The Commonwealth of Wellon
Dame Victoria reclined in the plush offices in the Home Office buildings overlooking the Cam. It was her monthly meeting with the Secretary at which she kept her nominal boss informed of various projects that WI5 were undertaking. It was a part of the job that the Home Secretary seemed to relish, but then no politician could resist the lure of secret information. Dame Victoria stopped wool-gathering and brought her attention back to the Home Secretary.
'So how is the situation in Mont Royal, Victoria?' The Home Secretary insisted on first name terms.
'Worsening steadily, Anne-Marie.' Dame Victoria resented the implied friendship and informality, but hid it well. 'We believe one disappearance since your last update, a Marc Juillet, can be laid at the feet of the DGSE. I doubt we'll see him again in anything above molecular level.' The Home Secretary looked concerned, whether because of the disappearance of a Wellonese citizen or because she never quiet understood Dame Victoria's dry sense of humour.
'This is not acceptable. What are we doing about it?'
'We've most of the cells under surveillance but are unable to penetrate the black ones with any regularity. Ourselves and SB are increasing our efforts, and combined with enhanced, intelligence led patrolling by the Mont Royal Met are keeping the situation largely under control. As you know the Émigré community is very close lipped. Of more concern perhaps should be the attempt by the KNA resident at the German Embassy to meet with Lamans, if those two combine it will swing the balance significantly.'
The Home Secretary's eyes clouded with easy, heart felt anger. 'Give me a list of the names of the primary DGSE agents involved and this German spook, I think it is time for a few expulsions. This is our country, not a murderous playground for foreign powers.' Dame Victoria gave a short smile, politicians were so easily manipulated, especially the idealistic ones.
'Now,' The Home Secretary's momentary anger had subsided. 'The situation in the Archipelago?'
The vast size of Wellon means that many different levels of government are required for effective government. Overall Wellon is governed on the principle of devolving authority to the lowest effective level whilst trying to do so with a minimum of bureaucracy. As a result it is common for different levels of government to clash over the principles or practice of policies. However the national government, Her Majesties Wellonic Government (HMWG), is the ultimate authority in the country and it the body in which the sovereignty of the people is vested.
The Head of State is the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom who appoints a Governor General to represent him or her in consultation with the Prime Minster of Wellon and the Privy Council. Although in theory the Governor General has the power to sack the government and postpone elections in practice these powers have never been excised and due to the possible political fall out probably never will. Constitutionally the Governor General is a figurehead who is most often active on ceremonial occasions.
The current Governor General is Lord Morris of Mile Post Island, previously the Attorney General of Wellon. Lord Morris is a solid, if uninspiring choice and generally regarded as a 'safe pair of hands'. The appointment of Lord Morris comes after the coronation of the last Governor General as Queen Margaret I. The former Princess of Wales was an immensely popular and talented Governor General but came to be regarded as being too involved politically in the running of the country. Lord Morris is a barrister of gentle humour and minimal flamboyance and has restored the confidence of the parliament in the position of Governor General. However the ability and influence of the former Governor General has started a debate about possibly having a more 'presidential' head of state.
The lower chamber of the Wellon Parliament, the Lower House, is a single chamber institution consisting of Members who are elected to serve a five year tenure on the basis of universal suffrage. In a marked difference to the UK parliament elections occur annually for one fifth of the seats in the Chamber. Although this has resulted in seven changes of government in the past decade its supporters claim that it allows government policy to evolve gradually rather than be subject to the abrupt changes of direction common in other systems. One of the main policy platforms of some of the minority parties is the removal of this system which they say has led to the perpetual rule of ad-hoc coalitions dominated by under-the-table power brokering and it's replacement by a more stable system of government.
Government structure is on the Westminster Parliamentary model with the government in the hands of the party controlling the most votes in the Chamber. The leader of the largest party or coalition in parliament generally becomes the leader of HMWG, the Prime Minister. The PM is the most powerful person on Wellon and is the person with whom 'the buck stops.'
