Sunday 9 May 2010

How to form a new government

Sunday lunch with friends staying near Strumble Head on the wild North coast of Pembroke-shire, followed by a walk East in bright sunshine but blasted by a cold North wind to Carregwastad (picture). This inhospitable, harbourless wilderness where open sea smashes onto the rocks has a contemporary relevance, offering a different approach to changing government in contrast to the current negotiations in London. At this desolate place the forces of revolutionary France landed in 1797 to foment an uprising by the oppressed and mainly disenfranchised population of these islands against the British sovereign and Parliament: my guide old friend Neil Matthew off duty from the Countryside Commission for Wales shows me the monument commemorating the invasion (picture).
This approach of encouraging liberation movements with an injection of military support worked quite well for the French elsewhere in Europe and they will have been encouraged by the expressions of sympathy for their Revolution by many in the Romantic Movement, then a significant voice among the chattering classes in Britain. In the event the invaders' sole act of liberation was to free a vast quantity of Portuguese wine, leading to a much too early celebration of success; within 48 hours the hangover had set in and they surrendered. And what of the local population? Had they been ready to accept their continental brothers' assistance and rise up to throw off their chains? The mainly well-healed Romantics will have been disappointed to learn that in fact the locals (including the legendary Jemima Nicholas) poured into threatened Fishguard unbidden to assist in its defence. We hope that two centuries later and many miles away in Westminster Nick, Dave, and Gordon will work out a more successful way to establish a new government.