The folk of Wessex think of themselves as free, but are slaves to their own poor self-esteem, forever doubting their capacity for self-rule. Nine hundred years after the brutal conquest of their land, they have so little pride left in them that they cheerfully reject at every election the escape route offered by regionalism, preferring to submit yet again to five more years of the London yoke. Even a devolved assembly as limited as those of Scotland or Wales would give them some little voice, which could not be completely ignored when their fate is to be determined. You can be sure the voices of London’s Mayor and Lord Mayor are both heard loud, clear and shrill, so why should ours stay silent?
Yet there remain also those who would stir the indifference of the majority to reconsider whether they could not in fact do better than this. We stand in the midst of that agony of reappraisal that is British politics today, that realisation that the common wealth has been squandered for nothing but shiny baubles, the realisation that the bonds of serfdom are being re-imposed, literally through choice, because too many believed all that was too good to ever be true. We stand in the midst of that agony, but we are not part of it. We saw it coming decades ago. We warned. We were ignored. So if we will be listened to now, we can speak with the cool certainty of conviction.
Politics in England needs to be transformed, with parishes, shires and regions, each tier in turn, as the territory widens, possessing a diminishing share of the responsibility (not power) of government. Economics, here as everywhere, needs to be transformed, with democratic debate revolving around the benefit to the community of any investment, not its profitability for others. Culture in Wessex needs to be transformed, turning a despised provincial existence into the golden thread linking a self-confident community to its past and future. We aren’t looking for protest votes. We’d rather have the support of those who believe that radical constitutional change is no longer an option but a necessity.
These are revolutionary ideas, with dangerous implications for vested interests. There will be no place for the legal, financial or media sectors as we know them. The clear writ of popular power will slice through them all. Well-paid, parasitical jobs in London will need to be destroyed in their tens of thousands. We may or may not believe in the class war. The London regime certainly does, and acts accordingly. For them, this is a struggle of the possessors and manipulators against the dispossessed and disinherited. They are few, but they are united in their arrogance, greed and spite. Are we united against them? How many councillors or candidates will stand up and say these things that need to be said?
Ought these things to come to pass? Yes. Will they? To say ‘yes’ to that question too is the first step in the process of attitude formation. Old regimes do collapse. Those who step forward to fill the vacuum are those who have bent their energies exclusively to attitude formation, to conditioning the minds of their folk to the inevitable. Any inspirational movement, tightly organised and thoroughly aware of an uncompromising ideological line, can impose its authority on a fluid situation caused by the bewildering disintegration of former certainties. That is precisely how the states of Baltic, Central and Balkan Europe emerged at the end of the First World War. It is also how the virus of Thatcherism took hold. In politics, it is the attitudes, not the reasons, that count. Attitudes are the emotional ground out of which the reasons spring.
The most effective way to destroy old attitudes is to show that the society in question can be refashioned very efficiently using means considered beyond the bounds of respectability. You can’t let local communities do whatever they like. Yes you can. You can’t judge investment priorities against the resulting community benefit rather than against the demands of private property and global finance. Why ever not? You can’t do without London-based expertise. Want to bet?
In the perspective of history, a decade is little. What is important to individual regionalists is to influence the attitudes of others to such an extent that the climate of opinion within which another generation of regionalists will work is more favourable. Two steps forward, one step back will get us there in the end. Our weaknesses may often be more apparent than our strengths but do not under-estimate our capacity to punch above our weight.
The same ratchet effect is true for nationalists: whether Salmond’s great gamble next year succeeds or fails, the debate it has opened cannot ultimately be closed until freedom is achieved. We should capitalise on the result, whichever way it goes, since Wessex too needs to debate its fate.
We also need to ensure that we record, cherish and pass on the stories, of the marches and the motorway protests, of the flag-flying and the poll counts, of the pioneering pamphlets, and of those who have passed away. Just as the nationalist movements have done, we should accumulate and document the regionalist past and present in order to inspire a regionalist future. A future that will be there for the taking by those true to the deepest memories of why we act as we do.