Has the BBC Deleted the “English Renaissance”?

I have just finished watching the three-part BBC series “A Very British Renaissance”. It contained nothing unexpected, that is to say nothing a good English education 50 years ago would not have contained. But it was a story engagingly presented with enough action and changes of scene not to be boring.

One aspect jars. If you do an internet search for “The English Renaissance” you get the following definition: “The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement in England dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries to the early 17th century.”

This was exactly the period and the content of the programme. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Renaissance)

If on the other hand you search for “The British Renaissance” you get a clutch of links to the BBC programme and some general references to the European, as well as the English, Renaissance.

In fact the programme was all about England and its renaissance as the list of characters referred to in the third part (see below) indicates. The BBC is in fact promoting a very dirty campaign to expunge England and its culture from the minds of people. Why?

Well according to the EU, England no longer exists as a political entity – I am not making this up – and even in the Westminster parliament England is referred only as “The Regions”.

It has come to a pretty pass when a, supposedly free, union of nations has decided to do away with the culture of a whole nation. But then the EU has always been about political expediency rather than embracing the values and feelings of those who are supposed to be its willing members.

Wikipedia quotes “Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the phrase “cultural genocide” but does not define what it means.[7] The complete article reads as follows:

Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;
(e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.

The term “cultural” was removed in the end but the spirit of this draft lives on. Under the terms of the draft the BBC, in its attempts to rewrite English culture as “British” appears to be guilty of “Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;”. It is a serious accusation but as the saying goes “If the cap fits, wear it!”

Just for the record  I would like to assert my cultural rights and demand that the BBC stop its programme of cultural genocide.  Remember that:

  • parliamentary democracy is a creation of the English, NOT the British,
  • it is the English renaissance NOT the British
  • The democracy that much of the world is now fighting for is a creation of the English NOT the British
  • It was the English colonies in America, NOT British.
  • We are inundated with immigrants because they want to live under English values, NOT Scottish, Welsh or Irish values.
  • Shakespeare was an English dramatist, NOT British.

The cast of characters in part 3 of “A Very British English Renaissance” was:

Inigo Jones (1573 – 1652) ‘Often referred to as the “first English architect,” . . . ‘
“Jones was the first notable English architect, responsible for introducing the classical architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to Britain.”

“William Harvey (1 April 1578 – 3 June 1657) was an English physician. He was the first to describe completely and in detail the systemic circulation . . .”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harvey

“Sir Nathaniel Bacon KB (1585–1627) was a painter and landowner from Culford, Suffolk, England.” His masterpiece is an almost impossibly buxom cookmaid holding her melons!

“Robert Burton (8 February 1577 – 25 January 1640) was an English scholar at Oxford University, best known for the classic The Anatomy of Melancholy.”

“John Donne (between 24 January and 19 June 1572[1] – 31 March 1631) was an English poet, satirist, lawyer and a cleric in the Church of England.” http://en.wikipedia.org”/wiki/John_Donne

“Nicholas Stone (1586/87[1] – 24 August 1647) was an English sculptor and architect. In 1619 he was appointed master-mason to James I, and in 1626 to Charles I.”

“Sir Anthony van Dyck (Dutch, many variant spellings;[1] 22 March 1599 – 9 December 1641) was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England, after enjoying great success in Italy and Flanders”

“We had gone on to build a renaissance of our own” says Dr. James Fox, in “A Very British Renaissance” – BBC 2 part 3. Who are the “We”?

The ”We” here are of course the “English” NOT the British. I do not know the identity of Dr. Fox but I am English, NOT British, NOT European and I object strongly to Dr. Fox attempts to write out of history the “English Renaissance”.



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Is It Possible To Define Englishness?

Stand at Festival of England

Stand at Festival of England

Spending a day recently manning an English Democrat stand at the ‘Festival of Englishness’, http://t.co/IUTn0G4QtB held by the IPPR naturally prompted the question of “What is Englishness”.

This question usually results in a tongue-tied muttering mentioning pubs, countryside and tolerance. Why is this? Why cannot the English, unlike many other nations agree a definition of whom we are? My thoughts on this indicate that it may be impossible to do this. To understand the particularity of this problem Let’s start with a really easy question.


What is a Pub?

