Political discourse in the Disunited Kingdom is now turning to public spending cuts. Brown continues to tell us that capital investment is his priority, as if new schools, hospitals and the rest are of any lasting use without the right professionals to staff them. Cameron promises us ‘an age of austerity’, relieved only by tax cuts for his chums. Given New Labour’s mismanagement of the economy, there are, it seems, now plenty of turkeys willing to vote for a Cameronian Christmas Carol.
Our view is that the ideology of public versus private is less important than what the money is spent on and whether that raises or lowers our quality of life here in Wessex. The priorities of a Wessex Parliament could be – and should be – very different from Westminster’s. There is a plethora of politically correct initiatives we’d never miss if the axe fell on them, including the literally tens of billions of pounds of spending on foreign intervention, military and civil. The ever-imperial Tories have no plans to scale back on that, missing no opportunity to impose their culture of nastiness upon the world’s most vulnerable folk like some anti-social disease.
Some matters will, as ever, be glossed over in the spending review. English nationalists will once again wave the skeleton of the Barnett formula in a bid to scare us, though nothing will change. (Add in the figures the formula excludes and it looks much more likely that Scotland subsidises England, not the other way round.) No-one outside the Wessex Regionalists will take apart the figures for England itself to show how London benefits at our expense. In 2007/08, budgeted ‘identifiable public expenditure’ on London was 117% of the UK average; in the ‘South West’ zone, it was 89% and in the ‘South East’ a mere 84%. London received much more per head than any other part of England, more than Wales and almost as much as Scotland. When English nationalists tell us the Celts get a better deal than the English, a lot hinges on which English you mean.
One of the areas rumoured to be up for the chop could be free admission to museums and galleries. To be accurate, ‘national’ museums and galleries, almost all of which are in London, with a few now also to be found in Northumbria. Wessex has the Science Museum store at Wroughton, near Swindon. And what else? Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard is, on the face of it, a national museum. HMS Victory is still officially part of the Royal Navy. Yet admission charges apply. If free museum entry is a good idea – arguably so – then ‘our’ Government should pay for all ‘our’ museums to open free, not those it chooses, overwhelmingly in London. And it if can’t do that, then let the Greater London Authority meet the deficit there, not the long-suffering folk of Wessex.
Just why do we subsidise London, in so many ways, like serfs watching their crops trundle off to their feudal superior’s castle? And what do we get back? Wessex needs its own Parliament, in control of its own money, making its own decisions. With most, if not all, ‘MWPs’ living within commuting distance of the Parliament building – wherever located in our region – we could then at the very least curb the excesses of flipped second homes, to the relief of the Wessex taxpayer. Geography dictates that that is something no British or English Parliament can ever achieve: Britain and England alike are impractically big to govern from a single point purportedly convenient to all. So instead of Westminster and Whitehall deciding where the cuts should fall, how about them now placing their own fat necks upon the block?