We may think that we’re living in a sleepy and quaint north-west corner of Essex, but actually for centuries we’ve been progressive, fiercely independent and adaptable to change. Over the last 300 years our citizens have punched above their weight. Our free-thinking families have founded multi-national banks, invented lighthouses, and been leading lights of arts and culture. And many have left their marks in our local buildings, culture and attitudes.
As economic times have changed we’ve adapted from market trading, to crocus crowing, to malting, to feeding the innovation hubs of London and Cambridge. But nearly 400 years ago Saffron Walden was at the centre of a cultural and political revolution that would send vibrations around the known world.
The British people had had enough. They were tired of being lorded over and downtrodden by a discredited and out-of-touch ruling class that called all the shots. When Oliver Cromwell based his Civil War army in Saffron Walden, we found ourselves at the very front of a progressive parliamentary movement.
People’s hero or ruthless dictator, Cromwell is still a divisive figure. However his aims were clear. Topple the old guard and replace it with something more democratic and accountable to the people. In other words, giving ordinary people a voice and the right to decide for themselves.
We still feel the impact of what he achieved today. When the monarchy finally did return, it was with very clipped wings; it was now accountable to the people through parliament. And since then our parliamentary system that has been copied the world over.
But the echoes of Cromwell are still with us ; nationally and locally many political dynasties believe that different rules apply to them. And they are making decisions for us that are increasing out of touch with our needs and aspirations. In fact they’ve forgotten that they work for us and we pay for them.
Cromwell had a simple answer. If they won’t represent you, ‘off with their heads’. Brutal, but clear; if they aren’t working for you, get up and replace them with something that does.
Residents-for-Uttlesford is nothing short of that fulfilling that aspiration. It’s not the faux-localisim of ‘Big Society’ and the whipping of local councillors by national political parties that don’t want to lose control.
It is government of the residents, by the residents, for the residents.
I do find it ironic that the local Conservative Party is based in Oliver Cromwell’s old armoury on Museum Street. Maybe Guy Fawkes should have come from Uttlesford.