In England everyone can tell when they are in a pub and it has little to do with the fact that it is called a pub. We can explain why this pub is a Pub but may well have difficulty explaining why another establishment, quite different from this one, is also a pub. When a southerner goes north and a northerner goes south they can each recognise a local pub for what it it is as soon as they enter it. What is more they can each grade the pub as good or poor as a pub. When they go abroad they can each recognise that the “pub” they enter is not in fact a pub even though it is called one. I have been in so-called pubs in Scotland, Spain, France and the USA and yet I or any English man or woman can instantly recognise that the establishments are not pubs.

Clearly there is more to an English pub than meets the eye. They are, I would say, a phenomenon. So what causes these phenomena to arise?. The answer is I think quite surprising.

Complex Systems

Nations consist of innumerable people, often many millions, all of whom are behaving in a way

that benefits themselves. The benefits sought will differ, perhaps markedly, between people and  can be monetary, social acceptance, security, doing something that makes one feel good and so on. For the most part these behaviours will be constrained by the law, religious beliefs, personal views on morality, local and social customs to name but a few. We signal these behaviours  to each other by what we do and what we say. The major constraint, for most people, will be the law but every individual will have a number of constraints on their behaviour, imposed by others or by themselves. What is signaled to others may also depend on the language and how it is used.

Such conglomerations of people are today known as a complex, adaptive system. The science behind this has only been explored formally since the late 1960s Despite this people have been studying complex systems in the shape of human society for thousands of years. For example Aristotle wrote a treatise on Politics over 2,000 years ago and some 200 or so years ago the classical economists like Adam Smith in Scotland and David Ricardo in England made great steps in describing why economies exhibited certain characteristics that emerged from peoples’ behaviour such as growth (hint: this had nothing to do with immigration but was, according to Adam Smith, due to specialisation).


The basis of our law is the Common law of England. There is a fundamental difference between this and the Roman legal system as practiced, for example, in many European countries and Scotland. Put simplistically the Common Law prohibits certain things but allows all else. Roman law permits certain things but prohibits all else.

Under the Common Law there will be a vast number of behaviours that may be undertaken and what is done by an individual can be, and is likely to be, different for most people. The outcome is a nation where individuals accept that what others do is their own business and the key to being “allowed” to do one’s own thing is to allow others to do what they wish, provided it is not forbidden by the law. The result is a nation that recognises that accepted behaviours are innumerable and that any attempt to collect, categorise and describe them will fail. It becomes impossible to say exactly what the national identity of the nation is because it is impossible for an individual to describe more than the behaviours that they have chosen to exhibit or those they have observed. What is more doing surveys of people that tell one how often certain beliefs or actions occur cannot describe a culture because it is not what is surveyed that creates the culture but rather how the beliefs and actions interact in practice on a day to day basis, and that will be a matter of context.

Under a system of Roman Law there will be a vast number of behaviours that may not be undertaken and a comparatively small number of behaviours that may be. The outcome is a nation that can describe what its identity is and whilst there may be regional variations these will be only a lesser part of the identity.

The Common Law in defining what is forbidden does not define our culture, it is what is not forbidden (which is everything else) that defines our culture. On the other hand Roman Law, in limiting what can be done, does play a part in defining a culture. Put formally the Common Law  allows a set of behaviours that is potentially infinite in size and is thus not listable. The Roman Law on the other hand defines a list of permitted behaviours. This list may be very large but it is countable and will be very small compared to the infinite set of those behaviours it proscribes.

The upshot of this is that Englishness cannot be defined even in a situation when we have absolute clarity of description and knowledge of peoples’ behaviours and values. Unfortunately, or if you prefer fortunately, the English language does not allow even this happy state of affairs to exist.


Busy moment at stand

Busy moment at stand

Language is very important in social systems. At school I studied four languages; ancient Greek, Latin, French and English. Not by choice I may add. I hated Latin!

Latin always seemed to me to be a very regimented language with fixed rules and a ‘beat’ to it which admirably described the Roman genius for war and engineering.

Ancient Greek on the other hand was a more subtle and altogether prettier language as befits a people who developed many of the ideas we use today such as democracy, and a literature that still sparkles after 2,500 years. No educated Roman would have admitted he did not speak Greek.

French is a wonderful language for carrying out an argument. Its structure forces one into logical expositions and the dissection of concepts; just the sort of language you need when you may be called upon at any moment to justify how your behaviours do comply with the list of permitted behaviours.

