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The People's Republic of Merseyside: A Vision of the Future
By Mike Cotgreave
There was a ruckus recently when somebody dared to express a not entirely positive opinion about the city of Liverpool. Everyone from Kevin Keegan to Boris Johnson to one of the city's own sons, Alexei Sayle, has had a dig over the years, so you'd think the inhabitants of Scouseland would be used to it by now.
This time it was a right-wing thinktank who suggested that pumping money into Liverpool with the aim of 'regenerating' (i.e. build lots of expensive new shops), saying it was a waste of time as everyone would soon all be living down south (or "daahn saahth", as I believe they pronounce it down south).
When it comes to cities like Liverpool, there are two extremes of opinion. There are those who wax lyrical about the place saying itís the best city in the world, and there are those who go out of their way to denigrate it and do it down.
Both positions are wrong and borne out of ignorance, ideological short-sightedness, class hatred and micro-patriotism.
Patriotism itself is such a loathsome thing. Most people don't really love their country, they love the 'idea' of it as great place. They want to claim ownership of their own territory, their own piece of the planet. Add to this instinct a dash of good old-fashioned chauvinism and testosterone and you end up with wars, racism, xenophobia, football rivalries and regional antagonisms. The Troubles in Northern Ireland, for Christ's sake!?!? Decades of murder and misery for the right to be called Irish or British...that may be an oversimplistic view, but the time for the complexity of the absurd is over.
With a bit of luck, this will soon be the era of independence, achieved not though guns and bombs, but by rational debate and persuasion. The SNP are blazing a train north of the border, having assumed the reigns of power at Holyrood. Whether or not the people of Scotland will back full independence in a future referendum is uncertain, but the fact they are debating the issue and have had the audacity to wipe the smugness of the Scottish Labour Party's face by electing an SNP government (albeit, by one seat) is a step in the right direction.
Through regional and local independence, I'd like to think individuals will become independent from the daft abstract ideas that spawn the inhumanity when we watch TV or look through the net curtains.
Ideally, England would become a republican federation of self-governing city-states, in charge of their own affairs. Would a United States of England be any better than its neo-imperialist counterpart across the Atlantic? There's only one way to find out!
Politicians are always banging on about devolution. Even David Cameron has been doing his Citizen Smith routine, spouting quasi-communist rhetoric about giving power back to the people. Well, put your money where your mouth is, Dave! The SNP have the right idea; break away, do your own thing, stop relying on political elites to run your life from their ivory tower down at Westminster.
Surely this entrench regional differences and hatreds even more? Maybe in the short-term, but it will remove the ability of areas to play the blame game with each other, passing the buck for local failings.
Now, obviously the idea is only in the conceptual phase. The nuts of bolts of such a radical constitutional overhaul are for the future. I'm pretty sure many people, being terrified of change, will claim the idea is naÔve rubbish, preferring to carry on whinging about the state of things without having the guts to do anything meaningful about them. I'm also pretty convinced, however, that it's time to declare independence from the conventional wisdom, take a long, hard look at the society we have created and ask ourselves: is this the best we can do?
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