Each of the main government departments (usually referred to as Ministries) is led by a senior politician of the ruling party who must have a parliamentary seat. The departments are as follows in seniority:
Each Minister is supported by a number of junior colleagues appointed by the Prime Minister to assist him/her in the overseeing of the running of their Ministry. Each of these 'Parliamentary Under Secretaries' is assigned to a major subdivision of their Ministry, e.g. Trade, Inland Revenue or Customs and Excise at the Treasury and in some instances can have more influence and status than, for example the Secretary of State for the Environment.
In Parliament the party with the next largest number of votes is called the Loyal Opposition (to the crown that is, not the ruling party) and it forms a 'Shadow Cabinet' complete with 'Shadow Ministers' appointed by the 'Leader of the Opposition'. Additionally each government department is monitored by a Parliamentary Committee consisting of eight to ten MP's nominated by the Party Leaders in the Chamber on the basis of its political make-up.
The Upper House of the Wellon Parliament is a unique institution developed since 2251 but only became enshrined in legislation after 2277. Up until that time the House of Lords on Earth acted as the upper chamber for the Wellon Parliament, exercising oversight of the Lower House. However the Lords generally lacked detailed insight into the workings of Wellon and so needed to establish a number of Permanent Committees on Wellon in order to remain informed.
The Permanent Committees were mostly composed of eminent, often ennobled, retired politicians, civil servants and officers, but also included various scientific and academic experts in whichever field was being discussed. The Permanent Committees were soon vested with the authority of the Lords, and their recommendations back to the Lords were normally implemented without challenge. The Permanent Committees were often hugely dispersed and only rarely gathered to meet in person and so their work was normally done in electronic forums, which were normally accessible to the public to view the workings if the committees and even add their own suggestions.
The Permanent Committee system was expanded and written into the Wellon (Home Rule) Bill. All of the members of the Permanent Committees would be combined into the Upper House that would meet only infrequently at New Camelot. However they would be formed into an expanded system of Committees to provide cost effective, open and informed oversight of the Lower House. Echoing the UK system members of the Upper House would be ennobled as life peers (their descendants would have no title) and know as Lords, Ladies or an equivalent.
Members of the Upper House are chosen from throughout the Wellonese population by a combination of political patronage in addition to public and professional suggestion.
Regional government in Wellon is divided into 5 regions. Each of which has its own single tier parliament, known as an Assembly. The Assemblies are responsible for the efficient administration of their own regions, and generally have responsibility for things like transport, environment and regional development concerns. Each Assembly is headed by a Chief Minister who is normally the leader of the largest political party within the Assembly. Like national government Assembly Members are elected for 5 years terms on a yearly basis. Wherever possible elections in overlapping constituencies are run concurrently to avoid 'voter fatigue'.
Wellon is sub-divided into a number of Metropolitan Districts and some 60 rural Shires, each of which is run by a directly elected council. (The remaining territory where population density is too low to merit the creation of a council is run directly by regional government on behalf of HMWG). It is usual for the whole Council to be elected at the same time, rather than on a rotational basis.
Wellon has a huge range of political parties and interest groups. However there are only a few that contest the whole spectrum of elections across the whole of Wellon. All of these major parties however are more like coalitions in their own right with divisions on both political and geographical grounds causing internal divisions. These parties are:
Liberal Democrats - modelled on the UK Conservative Party. The extreme right wing tends to come from the lower middle class whilst those at the leftist ('wet') end of the spectrum tend to come from wealthier families. Put at its simplest while the left wing believe that they have a duty to the weaker members of society the right wing believe every one should fend for themselves. The Southern Albion part of the party has recently come under serious investigation from the RWC over its fund-raising activities amongst the more shadowy parts of Point Sterling's business community.
Social Alliance - similar to the UK Labour party. Like the Tories they have a right and a left wing - despite a proclaimed working class bias the more prominent left wing members tend to have a middle or upper class background. Right wing members tend to be working class in origin and conservative (small c).
Tirane Party - A minority Tiranista and main republican party. It wants Wellon to accelerate the process of splitting with UK and remove any last constitutional links. It also wants to see the other colonies on Tirane becoming independent and the removal of 'oppressive and exploitative' Terran influences. Keen supporters of the Tirane Council some wing of the party wishes this to go further so as to form a unified world government. At last election gained 4.7% of the vote.