English, well what can we say about English? And that of course is the point of the English language. In a country where so much is allowed it is very likely that much of what is allowed will offend someone, somewhere. To avoid perennial conflict it is vital to have a language that we can use to describe truthfully what we do in a way that is acceptable to the other person.

A decade or so ago I attended a meeting between four consultants, one Swedish, one New Zealander and two English. At one point in the meeting the meaning of a word became important to the Swede and within a minute the English and New Zealand consultants had produced 12 or 15 words that could be used instead. The Swedish consultant now understood the meaning but commented, in some awe, that in Swedish there was only one word for the concept and why did English require so many. We tried to explain that all of the 12 or so words whilst being somewhat the same actually all had slightly different meanings – perfect for truthfully describing something to someone whilst minimising the risk of conflict at the same time by not really describing it at all.

So what is Englishness?

I hope the preceding discussion has explained why perhaps this is not merely difficult to describe but is in fact impossible. A culture where much of what can be done is not forbidden and with a language whose purpose is to present a behaviour or thought in a maner that is unlikely to cause conflict is a culture that is, in its entirety, inaccessible to anyone. So if you see a new book purporting to describe Englishness or a TV documentary advertising its “New” discoveries about Englishness do not waste your money or time purchasing or viewing the material. You will almost certainly disagree with large parts of of what is said!

So what of the “Festival of Englishness”

IPPR view of an English activity

IPPR view of an English activity

Well since I was manning the English Democrat stand I was unable to attend all the sessions. However others did and from my observations and those of others it appears that the day was devoted to a number of people presenting ideas, obnoxious to many of those attending, in a way that sought to minimise conflict whilst hiding the fact that what they were trying to do – describe Englishness – was impossible.

You really cannot get more English than that, can you?

Manning the stand however was great fun, I met some interesting people and the discussions there prompted the thoughts for this blog. I was not able to stay for the reception but I hope the party made up for what was, to me, a rather pointless event.

What about Pubs, the example I started with. I’m afraid that will have to wait for another day and a discussion of the phenomenon of emergence.

After all that thinking I feel like going somewhere I can discuss Englishness without a load of agro. I’m off to the pub!

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Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester 1208 – 1265AD

In September 2012 the English Democrats, tired of waiting for Parliament to the People of England their democratic right of Self Determination, called for a Parliament for England to be held in September 2013

On 21st September 2013 the English Democrats held that Parliament, the first for England since 1707.

I was Speaker of that Parliament and chose to make my opening remarks about Simon de Montfort for two reasons:

Simon is correctly identified as the originator of parliamentary government and there are a number of inaccuracies about his history. What follows is the talk I prepared.

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. 1208 – 1265

Our parliament meets today in the shadow of Simon de Montfort,.

His grandmother was the eldest daughter of the English nobleman Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester. On Robert’s death in 1204 his mother inherited the lands and a claim to the Earldom but these were confiscated by King John in 1207. His great-aunt was the countess of Winchester. His father, Simon de Montfort, was the French lord of Montfort  l’Amaury, now a suburb of Paris.

When his father died Simon agreed, in 1229, to let his elder brother have all the land in France whilst he would take all the titles and lands – those that King john had given to someone else – in England. Now freed of all commitments to the French King Simon was able to give his full attention to his English heritage.

The King on the throne of England was Henry III and it was to him Simon turned to get back his inheritance. It took him 10 years and he had to marry secretly Eleanor of England, daughter of King John and sister to the King, in 1238 – an act that would ordinarily have led to his execution.

To begin with Simon was a keen supporter of King Henry but gradually became disaffected by the King’s bad governance of England. Following an argument with the King Simon retired to France. Here the French nobles offered him the Regency of France – a position that would give him immense power and wealth but for the second time in his life Simon chose England and returned to make his peace with King Henry in 1253.

In the Parliament of 1254 called by the King, and the first where the freemen of the shires elected the knights attending that Parliament, de Montfort led the opposition to the King’s demand for a subsidy.

The parliament of 1258 saw Simon, with the Earl of Gloucester, lead the opposition that reestablished article 61 of the Magna Carta. This article made the King subject to the law and a committee of Barons was set up to police this. So, for the second time, establishing the fact that the sovereignty of the monarch was not absolute, nor indivisible, nor inalienable. In 1258 the committee consisted of 15 barons one of which was Simon. The parliament also allowed the King to call up to three parliaments a year to judge whether the committee of Barons had acted legally – so establishing the tripartite balance of power that we saw in the US constitution some 500 years later.

