constitutional Convention and campaign for the maximum devolution of power to Wessex