Media interest continues, BBC Bristol and BBC Wiltshire both seeking interviews this week. David Garmston from BBC Points West went to Longleat to record an interview with our veteran founder, Lord Bath for Sunday Politics West. It took up 3 minutes, 42 seconds of a 1 hour, 10 minute programme filled mainly with much less interesting stuff. (Catch it on iPlayer, at 50:32 in.)
Yesterday saw filming for another BBC programme, More Power to the West?, again fronted by David Garmston, for broadcast on Guy Fawkes Night. Oddly, according to the BBC website, this programme and its equivalent for BBC South West (Cornwall and Devon) are both 40 minutes long. The BBC South equivalent is 10 minutes long. Is the attention span of eastern Wessex really that much shorter than western Wessex?
The format yesterday was a four-person panel – Parliamentarians from the three main London parties plus George Ferguson, Independent Mayor of Bristol – with an audience mostly made up of local politicians, businessfolk and experts of one kind or another. The audience proved to be a lot more lively than the panel. The three main parties all agree that decentralisation is good, which begs the question why none of them do a thing about it when in power (other than to do the opposite while pretending they’re not). No wonder they’re now so widely despised.
From the start it was clear that Wessex at last had a chance of a receptive airing, David Robins being invited to contribute to the debate and to unfurl the Wyvern for the cameras. Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, said it looked like a Welsh dragon. Cue to point out the number of legs (two legs Wessex, four legs Wales) and that ours is just as ancient. There’s no doubt that the Wyvern, with its warm, bold colours and sweeping lines, makes excellent television and a lasting impression.
A now recurrent theme is the realisation that Wessex provides a ready-made answer to the question of how to devolve power in our part of England. An optimist might even say that this is an idea whose time has come. We don’t need a Labour-style constitutional convention to hold back implementation any longer.
A realist – aware of the history of the Celtic countries – is more likely to take the view that a trans-generational struggle is just beginning. The London regime has many centuries of experience in how to prevent necessary change. Yesterday’s debate was a useful step on the road to change but was memorable mainly for the low aspirations evident among our region’s elected politicians. Too bruised by the oppressive system they try to work within, they haven’t the room to raise their sights. In contrast, we don’t want negotiation with our London masters over city deals or combined authorities. We want their rule out of the region at the point of a pitchfork, never to be allowed back.
The programme airs on BBC1 on 5th November at 10:35 pm.