We are about to enter the General Election. We intend to put up 120 candidates and have already got over the threshold of 89 so that we can guarantee a Party Political Broadcast and news coverage. But what are we to do in the Campaign?
Well I think one of the best comments on political campaigns was made by Labour’s Roy Hattersley
- ‘when you are absolutely sick to death of repeating the same line over and over again, that is the point at which it is beginning to penetrate the public’s consciousness’, and he went on that that is when you need to keep on repeating yourself!
What is that line for the English Democrats? - Well I don’t need to tell any of you here about the need for an English Party to fight for England’s interests. But last Conference I talked about how do we go about ensuring which pigeon hole we belong to? Well I suggested first that whenever we compare ourselves with other nationalists or any other political party the comparison should involve the SNP and Plaid Cymru so that people know that we are measuring ourselves up alongside them. Second we should talk about being democratic nationalists, like the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Third if somebody tries to compare us with the BNP we should simply say that we not like the BNP but we are like the SNP and Plaid Cymru, simply trying to do our best for our country. I would say that I have experimented myself with this approach and find it works.
It is not just with journalists that we need to make sure that we pigeon hole ourselves, but also very much with members of the public, who are also likely to pigeon hole us with the BNP, with the sub-text associated with the endless school teaching about Hitler, if we don’t ensure that we get put into a more acceptable category. Once you are established in a category, it is a psychologically difficult task to get someone to place you in an alternative one, especially if you haven’t clearly thought which of the available categories you wish to be put in.
This is a significant part of the explanation why it simply doesn’t work, when canvassing to try to engage in a full discussion about the rights and wrongs for England. Your first job is to get us into a category, either when you are canvassing or in your leaflets, from which people are then willing later, if at all interested in what we are trying to say, to thinking about the detail of the issues.
So in all we do from now on let us remember, when trying to discuss what we are about with new people or in designing leaflets that we need to categorise ourselves in the right pigeon hole. Fortunately the Scots have done most of the work for us and the pigeon hole is already there although it is not the pigeon hole that people will put you in if you don’t make the effort to get us into the democratic nationalist pigeon hole, rather than the nasty nationalists one!
Pigeon holing works also in campaigning against others (Dave Cameron Lard/Gordon Brown Lard). What we have now In Doncaster today, is that we can say, hand on heart, and with total sincerity, that we are a Party that can get elected and to a significant position too. Peter Davies has also shown that when elected to significant positions, English Democrats can make a real difference. But the important point to get across to people who might be wavering as to whether or not we would be a wasted vote is that, we can get elected! We have got elected! And we will get elected! So their vote if given to the English Democrats won’t be wasted and if elected we will make a difference!
As you all know, and as Michael Wood, in his book “In Search of England, 1999” said the modern English state was not created in one go. It is a product of a long – and continuing – process, but its roots lie in the Anglo-Saxon period.
The Anglo Saxons created England; the Normans and their successors attempted to create Great Britain, not succeeding half so well, despite their long attempts to dominate the cultures and societies of Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
It was the Normans who tried to subdue the whole island, and their failure has finally been acknowledged in the late twentieth century. England, on the other hand, is the creation of the Old English. It is something real to go back to, unlike so many modern countries whose attempts to build such allegiances have had to be fabricated. This is not to say that it doesn’t need reform now; not least the system of democracy itself – for who now would claim the English are better off than, say, the Germans? But it has a long and distinguished pedigree, which, contrary to the modern critiques, is more than the product of history than myth. It goes back to Gregory the Great, Bede, and the Old English and Norman lawmakers, and for a country on a small island off the shores of Europe, its practical achievements in history have been considerable.
A momentous event took place in 927 following a campaign in Cumbria when Athelstan was acknowledged King of all of what has been ever since “England”.
“The meeting, which took place aet Eamotum (‘at the meeting of the waters’), was set against the backdrop of a significant Roman fortification (Brocavum), much of which was still standing at the confluence of the Lowther and Eamont rivers, at the site which became Brougham Castle, two miles south-east of Penrith. The Roman fortification had guarded the junction of the roads to Carlisle and the cross-Pennine route. This place represented the limit of Athelstan’s empire in terms of direct government and so, in time-honoured style, he was meeting his subjects on the borders of his kingdom.
Aet Eamotum, Athelstan, in imperial style, accepted the submission of Constantine of Scotland and stood godfather to his son. Owain of Strathclyde and Ealdred, the ruler of the independent English state of Bamburgh, gave their pledges too.”
But almost as significant an event took place in 937 The Battle of Brananburh.
We are not sure where the battle occurred but the strongest case appears to be for Templeborough in Brinsworth near Rotherham argues Paul Hill in his interesting book “The Age of Athelstan Britain’s Forgotten History.”
There is an old Yorkshire proverb which goes:
When all the world shall be aloft
Then Hallamshire will be God’s croft
Wincobane and Templeborough
Will buy all England through and through
Castleford, to the north of this site, is whre Olaf would have been based before the battle. Here five wapentakes; (hundreds) converge and it is the place where Ricknild Street crosses the Aire. Athelstan would have been at Aston. The battle took place, says Cockburn, around Brunesburh and was finally decided at Morthen (which means ‘slaughter field’), after which the pursuit (which took all day) was to Maltby and Balby and the escape was up the Aire to the Humber.
South of the confluence of the rivers Don and Rother was a strategic fort on Waite Hill, called Brynesford in the Domesday survey. There was later a ditched manor house here.
Here is the modern translation of the famous poem in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.
“Here King Athelstan, leader of warriors,
Ring-giver of men, and also his brother,
the aetheling Edmund, struck life-long glory
in strife around Brananburh, clove the shield-wall,
hacked the war-lime, with hammers’ leavings.
The nation of Scots and seamen
fell doomed. The field darkened
with soldiers blood…
Five young kings lay on the battlefield
put to sleep by swords; likewise also seven
of Olaf’s jarls, countless of the raiding-army
of seamen and Scots. There the ruler of
Northmen, compelled by necessity,
was put to flight, to ship’s prow,
with a small troop.
They left behind to divide the corpses,
To enjoy the carrion, the dusky-coated,
Horny-beaked black raven
And the grey-coated eagle, white rumped,
Greedy war-hawk, and the wolf,
Grey beast in the forest. Never yet in this island
Was there a greater slaughter
Of people felled by the sword’s edges”
So Ladies and Gentlemen it was not far from here that one of the crucial battles that created the English Nation State occurred and now we have a new battle, a political battle and the first round has been won here in Doncaster with the election of our Mayor – Peter Davies.