Thinking of the common wealth on Commonwealth Day

I have spent today in London. Part of it I spent working but this afternoon I went to Westminster Abbey to join HM the Queen and representatives from the 53 Commonwealth countries in celebrating both the achievements of the Queen’s reign and the on going importance of the Commonwealth.

Some people seeing this will no doubt think that this was a waste of time. Obviously I disagree not least because at least 35,000 of my fellow citizens of Liverpool were born in or are descended from people born in commonwealth countries.

Some will say that the Commonwealth is an anachronism – a relic of a faded colonial past which should be forgotten. Well that view was not shared by the people from the 53 countries and their High Commissions that were present. They are not all ex British colonies either. There have been three countries join recently, The Cameroons and Rwanda, which were former French colonies and Mozambique, which is a former Portuguese colony. The newest country on Earth, South Sudan has applied to join although its links with the former Empire are tenuous. There are even countries in North Africa known to be considering membership.

So what is the Commonwealth? Let me use the words of a poem written for the occasion:

Commonwealth means

A free association of independent member nations bound by

Friendship, loyalty, the desire for

Democracy, equality, freedom and peace.

There are no big battalions at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. No sordid machinations at the Security Council where China (or the UK) can block the world. It is a group of nations who peacefully come together to work for the common good.

That should be used more for Liverpool’s good too. When I went to Ghana about 3 years ago I met first the Secretary of the Merseyside Ghanaian Association. He introduced me to his sister who was the Health Minister in the Ghanaian Cabinet. I recently met members of the Kenyan Association and have arranged to meet them, again before I visit east Africa in the summer.

Today I met the High Commissioners of 5 countries and talked to them briefly about how the members of their Diaspora communities in our city can be deployed to further mutually rewarding trade, education and cultural links. So many of the national associations in Liverpool keep strong links with businesses, politicians, churches and communities in their former country that we could use to further Liverpool’s trading position. They all thought that was a good idea and have offered to help through the Royal Commonwealth Society. I will be following this up with both them and their communities in Liverpool/Merseyside.

I want Liverpool to be a major European City but a major European city must know its place in the World. Liverpool’s wealth was founded on the former Empire. Much of it good contact buts some of them, notably slavery, were bad. Liverpool has a good name. There were more Liverpool FC shirts being worn in Nigeria than I have seen anywhere in the world.

Today has reinforced my view that the Commonwealth can indeed work for the common wealth.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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2 Responses to Thinking of the common wealth on Commonwealth Day

  1. Brian Mathew says:

    Nice one Richard, I’m currently in East Timor, a country which has had its share of troubles in the recent past, and which is considering looking to English as a lingua Franca to take its country forward, I wonder too if membership of the Commonwealth might help them. Currently we are in the thick of Presidential elections, but when the dust has settled it would be good to offer some useful suggestions to the government here.

    Best wishes


    (LD PPC for North Somerset in 2010)

  2. Anthony Siebenthaler says:

    Have just come across this page whilst trawling google. Good job Richard. You should use any influence you have to try to get the city to formalise and really build on the Commonwealth links, rather than see them continuing to hold the begging bowls under the nose of ‘far away’ Brussels. Liverpool’s future could be greatly enhanced if we redirected our attention back out to the world, especially the Commonwealth and the Americas.

    Our city has paid the heaviest price for the UK’s joining of the EU, a strange, inward looking beast that sees places like Liverpool as on the ‘periphery’. Imagine if the US viewed LA and new York or China Shanghai and Hong Kong as….? See our dilema?

    I well remember the statists stating how Liverpool would only fail as it was ‘on the wrong side of the country’ as the sunlit uplands where now entirely focused, east to continental Europe. I was bitterly disappointed on hearing that the newly elected mayor Anderson’s first task was getting one of your old colleagues to seek out what new EU troughs may be available.

    Incidentally, I was equally disapointed to hear so many of the mayoral candidates state that we no longer ‘compete’ with Manchester…. and that this was ‘a good thing’.

    Anyway, keep building those Commonwealth links, it will definitely be a valuable use of your time!

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