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 2010 Review has recently been forwarded to the Commission and here is what it says:
During 2010 the Party’s on-line presence was maintained and strengthened. The website – www.wessexregionalists.org – is linked to a Facebook page and to a blog. The latter proved particularly useful during the General Election in permitting a running commentary on the campaign independent of the negative bias frequently displayed in the mainstream media. Page-view statistics show that the blog has attracted readers from across the globe.
Colin Bex was elected Party President in February and at the same time selected as prospective candidate in the forthcoming General Election. It was decided to consider contesting Witney, the only Wessex constituency represented in the old Parliament by one of the three major London party leaders. Initial canvassing confirmed that this would be a good choice and Colin was duly nominated.
A folded A4 leaflet – ‘The Truth in Black & White’ – was distributed by Royal Mail to all constituents. At 50,000 copies, this was our highest-ever print-run. Publicity was also provided by the local press, with coverage in the Oxford Journal, Oxford News, Oxford Press and Oxford Times. Interviews were given by Colin to Banbury Sound, BBC Oxford (television and radio), CNN and to Dutch radio and by Nick Xylas to Japanese radio. The Wessex Wyvern standard was much used as a visual aid on the campaign trail and was commented on by David Cameron (the Conservative candidate) at the count. Major publicity appeared shortly before polling day in the form of a full-page article in the London Guardian of 4th May. This included a colour photograph of Party members with the Wyvern at Chipping Norton, sadly in bad weather that offered poor conditions for canvassing. The article was by Alexis Petridis, who had been tasked with writing a piece on an attractive smaller party and as a bonus found himself at the heart of national debate in the Leader of the Opposition’s constituency. A further report appeared in the Guardian on the Saturday after the election. Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail also visited the constituency and noted our candidate’s lively presence in Burford. Travelling almost wholly by public transport, Colin visited all the major towns and some smaller villages, including return visits in some cases.
Two public meetings were attended, at Woodstock and at Witney, both organised by local clergy. At Woodstock, all candidates – or their representatives – were accommodated equally and Colin was able to engage with the audience as he wished. In disgraceful contrast, at Witney parties – and others – without recent UK or current EU Parliamentary representation were excluded from the platform – 50% of the candidates – and the audience was forbidden to express disapproval of views expounded. Colin protested vigorously against this curtailment of balanced debate but without success. The organiser’s pre-selection of candidates deemed fit to be heard is symptomatic of the hypocrisy of an establishment that claims to seek wider participation in political and civic life yet increasingly restricts opportunities to do so to ‘approved’ channels only, which include the near-identical major parties.
Whatever discretion may or may not be allowed to the voluntary organisers of a public meeting, much less can be conceded to the public authority responsible for organising the election. West Oxfordshire District Council’s actions were generally fair and efficient but we consider it unacceptable that the microphone at the count was turned off once David Cameron had completed his acceptance speech and while others were still waiting to add their own remarks. This was an appalling discourtesy to candidates who should be entitled to equal treatment. It was also a discourtesy to the counting staff, as it is customary for candidates to thank the Acting Returning Officer and his assistants for their work. It may be that this action was inspired by a desire to allow the major parties to proceed to give media interviews without interruption; if so, it confirms our view that elections in the United Kingdom are not free and fair, because they provide additional facilities to some parties at the expense of others.
The televised debates between the three major London party leaders were another example of this unwelcome trend towards re-inforcing the existing distribution of power by denying critical voices a hearing. This structural bias is compounded by the disproportionate inputs of rich beneficiaries and the disproportional outputs of the FPTP voting system. It is to such factors rather than to any supposed deficiency in our own campaigning that we attribute the results we have obtained at recent elections. In standing, we are in effect acting as a political thermometer, testing the extent to which the electorate has or has not grasped the dire reality of its situation and become supportive of the radical changes needed to correct it.
In the New York Times of 9th June 2010, Stephen Farrell’s ‘Peace Protest, London-Style’ included reference to Colin’s candidacy and his view that the only reason Britain may pull its troops out of Iraq or Afghanistan would be on the basis of saving money. It would have nothing to do with legality, let alone morality.
In November, two WR officers who are also members of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall attended its Annual Conference in Bodmin. We consider it important to support other movements for autonomy on the principle that a rising tide lifts all boats. In the case of Cornwall, success also helps to establish in the public consciousness both what our own borders are and the historical basis for them. We have nevertheless continued to resist all calls for any federation of efforts under an all-England organisation or philosophy that would simply mirror the centralism we oppose.
We were particularly concerned during the latter part of 2010 at the implications of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. This, by requiring cross-border constituencies in order to meet an inflexible electoral quota, will prevent both ourselves and Mebyon Kernow fielding candidates across our respective territories, the whole of those territories and nothing but those territories. The defence of local and regional integrity is at the heart of our world-view and we are ill-served by Jacobin arrangements that treat politics simply as a question of which brand of a single global ideology should dominate the House of Commons.