The King revoked his assent in 1261 and Simon left England. In 1263 he returned to England for the third time as the head of a revolt. In 1264 at the battle of Lewes he captured the King and in 1265 called his parliament.

Simon’s parliament did not introduce elected representatives, that was done by King Henry III in 1254. Its importance lies in the fact that it was the first Parliament called by someone other than the King and is the precedent for this parliament.

Simon paid a high price for his commitment to England and the cause of democracy. In the subsequent war both Simon and his eldest son were killed at the battle of Evesham and his body mutilated by Prince Edward’s army.

Simon is rightly venerated as an Englishman and one of the fathers of modern democracy. It is therefore disappointing to read that Chris Bryant MP, Shadow Home Office Minister incorrectly said in a speech to the IPPR :

“The very idea of inviting commoners to parliament came not from an Englishman 650 years ago, but from Simon de Montfort, who was French.”

Wrong on both counts. Perhaps we should leave the last word to Napoleon Bonaparte who described Simon as “one of the greatest of Englishmen”.

Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_de_Montfort,_6th_Earl_of_Leicester

Note: The English Democrats Manifesto makes no mention of race or ethnicity. Englishness is defined there as a cultural identity. In other words Englishness does not depend on the colour of our skin or the blood that flows in our veins but depends solely on what is in our hearts and in our minds. Simon was by birth as English as I am and he showed over 35 years that England was in his heart and mind, eventually paying for that with his life.

Given this, were not the comments of Chris Bryant, quoted above, inherently racist, with a strong anti-English bias?

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Political Correctness in Rotherham

The recent scandalous treatment in Rotherham of foster parents who belonged to a political party who were against mass immigration from the EU, because such a policy is, incorrectly, held to be racist is an all too common example of political correctness in action in England today.

The English Democrats have a policy of not allowing mass immigration but only allowing immigration to fill jobs that cannot be filled by resident British citizens.

This policy applies to all people from all countries. It is not a policy about restricting people based on their race or ethnicity or cultural identity.

Despite this the English Democrats are accused of being racist and bigoted. The Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert, even made that accusation about us during the recent P&CC elections even though our Cambridgeshire candidate is happily married to a West African immigrant!

Local authorities are temples to political correctness and woe betide the career and job prospects of any local authority worker who does not whole heartedly buy into and actively promote Political Correctness in their job.

It is no wonder then that local authority staff act in the manner that happened in Rotherhan when they are told these untruths by our MPs, their own bosses and their local councillors.

Their politically correct actions supported by a feeling of self-rightousness are carried out and approved by their managers no matter what injustice they cause because those who are politically correct arrogantly believe their actions are above the law.

The English Democrats have, for years, been against political correctness for just this reason – in the long run it make a peaceful society impossible to sustain, institutionalises injustice and mocks our liberties.

If YOU want to stamp out political correctness in Rotherham or in your part of the country you must vote for the English Democrats and help us achieve this. Voting for Respect, UKIP, BNP, Labour, the Liberal Democrats of the Conservatives will not accomplish this.

The English Democrats are currently supporting a legal action against the Mersyside police because they, it is alleged, despite the fact that one of their politically correct actions has for years been illegal, insisted on wrongfully arresting the English Democrat P&CC candidate who objected to it.

When it is within their means, or powers, the English Democrats will fight political correctness wherever they find it.

Arrogance, Political Correctness is thy name!

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No Stone Unturned. Really?

The noble lord whose name appears on this report has clearly not lost his vigour, nor indeed some of his common sense.

His call to devolve from Westminster £58bn in English spending is of course correct. His means of doing so, Local Enterprise Partnerships (Leps) and Chambers of Commerce, are not. Let me explain myself.

The Leps are voluntary public-private bodies created by the coalition to oversee regional funding for industry. They are not democratically accountable. They have all the weaknesses of a committee. They are composed of bureaucratic and politically correct local government appointees and English managers, who as a group, have for decades been found wanting in management skills compared to many of the nations we compete against.

The Leps are not fit for purpose, not because they might (in too many cases probably will) do something stupid but because they are not accountable to the local people who are going to suffer from their errors. We cannot legislate against foolishness but we can legislate for people to have a means of release from that foolishness.

