I “stopped working” in 2021, just short of my 60th birthday. I may resume working. I may travel the world. I may write my magnum opus.

This site’s main purpose is to host information about “recreational routes” in Gloucestershire and neighbouring counties. A recreational route is a longer walk (or cycle) using a series of rights-of-way, sometimes necessarily also going along roads or by-ways. These tend to be longer walks, often requiring a number of days to complete. Recreational routes are not “National Trails” which benefit from significant government funding. However, both are shown on larger-scale OS maps as diamonds and in many cases recreational routes are supported by local authorities or active volunteer groups.

I am also planning to use this site to record some of my outdoor expeditions. I may blog a bit if it seems to be worth it.

The constitution of the United Kingdom

Long-distance walking is all very well, I hear you say, but what about your stance on the country’s constitution? A fair question, but not one that I’ll be devoting much time to on this site. As it happens I think that countryside access and freedom to roam are important aspects of the socialist agenda, so these two passions are for me intertwined and inseparable. But, for anyone who has arrived at this site looking for a political manifesto, here are a few pointers. An outlier speaks.

I am unquestionably British and English. This is the place I know and understand. It is where I can operate easily and expertly. There is much I cherish and love about the country, including its basic tolerance and freedom. If it’s an international rugby or football match, I’ll be unashamedly partisan, supporting the England team. I’m not rich, but I’m not poor either and really I have enough to provide for my needs. I am also aware of my lucky privilege derived from my personal characteristics.

All this said, I have an abiding belief that the UK, Britain and England desperately need to undertake a process of reflection and renewal. For most European states, the experiences of occupation, military defeat or political dictatorship are more recent, and the consequent necessity of review and reconstitution is fresh. Here, the mythologies of ‘standing alone’, being victorious in righteous wars, having a noble and blemish-free military, having an overwhelmingly positive history, combine to foster the sense of exceptionalism and uncritical self-worth. This sense can then be channelled by demagogues, charlatans and purveyors of right-wing orthodoxy to suggest that being British is an intrinsic good, and that the existing order is benign, appropriate and best left unquestioned.

This complacency has to be challenged. The UK is no-longer a world-power, and is set to slide down the rankings as young, populous nations achieve the economic clout that is their due. Our attachment to the mythological construction of our past, rather than orientation towards the future, shackles our innovation, and permits echoes of historic ascendency to silence discussion of present reality. But truly, in order to move forward, we do need an honest reckoning with our past.

We need to be building a nation for the 21st and 22nd centuries. A modern open-eyed state, where power resides as near to citizens as possible. Where we work with other open democratic nations in pursuit of common goals. Where we reflect on who we are, our aspirations in the world and how we maximise contentment and happiness in the populace. Radical and progressive politicians have in the past resisted efforts at constitutional change on the basis that it is energy-sapping and reduces capacity for immediate economic action. But this approach serves to anchor the nation in the past and limits the scope for more profound change. We need a modern constitution now.

To this end we need:

  • A fair electoral system. This is one that allows reasonable parties to emerge, develop and flourish. Where the numbers of representatives in our Parliament broadly reflects the votes cast, ideally at both a regional and national level. My preference is for the German style Additional Member System, but other alternatives are available. See: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/
  • Abolition of the monarchy. In a modern state, that is a reflection of the will of its citizenry, it is unconscionable that the hereditary principle plays any part. That would be true if the Royal Family was a bunch of intellectually brilliant saints. The fact that they are disreputable nit-wits only adds to the absurdity. Furthermore, the monarchy is the apotheosis of privilege, inherited power and wealth, and serves to legitimise these archaic aspects of the country. My preference is for an elected head-of-state with limited powers, See: https://www.republic.org.uk/ . Also, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2c-X8HiBng
  • Disestablishment of the Church-of-England and a complete secularisation of the public and political sphere, including in schools and other education establishments. Removal of bishops from Parliament. It is transparently wrong that any religion is privileged over the others. But from where I stand, all religion is ridiculous! There is no logical or rational basis for any notion of God as a sentient concerned entity. Now, I have plenty of illogical and objectively dubious beliefs, so provided they are not harmful, I accept others have the right to theirs too. But this needs to be in the private, not public sphere. See: https://www.secularism.org.uk .
  • A sustainable and credible federal structure to the UK, in which power is devolved to the lowest possible level. This means finding a solution to the England problem, given that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland already have functioning and (in the case of the first two) effective parliaments. English regions do need to be meaningful and popularly accepted. The old counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the West Midlands and London, would be likely to be acceptable. Other boundaries would need to be determined. There is space for variation in structure, but in my view a parliamentary approach is best: I don’t like directly elected mayors.
  • Abolition of the House of Lords as it is currently structured. The virtues of a unicameral parliament can be argued. But if a reviewing and revising chamber is considered necessary, then again it cannot be based on a mix of the hereditary principle and political cronyism. Indirect election via the regional parliaments might be one approach (as Germany). Another could be a genuinely independent appointments commission. But having no second-chamber at all would be better than the current mixture of anachronism and patronage.
  • The UK should rejoin the European Union. But that is a 30-year project. In the meantime a sensible alignment with Europe should be pursued. This means a customs’ union and effort to maintain regulatory alignment, where this really just involves consultation and collaboration. The UK should not leave the European Convention on Human Rights.