For a community to operate as a shared space, all members of that community must, as far as practicable, have an equal status and an equal voice. Where this is not possible, for example because of age or incapacity, provision must be made to ensure that their interests are protected. The well-being of the future generations who will inherit each community must also be championed: ‘what has posterity ever done for us?’ is not a responsible approach. For every level of short-term executive decision-making, there should be a parallel advisory body with the duty to draw its attention as necessary to the long-term and to the needs of any group with a diminished voice.
Politics is everyone, and everyone should feel involved in it from the first moment they sense being part of the community’s present and future. The threshold for formal involvement – the voting age – should be lowered to 16. The importance of civic education, both in and out of formal schooling, cannot be overstated: a democracy is only as good as the people who comprise it.
WR stands against all and any form of discrimination whether it because of a person’s race, nationality, colour, sex, gender, ability, beliefs, appearance or any other factor. We regard every person as a unique individual entitled to be treated equally with every other person. No-one should be made to feel targeted because of characteristics they cannot change or views they sincerely hold. On that basis there would be no need for a specific code of behaviour to deal with any perceived group, but we recognise the massive task in creating a discrimination-free world; we are mindful that our society, at community, regional and global level is far from equal for all inhabitants.
Too often people are stereotyped – Male/Female; Black/White; Gay/Straight; Rich/Poor; Employed/Unemployed; Fat/Thin; Able/Disabled; Upper class/Working class. This is an easy trap to fall through. WR believes that people should only be judged by the quality of their interactions with others – are they out for only themselves or do they want to contribute to society in a positive way.
It is easier to begin with equality than to retrofit it. That is why we place such emphasis on housing suited to people’s needs, well-funded and community-focused education, and a political system that hears all voices. No-one should feel doomed to fail. In the race towards achievement, not everyone is starting from the same place but a true meritocracy requires that, as far as practicable, everyone should have an equal opportunity to fulfil their ambitions. This is not the country we live in today. Consider that 7% of the UK population attended a fee-paying school but they account for 57% of working peers, 59% of civil service permanent secretaries, 65% of senior judges and 69% of Boris Johnson’s first cabinet.
We also believe that the resolution of perceived discrimination should be in the hands of the victims of the discrimination. We would encourage the people closest to a conflict, an issue, a problem or an injustice, to make the decisions that lead to resolution as these decisions will affect them most. There has to be trust which can only be achieved by the direct involvement of those most affected.
Where a disadvantaged community needs specific support, the form this takes should be developed with the community itself. It should not be imposed by experts, it should not be seen as patronising, and it should be able to demonstrate that lasting solutions can be achieved within the required timescale.
This framework needs to be carefully managed to ensure that help offered to one group does not come to be seen as a burden for any other group, but is heralded for its fairness and impartiality.
Immigrants and their families often do jobs others will not, at the pay and conditions offered. This has become evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they have been shown to be the backbone of health and social care services and indispensable to agriculture and food processing. Their over-representation there has not received the same attention as their under-representation in higher levels of management. Both outcomes are the result of inadequate policies but an overall strategy is the thing most missing. Wessex and other regional governments should have a continuing role, working with employers, trade unions and educational institutions, in meeting our labour needs in a just and sustainable way. This means better planning of training and development opportunities, both to ensure that labour needs are met from our own human resources as far as possible, and that no-one with the ability to progress is inhibited from doing so. Pay and conditions must better reflect the importance of key workers to society. Where barriers to advancement exist, ways to overcome them should be identified, accepting that, as progression to proficiency takes time, under-representation must not be remedied at the expense of public confidence.
We do not have a stereotype of what a Wessex person should look or sound like, how they should dress or what customs they should observe. We value the culture of Wessex and believe it should be accessible for everyone. We defend it against its detractors. We acknowledge our inheritance from the original kingdom of Wessex, enriched by all who have come to contribute, not to dominate or to exploit. That does not mean we tell anyone how to live their lives; we would rather they feel free to be fully themselves, without pressure to conform: ‘live and let live’. The myth is ‘you can be black and British, but you have to be white to be English’. We disagree and we know of no reason why a West Indian should not equally revel in being a West Saxon.
Our approach to this major task of creating cohesion within existing communities and cohesion between communities is summarised as
E + E + E = E
E – Education about discrimination in all its forms
E – Exposure: exposing all examples of intolerance
E – Enforcement: of all anti-discrimination policies and laws
And so to achieve E – Elimination of all forms of discrimination
(See also the page on Migration).