The Financial Times of 1/11/2012 in “Leps employers frustrated over lack of progress” describes the proposal to devolve money to the Leps as “the centrepiece of an economic review the 79-year-old peer hopes will begin to reverse 100 years of creeping centralisation of power in Whitehall’s hands.”. The same article also reported that one of the bases for this policy was a series of interviews carried out with 15 employer representatives on 3 out of 39 Leps (7.6%). The employers interviewed all said that they were frustrated over the slow progress and, one at least, was afraid that the Lep would become nothing more than a talking shop.

Unfortunately interviews with 15 employers (local government staff were not mentioned) tells us little about the other 36 Leps. Had they wanted a reliable survey answer to the question “Is your Lep doing a good or bad job” they would have needed to sample more Leps and interview both employers and local government staff. As it is a sample of 3 from a population of 39 where half the members of the 3 Leps said NO has a confidence limit of plus/minus 55. See http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm

The report apparently builds its proposal to delegate money to Leps, in-order that they can do more, on these rather shaky foundations.

What about Chambers of Commerce. I am a great fan of them. In the days when I was involved in exporting they were a source of good advice and training. They could do much more to act as the point of contact for the others who will need to be involved such as local authorities, secondary and tertiary education for example. However membership is not compulsory, many SMEs do not belong, and they would not be accountable to the local people for their local expenditure of vast sums of local people’s tax payments.

The English Democrats have long had two Manifesto policies that together would trump these proposals and a third that would make them effective.

The first is the proposal that devolution in England be to the county level – and I take this to imply to cities as well. This has at least the merit of making a nod in the direction of accountability. I say “taking a nod” because we know that it takes some really extreme foolishness on the part of the majority group on a council for local electors to change their, often, lifetime allegiance. The system is “sticky” when it needs to be agile.

The second is the English Democrat’s support for elected mayors. The system of elected mayors is agile as the voters of Doncaster showed. You may remember that the Labour majority at Doncaster were extremely dysfunctional preferring to engage in vicious forms of infighting at the expense of the local people. The local voters still vote Labour in council elections but they threw out the current mayor and elected an English Democrat- Peter Davies. The result for the people of Doncaster has been positive although the dysfunctional nature of the local Labour party continues.

The mayor can of course work with all the interested parties including Chambers of Commerce, education establishments, government departments and the people and if he were to do this within the framework of the English Democrats proposal on business clusters (the third proposal mentioned above) we would at last see a real increase in skills, innovation, productivity and business growth and management at local levels.

So yes lets devolve £58bn of English expenditure but let us do it wisely to counties/cities that have an elected mayor and lets concentrate it on developing local, but world beating, business clusters.

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This Golden Thread

What follows are the notes for my talk “This Golden Thread” given to the English Democrats AGM and Conference in St Albans on the 22 September 2013. In my research I used mainly wikipedia and information from Robert Henderson’s blog.

For me the mystery of the Magna Carta is why did this happen in England? After all the main protagonists in the story are a Norman King, Norman Barons, and a Norman Church that had somewhat unceremonially dumped the Anglo-Saxon church.

To begin with we should recognise that what the Barons wanted was a good old fight with the king, to defeat him and then to put someone else suitable in his place. In other words they wanted to act just like Norman Barons do act! Unfortunately for them the only suitable candidate to take the crown was a Frenchman, and he was not interested.

So the barons went to the Abbott of St Albans Abbey in 1213 to ask his advice and he contacted the Archbishop of Canterbury

We know of course that thanks to Archbishop Langton of Canterbury that much of the Magna Carta was based on the Charter of Liberties sometimes known as the Coronation Charter of Henry I made in 1100 AD more than a century before Magna Carta.

Henry’s brother William II, or William Rufus as he was called, issued a Charter in 1093 AD proclaiming the freedom of the people.

Now both William Rufus and Henry I were sons of William the Conqueror so what part did their Dad play?

Well William I was a great admirer of the laws of Edward the Confessor. Now where did Edward’s laws come from? According to the historians the laws were last codified in Cnut’s time and not by Edward. Cnut, a Dane, died in 1035 AD.

