“Constructing a Humanist Politics”


Issue No 1 Friday 5th September 2008



This week


·        Coming Break Up Of Belgium Could Have Great Ramifications.

·        Our personal finances are the worst they’ve ever been.



News Stories

Highlighting  news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.




Coming Break Up Of Belgium Could Have Great Ramifications.


The integrity of the nation state is necessary to the establishment of a republic. Britain has its separatist tendencies and so if a nearby state is suffering in holding the nation together this should be  of concern to us. Belgium is very probably in the process of breaking up and this has been largely ignored by the British media.

Belgium has a wholly ill-deserved reputation for being boring in Britain and is little known and little visited by the British.

This is a pity for with:

• its wonderful Flemish architecture in the north (Gent, Bruges, Antwerp),

•the exquisite Meuse valley in the south,

•fascinating historic southern cities in Tournai and Namur,

•in Brussels one of Europe’s finest and most varied capital cities (on a par with London)

•towns that are lively with colourful bars that stay open all day and into the early hours and remain through that time full of people genuinely of all age groups,

•not to mention producing some of the finest beer In the world (the only serious rivals being, Bavaria, England and Brittany)

it is a country that repays visiting time and again.

In view of its reputation it is small wonder that the major problems that it is currently having, which have implications for the rest of Europe, and even world international relations, are being quietly ignored in Britain.

Most people know that the north, Flanders, is Flemish speaking and the south, Walloon, is French speaking. What is less well known is that the north is richer and that rising nationalist movements don’t wish to continue subsidizing the south with its high unemployment, decaying industrial towns and attendant social problems. These movements want to break Belgium into two more or less along the linguistic divide.

There can be little doubt that such a separatist tendency is being given impetus from developments elsewhere and will in itself put sail in the winds of the other movements. The parallels with Italy are obvious and there are separatist movements in the UK, Spain and France.

However, the most pertinent and worrying parallels are further away in Kosovo and South Ossetia where is it clear that happenings are far from being unconnected with great power conflicts. Belgium may seem like a tame beast by comparison but we cannot rule out things turning nasty particularly as the vexed question of whether the mighty city of Brussels should go to Flanders or to Walloon is confronted. Brussels is linguistically French but lies within Flanders’s borders.

A lot of the late twentieth century, early twenty-first century separatist movements derive from the expansion of the EU in size, importance and influence. Such a supranational institution favours the creation of smaller states within it. Nearer home, for example, it is doubtful if Scottish independence would exist very strongly as a political idea without the EU.

Does it matter that we might have smaller states like Flanders or Kosovo? There is no easy answer to this. The principle of self determination is no answer for the other side of that coin is ethnic cleansing whereby one group tries to eliminate or expel another in order to achieve a consensus.

And separatism tends to be contagious. To return to Scotland again, it is inevitable that its nationalists will try to use the break up of Belgium as a spur to its own goal.

We should be watching developments in Belgium more closely than we are at present. It is a near and important neighbour.

And do find out more by visiting this fascinating, country. It is not far away,



Our personal finances are the worst they’ve ever been.

The average interest bill paid by each household is £3,900 –out of an average wage of less than £25000 per annum

Our personal finances have now fallen into even worse disrepair than at any time in our national history. Which means that the upcoming recession will bite a lot harder, and for a good while longer, than most peoples’ worst fears…

By the end of July this year, total UK personal borrowing had surged to an eye-watering all-time time high of £1.45 trillion, of which just over £1.2 trillion was mortgage debt, according to the money education charity Credit Action. The overall total has risen £93 bn - almost 7% - over the last 12 months.

And though the growth in household borrowing has showed signs of slowing, Credit Action tells us that the average debt, including mortgages, has risen to over £30,000 per UK adult. Over the past 12 months the average interest bill paid by each household was some £3,900 – all out of an average wage of less than £25000 per annum, according to National Statistics.

This is where that debt mountain starts to look very menacing. Over the last 15 years personal debt has soared 260%, massively outstripping the growth in average wages of ‘just’ 75%. That didn’t seem too painful when the economy was going well, and of course interest rates are lower these days than they were in 1993.

The cracks are already showing. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales have seen mortgage arrears problems rocket 35% in the first two months of 2008 year, compared with 2007. Their overall debt enquiries are up 20% over the twelve months and have more than doubled within the last ten years. 18% of people reckon their borrowings are now out of control and causing them great difficulties. What’s more, the proportion of people spending over 30% of their monthly income on unsecured debt repayments has doubled over the past year, says Callcredit research.

Courtesy of MoneyWeek



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…….Until next week

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