Feudal Britain

Anyone who was unconvinced by my remarks a month ago about Britain being a semi-feudal hotchpotch (and in all modesty I must recognise that such people just might exist) should read this, by George Monbiot:

Let’s talk about the real money. The Westminster government claims to champion an entrepreneurial society of wealth creators and hardworking families, but the real rewards and incentives are for rent. The power and majesty of the state protects the patrimonial class. A looped and windowed democratic cloak barely covers the corrupt old body of the nation. Here peaceful protesters can still be arrested under the 1361 Justices of the Peace Act. Here the Royal Mines Act 1424 gives the crown the right to all the gold and silver in Scotland. Here the Remembrancer of the City of London sits behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons to protect the entitlements of a corporation that pre-dates the Norman conquest. This is an essentially feudal nation.

The Remembrancer, for God’s sake! It may sound like something out of Tolkien but it’s no fiction. Nor is its budget (£6m in 211) nor its team of six lawyers!

Or on land ownership:

At the moment the owners of only 26% of the land in Scotland have been identified(16).

Walk into any mairie in France or ayuntamiento in Spain and you will be shown the cadastral registers on request, on which all the land and its owners are named. When The Land magazine tried to do the same in Britain(17), it found that there was a full cadastral map available at the local library, which could be photocopied for 70p. But it was made in 1840. Even with expert help, it took the magazine several weeks of fighting official obstruction and obfuscation and cost nearly £1000(18) to find out who owns the 1.4 km2 around its offices in Dorset. It discovered that the old registers had been closed and removed from public view, at the behest of a landed class that wishes to remain as exempt from public scrutiny as it is from taxes. (The landowners are rather more forthcoming when applying for subsidies from the rural payments agency, which possesses a full, though unobtainable, register of their agricultural holdings). What sort of nation is this, in which you cannot discover who owns the ground beneath your feet?

Read the full article, complete with references, here.

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