Up to this time there had been several systems of Saxon law. For example of Wessex, of Mercia and the Danelaw. But when did they start? King Æthelberht’s law code (603) was the first of a long series of Anglo-Saxon law codes that would be published in England for the next four and a half centuries. Almost without exception, every official version of royal law issued during the Anglo-Saxon period was written in Old English. Presumably the Saxon King’s thought that the law was so important for their subjects that it should be written in a language they could understand and not, for example, in Latin.

Another feature of importance in the history of Anglo-Saxon law is its tendency towards the preservation of peace. Society is constantly struggling to ensure the main condition of its existence — peace. Already in Æthelberht’s legislation we find characteristic fines inflicted for breach of the peace of householders of different ranks—the ceorl, the eorl, and the king himself appearing as the most exalted among them.

Peace is considered not so much a state of equilibrium and friendly relations between parties, but rather as the rule of a third within a certain region—a house, an estate, a kingdom. This leads on one side to the recognition of private authorities—the father’s in his family, the master’s as to servants, the lord’s as to his personal or territorial dependents. On the other hand, the tendency to maintain peace naturally takes its course towards the strongest ruler, the king, and we witness in Anglo-Saxon law the gradual evolution of more and more stringent and complete rules in respect of the king’s peace and its infringements.

So unwittingly William the Conqueror, in accepting the law of Edward the Confessor, was in fact accepting a tradition that went back, in written form, 463 years and had three important features.
1. The establishment of a peaceable society.
2. They were from the start written in a language that everyone could understand when it was read to them.
3. People met at meetings or ‘moots’ of the shire and hundred to adjudicate local justice – the folkright – and discuss local matters.

These institutions only disappeared in the late 1800’s when county courts and local government districts were set up.

So the forces acting to produce the Magna Carta can be traced back 613 years, from 1215 to 603, the start of that Golden Thread. But how did the Magna Carta fare?

Well to begin with very badly. Neither William Rufus, Henry I or John had any real intention of doing what they had said they would do – a situation we still have with us with regard to our elected MPs! But with the Magna Carta people were more insistent than with previous charters. The Charter was reissued in 1216, 1217, 1225, 1297 when it entered the statute books for the first time, it was reconfirmed at least 32 times between the 12th and 15th centuries, the last time in 1423 AD by Henry VI. During this period clauses were added to the charter In 1829 a clause of the charter was repealed and by 1969 all but three clauses had been repealed.

These are:
1. That the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable. . .
9. THE City of London and all other cities, Boroughs, Towns and the Barons of the Five Ports shall have all the old Liberties and Customs which they hath been used to have.
29. NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.

The Charter had one clause in particular, clause 61, that sought to control the king by appointing 25 barons to decide if the king had kept the charter. If he had not they could then appropriate his castles and lands until such time as he did keep to the Magna Carta. Needless to say John and subsequent kings did nothing about this and the Provisions of Oxford in 1258 and the Provisions of Westminster in 1259 were attempts to impose in Henry III a council with power to restrain the king.

De Montfort’s Parliament was an English parliament of 1265, instigated by Simon de Montfort, a baronial rebel leader. It met on 20th January 1265 in Westminster Hall and was dissolved on the 15th February. Although this gathering did not have the approval of King Henry III, and the members convened without royal approval, most scholars believe this was the first gathering in England that can be called a parliament in the dictionary sense of the word.

It was not until 1295 AD that commoners attended regularly. Most members were elected from individual boroughs. Initially it was thought that all free inhabitant householders (so no women) could vote until 1430 AD when the requirement to hold land worth an annual rent of 40 shillings was added. This of course excluded many people and we still have this with the requirement for a deposit for many elections.

Parliament gradually grew from this point both in representation and in number of sittings until the Spanish Ambassador to the court of Elisabeth I was able to report mockingly to his king that the Queen of England did not make decisions in her realm.

Eventually a burgeoning parliament met a recalcitrant King. The result was the English Civil War. As Robert Henderson writes in his blog “It created a political class which saw politics as something they could control rather than merely be part of as a adjunct to the crown. It began the constitutional process which resulted in cabinet government. It laid the foundations for the formation of political parties. In short, it sowed seeds of modern representative government.”
And he goes on “But something else occurred which was to be even more momentous in the long run. It was during the 1640s that the belief that men should only be ruled by those they had themselves elected first became a serious political idea, not merely in England but anywhere.”
The bud of that Golden Thread of the past 1000 years was slowly starting to bloom.

