Every year around this time, we have to file an annual report of our political activities to the Electoral Commission. This is our report for 2020.
Alexander Thynn, founder of the modern Wessex movement, passed away from Covid-19 in April. Although he moved to the SDP in the 1980s, he continued to support our efforts to create a more tolerant, just world, with Wessex at its heart. More positively, 2020 marked the 40th anniversary of WR’s formal establishment as a political party. The campaign against the over-centralised UK state was further enhanced by the creation of the Northern Independence Party – under the flag of Northumbria – whose progress we are keenly tracking.
2020 brought three major challenges: the first full year of the Johnson government, final exit from the EU, and Covid. All three provided examples of the perils of an over-centralised and inept regime acting in their own interests and those of the cohort around them in London. Many wished that Wessex had the same freedoms to act as Scotland. Our concern is that this government will use such challenges again as an excuse to attack the weakest in society in order to protect its elite, rich backers.
Having to cancel regular quarterly meetings we switched, like millions of others, to Zoom. This proved very effective and we instigated weekly Zoom catch-ups, allowing significant progress on updating the Party’s messages and image. We increased our presence on social media via Facebook and Twitter. The website was re-designed and re-launched and an on-line Members’ Forum established. Policy papers were developed on a range of issues, with more to come.
For several reasons, a new party logo – the hawthorn emblem – was adopted for registration with the Electoral Commission. We wanted to create space between the work of WR and that of the cultural group Wessex Society, which pioneered approval of the wyvern flag. There had also been too much publicity given to the use of the wyvern by a neo-Nazi group and by a Wessex branch of the neo-con Libertarian Party. Although still proud of the region’s formally recognised flag, we wanted to dissuade supporters from being drawn to us through symbolism alone. It is also appropriate for a party advocating a dark green environmental stance to use a symbol drawn from nature, one also drawing on Wessex heritage: the Glastonbury thorn and Wessex Day’s May blossom.
On a personal level, our President continued working with the Stonehenge Alliance to resist plans to carve up a large area of the World Heritage Site for the sake of a short tunnel supposedly to take a few minutes off the drive from London to Cornwall. However, central government took the drastic step of over-ruling its own planning inspectorate’s recommendation, and UNESCO’s objections, to authorise the project. A legal challenge is now being mounted seeking to overturn that decision.
The aim for 2021 is to continue and increase the use of social media platforms and the evolving manifesto to raise the profile of the party as a credible alternative to the mainstream parties. We will need to define our position on a post-Brexit world. All the main (English) parties in Westminster have rejected a ‘Rejoin the EU’ policy position. WR has always been a pro-Europe party, advocating a Europe of the Regions, and with major concerns over the way the EU is run and its trajectory. That provides us with a unique opportunity to combine a pro-EU membership with a strong pro-EU reform platform.