Wessex Regionalists


The Wessex Regionalists are a minor English regionalist political party in the United Kingdom. It seeks a degree of legislative and administrative home rule for Wessex, an area in the south and south-west of England loosely based on the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the same name.

Wessex Regionalists
LeaderJim Gunter
Founded1974
Headquarters55 Brookside
Wokingham
Berkshire
Membership15 (2018)[1]
IdeologyWessex regionalism
Agrarianism[2]
ColoursSea Green, and Gold
Website
wessexregionalists.info

The party has contested a small number of Wessex-area parliamentary constituencies in most elections since it was established, but without success.

History


Speaking at a tourism industry conference in 1969, the then Viscount Weymouth suggested Wessex as a regional identity for tourism purposes. He later objected to the press over Wessex not being given the same opportunities as Scotland or Wales in the Kilbrandon Report. Lord Weymouth subsequently stood as the first Wessex Regionalist parliamentary candidate in Westbury in the February 1974 United Kingdom general election, coming last with 521 votes.[3]

The party was formally constituted in 1981. It initially used Thomas Hardy's definition of Wessex as Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset and Devon; but later added Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.[4][5] It pulled out of the 1987 general election and advocated that its supporters voted for the Liberal/SDP Alliance on the basis that they were a close second in many Wessex seats and were the most supportive of regional government.[6]

Lord Weymouth (who succeeded as The 7th Marquess of Bath in June 1992) was the first president of the party, later defecting to the Liberal Democrats[2] although in 1999 he was "still in touch" with the Wessex Regionalists.[7] Subsequent presidents have included the activist John Banks and the former architect Colin Bex.[8]

During the 2015 general election, Bex cast doubt on the official version of events of the 2001 September 11 attacks.[8] During the UK's 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union, the then-president Bex campaigned to leave.[9] He described immigration as a "peaceful invasion", describing "people from all over the world" as "infiltrating" national institutions.[9] Devizes candidate and party leader Jim Gunter, at a hustings shortly before the 2017 general election, advocated a second referendum and, if that were not possible, the "Norway option" of remaining in the single market.[10]

Ideology


Wessex as defined by the Wessex Regionalists

The party has been described as ethnoterritorial,[11] though an earlier study of regionalist and nationalist parties in Britain reached the opposite conclusion, saying that "For regionalism, the legitimacy of the state as a whole is not usually in question; the challenge is to its territorial organisation. This is in contrast to ethnic nationalism (for example, that advocated for Wales), which suggests that the state is not legitimate because it contains different nations."[12] Its platform is based on the creation of a devolved assembly for the region it defines as Wessex.[2] The party defines the counties of Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Somerset, and Wiltshire as being part of Wessex. Whilst this roughly corresponds to the South West Region, it also includes the Western counties of the South East Region, and excludes Cornwall, which it describes as being "the last of the Celtic areas to be incorporated into Wessex", and retaining its own identity, as well as own regionalist party, Mebyon Kernow.[13] The assembly has variously been described as having a rotating location in the style of the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot and as being based in Winchester, which had been the capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex.[14][15] The assembly would take power from Parliament in Westminster rather than from local authorities.[15]

In light of European recognition of the Cornish people as a national minority, the party called for greater protection of local produce and what it described as the "Wessex dialect".[14] The party believes that the Wessex region has a distinct cultural identity, which it seeks to promote.[16] It defines this culture as including morris dancing, cider, and the works of various local writers.[2] The party was described in The Guardian as having a "nostalgia for pre-industrial revolution England".[2]

In 2010, the party advocated a 100% tax rate on the top 10% of earners, with the revenue passed to parish councils.[2]

Electoral performance


Westminster elections

Election Candidate Constituency Votes[17]
1974 (February) Viscount Weymouth Westbury 521
1979 Colin Bex Windsor & Maidenhead 251
Henrietta Rous Devon North 50
Gwendoline Ewen Dorset West 192
Michael Mahoney Winchester 392
Viscount Weymouth Wells 155
Anthony Mockler Devizes 142
Tom Thatcher Westbury 1,905
1983 Anthony Mockler Wantage 183
Colin Bex Windsor & Maidenhead 68
Henrietta Rous Devon West & Torridge 113
David Fox Dorset North 294
Simon Winkworth Winchester 155
Adam Stout Wansdyke 213
David Robins Woodspring 177
Gwendoline Ewen Devizes 234
Maya Kemp Salisbury 182
John Banks Westbury 131
1997 Colin Bex Portsmouth North 72
2001 Colin Bex Wells 167
Henrietta Rous Winchester 66
2005 Colin Bex Dorset South 83
2010 Colin Bex Witney 62
2013(b) Colin Bex Eastleigh 30
2015 Colin Bex Witney 110
2017 Jim Gunter Devizes 223

European Parliament elections

Election Candidate Constituency Votes

1979

Viscount Weymouth Wessex 1,706
1984 Henrietta Rous Devon 659
1989 Gwendoline Ewen Bristol 1,017
Henrietta Rous Devon 385
Anthony Mockler Somerset and Dorset West 930

References


  1. "Wessex Regionalists". Electoral Commission. 15 April 2019.
  2. Petridis, Alexis (3 May 2010). "Cider, morris dancing and 100% tax: an election strategy with a difference". The Guardian.
  3. Fort, Linda (2 April 2015). "Wessex Regionalists want "devo-opt" for Berkshire and points west".
  4. Peter Barberis; John McHugh; Mike Tyldesley (1 January 2000). Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century. A&C Black. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-0-8264-5814-8.
  5. "Devolution strikes back – but do Cornwall and Yorkshire want more powers . . . or just more money?". www.newstatesman.com.
  6. "Regionalists pull out", Reading Evening Post page 5, 28 May 1987
  7. Daily Express page 29, 23 June 1999
  8. Douglas, Jason; Colchester, Max (7 May 2015). "In U.K. Election, Ancient Kingdom Eyes Political Comeback" via www.wsj.com.
  9. "Middle England's immigration referendum". 14 June 2016.
  10. "Brexit dominates discussion at hustings for Devizes candidates". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  11. Meguid, Bonnie M., Institutional Change as Strategy: The Role of Decentralization in Party Competition (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1450911
  12. Bennett, RJ, 'Regional movements in Britain: a review of aims and status', Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 75-96 (1985)
  13. Xylas, Nick (2018-05-07). "Defining Wessex". Wessex Regionalists. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  14. "Why can't Wessex be recognised as National Minority like Cornwall?". Daily Echo.
  15. "Could Hampshire have more power over its own destiny?". Daily Echo.
  16. Byrne, Eugene (7 June 2017). "Bristol's fringe political candidates throughout the years".
  17. Banks (1986)

Sources


  • Banks, John C. (1986). "The Regionalist (No. 8)". The Regionalist. Houghton-le-Spring: John Ellis. ISSN 0264-522X.
  • Wessex Regionalists (1996). The Statute of Wessex. Cheltenham: Wessex Regionalists. ISBN 0-9508721-0-5.