Union Party - The unionists are another minority party. Diametrically opposed to the Tirane Party they want closer links with Britain, or at the very least a retention of the status quo. They have a tendency to gain protest votes at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.
Progressives - A left wing party who want a radical overhaul of government and society. They have a tendency to gain protest votes at the expense of the Social Alliance. The party is predominately republican and has very strong support in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Wellon.
Foundation for Practical Knowledge
The Foundation for Practical Knowledge is intimately tied in with the development of Wellon from scientific outpost to its current nation state status. It grew from the ideas of several key members of the original survey team backed by the academics and scientists of the new colony, and is currently the bastion of liberal, secular and progressive thought in the country. Membership of the FPK is widespread and prestigious.
The FPK is a powerful force in Wellon being heavily involved in education and commercial activities. The FPK sets the educational standards at virtually every level of schooling, from nurseries to universities. Tertiary education is backed by the FPK which directly controls several universities and colleges whilst providing services to most of the rest. The FPK has wide commercial interests from media to data nets to blue chip companies. The FPK tries to wield its power with a light touch, but sometimes fails.
The FPK is also a powerful force politically and in terms of national development. The development of Livingstone and Knightsbridge were key FPK projects and the foundation is always aware of environmental considerations. The FPK has political clout thanks to its widespread membership and its successful manipulation of the colony's development, however this power is more obvious in overall trends rather than day to day influence.
The FPK is also active off-world both on its own and in concert with other foundations, especially the Royal Society. The settlement of New Liverpool on Syuhlahm on the Chinese Arm has mostly been an FPK initiative, and other projects further afield are underway. The average Wellonese in the streets is proud of the FPK and the liberalism of Wellon in general, and the influence of the FPK is largely based on its well founded reputation for common sense and moral courage.
Wellon Defence Forces
The Wellon military has always been something of a dilettante service. The early campaigns in the Tiralbion against bandits and piracy were largely undertaken by the regular British Army garrison although assisted by Wellonese auxiliaries. Since then the long running deployment of troops in the Southern Archipelago has continued but at relatively low levels of commitment. Lacking an external threat the Wellon military was without a focus and languished in terms of training and investment in doctrine and equipment. It did however maintain close links with local communities and provide a base for many athletes whose sports did not have professional backing.
As Wellon took shape as a nation it took increasing responsibility for its own defence, and faced with rising defence budgets elsewhere on Tirane also upped its size and spending. The withdrawal of half of Britain's armoured units from Tirane to Earth in the face of tension at Sol forced further increases and the acquisition of modern armour. The RWN and RWAF also grew whilst benefiting from continued close training with British forces.
The Kafer War has brought the Wellon military to the forefront however and it has huge popularity and public backing. Over 20 000 Wellonese servicemen are deployed off-world with the WEF and more are to follow. Wellonese service personnel who have served individually and in units against the Kafers have returned to a heroes welcome. The Army and RWAF are finding themselves many times oversubscribed with recruits and WEF slated units are receiving the most modern equipment available. Generals and charismatic officers have increasing political clout and the recent political elections have had a strongly 'khaki' nature.
The Tirane Movement, the 'Tiranistas', are a presence in Wellon but not as influential as in the other Tiranean nations. The prime reason for this is that Wellon's early assumption of local autonomy and home rule has undercut the primary aims of the Tirane Movement. However most Wellonese have sympathy for the aims of the Tiranistas, generally believing that all the Tiranean nations should have home rule at the very least. However they disagree with the more extreme Tiranistas who believe Tirane should do completely without Terran influences.
A result of this is a tendency of Wellon to tolerate the presence of all but the most extreme Tiranistas from through Tirane in the various émigré communities across Wellon. The Wellonese press tries to provide more balanced coverage of various Tiranista groups than some overseas governments find comfortable and often causes diplomatic repercussions at a national level. The dedicated Tiranistas of Wellon are usually supporters of the minority Tirane Party and its factions, and are usually also dedicated republicans.
Republicans in Wellon come in many forms and from across the political spectrum. The ultimate aim of republican sentiment varies from installing a native Wellonese as a President to replace the Governor General to complete reform of Wellon society and installation of a radical republic. This division of objectives and the lack of a dedicated Republican party has meant that very few of these aims have actually come to pass is spite of considerable popular support.