The civil war gave rise to a number of different political philosophies. Most interesting amongst these were the Levellers. “To call them a political party in the modern sense would be misleading. Yet they were the closest thing to it both then and arguably for several centuries. Their tactics and organisation were modern – the use of pamphletering and newspapers, the ability to get large number of supporters onto the streets (especially in London) at the drop of a hat, the creation of local associations. They also developed an increasingly sophisticated political programme in a series of documents known as The Agreements of the People. These Agreements dealt extensively with political representation and structure.”

In 1688 Prince William and his wife Mary were invited to take the throne of England in the place of James II. This was called the Glorious Revolution. But before William could land he had to agree to a list of rights including
1. The right to bear arms (if you were a Protestant),
2. Only parliament could raise money or approve a standing army,
3. That the right to petition the king could not be prosecuted
4. That juries had to be properly impaneled
5. That only parliament could make laws.
6. Election of MPs to be free
7. That what was said in parliament could not be impeached or judged in a court
8. That excessive bail or fines should not be imposed
9. That no cruel nor unusual punishment should be inflicted

These rights were preceded by a list of 15 complaints against James and the whole document is often referred to as The English Bill of Rights of 1689.
Note the phrases that are now so familiar; no cruel nor unusual punishment, the right to bear arms, taxes could only be imposed by a parliament in which, by implication, you were represented.
This Bill of Rights by its protection of MPs, regular parliaments, protection of the liberty of the people and the clear right of parliament to control the king by controlling his revenues opens the way for an executive in Parliament and puts politics in England on a path that we can recognise today.

The development of political structures and freedoms over the 623 years since William I accepted Saxon law (and the 1086 years from the first English law code) had been a nearly constant battle between a monarch who did not want any curbs on his power and a people convinced in the main that he had no right to these powers, a conviction born in the shires and hundreds of Anglo-Saxon England over a 1000 years earlier. Now at last those battles could be put to rest even if only momentarily.

For our purposes the story now transfers 3,000 miles to the west. A colonial population, many from England, of whom many had gone to the American colonies in order to ensure their freedom and liberty from oppression, decided that they wanted the same rights as given to Englishmen in the 1689 Bill of Rights.

The Declaration of Independence (1776) justified the independence of the United States by listing colonial grievances against King George III, and by asserting certain natural and legal rights, including a right of revolution. Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Since then, it has come to be considered a major statement on human rights, particularly its second sentence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”


This harks back to Aristotle’s goal from 2,000 years earlier for a just state which was to provide “the good life”.

But more important in my view is the next statement, one that gives the authority for revolution against an existing government:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness“.


We are back 130 years earlier in the English Civil War! This Golden Thread has now lasted 1173 years.

It did not stop there. One hundred years after the English Bill of Rights, they produced, in 1789, their Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights are the first 10 amendments to the constitution:
1. Freedom of speech, assembly, the press and religion
2. The right to bear arms
3. Protection from quartering of troops
4. Protection from unreasonable search
5. Due process, freedom from double jeopardy or self-incrimination, eminent domain.
6. Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel
7. Civil trial by jury
8. Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
9. Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
10. Powers of States and people

The final document I will cover is Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. This summarises everything that was struggled for in the preceding 1260 years of the Golden Thread. “It was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Abraham Lincoln’s address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis, with “a new birth of freedom,” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, ensuring that democracy would remain a viable form of government and creating a nation in which states’ rights were no longer dominant.”
It ends with “. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”

And that phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is on the first page of our Manifesto.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you “This Golden Thread, Democracy’s DNA, is England’s Glory”

“The Magna Carta is the first rung on the ladder to freedom, followed by the great American charters of freedom – the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and The Gettysburg Address. This document symbolizes mankind’s eternal quest for freedom; it is a talisman of liberty.” – David Redden, Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s –

PS. I did not mention initially one of the more amazing facts. In 1213 the Archbishop of Canterbury was a man named Langton. He had been appointed by the Pope as the best man for the job because the monks of Canterbury and King John could not agree on who should fill the post. As was usual at the time the two candidates would have been Norman, as was the Abbot of St Albans. But Langton was English! So at this pivotal moment in English history the man who made the key decisions about what should happen was English. I assume that the Abbot of St Albans travelled to Canterbury and if so this meeting must be the least well known and one of the most significant in history!

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