Republicanism tends to be strongest in communities descended from non-UK native colonists, but isn't solely concentrated there. Regional hot spots exist and the cities of Riverside, Point Sterling and New Glasgow are usually run by republican local administrations. However for most Wellonese pride in their nation combined with an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mentality means that most of the electorate have more localised concerns to worry about at the polls. The acknowledged leader of Wellonese republicanism is Lord Desmond Norris, son of a New Wales miner who is now a senior FPK figure and lecturer at Ashton University.
Liberal Democratic Party
The Liberal Democrats are a right of centre political party that have close links and a common political outlook with the UK's Conservative Party. Views within the Liberal Democrats range from free market libertarianism on the right to 'big tent' inclusive conservatism on the left. Generally the Liberal Democrats favour close links with the British, sometimes to the detriment of Wellon's links with other Tiranian nations.
The Liberal Democrats have been the predominant party of government in Wellon over the last twenty six years since home rule. They are seen as the party of choice for most of the countries burgeoning middle class. The leader of the Liberal Democrats is the Prime Minister Martin Leigh who is running the country in coalition with the Social Alliance, Union and Progressive Parties. However he is coming under increasing pressure from the right-wingers in his own party who are annoyed at the increasing tax burden caused largely by Wellon's contributions to the Kafer War.
Social Alliance Party
The Social Alliance is a liberal, left of centre party with pronounced socialist tendencies. It's policies are in line with the beliefs of most Wellonese and form the basis of the current status quo. However the party is plagued by splits and factionalism on minor issues that combined with the perceived incompetence of its recent leadership have led it to be consistently out performed by the Liberal Democrats at the polls. The Social Alliance is also at heart a conservative party unwilling to make large scale changes which has led it to loose support of both radicals and the left-wing urban elite. Fortunately the majority of Wellon's working class remain loyal to the party.
The Social Alliance Party is currently involved in the coalition government although some members of the left are increasingly critical of the social and economic costs of Wellon's increased militarism. The leader of the Social Alliance is Anne-Marie Kavanaugh who holds the post of Home Secretary in the government. She is a compromise choice on the part of the party and is seen as a dedicated, honest 'safe pair of hands' but lacking the charisma to revive the party's fortunes. She is seen as being under threat from Ben Stanley a firebrand orator of the left wing with a strong power-base in New Birmingham.
Organised crime is a significant factor throughout much of South New Albion and is centred on the city of Point Sterling. It arose in two major strands, firstly from the illegal immigrants to the area who formed ad-hoc Clans in order to survive. The Cantonese immigrants, who came to service the British garrison on the Sterling Peninsula, similarly formed their own societies (mostly benign) who came to be dominated by the Black Societies, or Triads.
Rivalry and co-operation between the Clans and Triads has formed the back drop to much of Point Sterling's history. The Triads flourished in the city initially in the entertainment districts and then, as the city developed, in manufacturing and services. The Clans survived by racketeering amongst their own people and by smuggling and piracy without. Both elements are now deeply entrenched in Point Sterling society and attempts to root them out have been embarrassingly inadequate. One embittered RWC officer commented on his retirement that: 'Triads proliferate in Point Sterling like maggots in rotten meat.'
Today organised crime in the south is almost respectable, indeed membership or patronage of these groups is almost a prerequisite to commercial or political success. It is rumoured that several major southern corporations are entirely owned by Triads, whilst the San Yee On dominate the media entertainment industry in the area. Dividing organised crime into two factions is a vast over-simplification as there are literally hundreds of competing Triad and Clan not to mention other groups from the Mob to the Yakuza present in the south.
Organised crime in the Cam Valley and Eastern New Albion is primarily run by the 'Firms'. These are family based groups that grew up around failing Cam Valley settlements whose inhabitants turned to crime in order to survive. These have a long history and close knit structure yet due to their British ethnic origins are often overlooked in favour of the more flamboyant Clans and Triads.
Sultanate of Masira
The Sultan of Masira, is the most important man in the city of Masira and the western Blight, and presides over the only part of Wellon where the secular rule of law is sometime in doubt. Descended from the exiled Sultan of Oman, the Sultan of Masira is a hereditary position (although in theory the local Imams in consultation with the faithful can replace him) and is the major landowner in the region. Officially the Sultan holds no power, however the city government largely defers to his authority and he is the key figure in the city. In addition he holds a de-facto position as a judge for those people (usually but not exclusively Muslim) who want to go to him to mediate in their disputes. Despite his lack of official legal authority almost no one disputes his judgements.
The Sultanate is somewhat controversial in certain circles of liberal and left wing Wellon opinion who often decry the situation as un-democratic. However as the Sultan has no official power the courts have consistently found in his favour. The Sultan is very involved in philanthropy and is a patron of the arts and education both in Masira and in the rest of Wellon. He is also a senior member of the FPK.
Reformed Free Presbyterian Church of New Scotland
The Reformed Church (known as Reformists or colloquially 'Re-Wee Frees') are a religious group that has evolved from a mixture of Scottish Presbyterians and Scandinavian Lutherans that were thrown together in north New Scotland and New Highland in the early years of the colony. At the time life in these areas was very hard and communities very dispersed, to the religious in these communities there seemed very little of the glory of God in evidence. Their own lay preachers were the only real clergymen to hand and would minister in the spartan homes of their congregation. The church grew with the settlements and its message of hard work, piety, close community links and rigid observance of the Sabbath went with it. This somewhat joyless outlook is tempered by the Reformists enjoyment of the simple things in life, like whisky and ceilidhs, although only once all the work is done.
New Scotland is predominantly agnostic in outlook, with substantial groups of people following the Reformists Church, the Catholic Church and other Protestant faiths. The Reformists are the most influential of these groups and are often willing to mobilise their parishioners to use their political clout on behalf of the church. The dour reputation of Dartmoor is usually blamed on the Reformist influence, and several communities in the north are very Reformist in nature. Parts of New Highland especially have very strict Reformist tendencies, a fact that causes many young New Highlanders to travel south as soon as they are able.
South Albion Miners Union
The South Albion Miners Union is the strongest and most militant of the trade unions of the Wellon Trade Union Congress, and is often regard by industrialists as the most obstructive. SAMU developed at the turn of the century from a group of diverse and unofficial miners guilds operating in New Wales and White Rose County areas in the foothills of the Pendragon's near Quinnell. At this time the various corporations with licences to exploit the region's mineral resources refused to recognise trade unions. Conditions in both deep and strip mines were often very poor with safety a low priority. It required a two year strike by the newly organised SAMU to force trade union acceptance on the corporations.
Today SAMU is still headquartered in Quinnell but has almost monopolised trade union membership in primary resource extraction across New Albion, and only in New Scotland are other mining trade unions effective. This domination has led to accusations by many corporations that SAMU is restricting the introduction of more effective techniques into the industry. SAMU is currently concerned with two major projects, the decaying safety regime in the Moria mining complex and breaking into the mining industry around Knightsbridge.
The collapse of the French 12th Republic and the assumption of military rule by the Junta in 2289 came as a shock to most people across Tirane. The use of the French Army on the streets in Nouvelle Provence and the internment of some secessionist figures was an even bigger one. Several key members of the various secessionist, Tiranista, Ultra and regional movements decided to flee Nouvelle Provence to avoid a possible wider sweep. Many wandered the capitals of Tirane trying unsuccessfully to drum up support, however most colonial authorities generally wanted nothing to do with them. Only in Wellon did they find themselves free to come and go and publish their denunciations of the Junta unhindered.
Communities of leaders, hangers on, fellow travellers and student radicals began growing up around New Camelot, Riverside and especially francophone Mont Royal. The creation of the 3rd Empire came as another shock to the émigrés, many of whom saw Ruffin's coronation as the French nation regressing back to pre-Revolutionary ignorance. Many émigrés would gradually return to Nouvelle Provence but a community of some 20 000 stayed in Wellon. Most have integrated into Wellonese society but many remain politically active with a whole range of views usually secessionist and Tiranista in character.
The French government remains suspicious of this community and their access to free speech and support for controversial groups inside Nouvelle Provence has become a point of friction between Wellon and France. Rumours persist that the DGSE has a substantial presence in Mont Royal, prompting an similar build up of WI5 and RWC Special Branch personnel.