We’ll Keep the Sea-Green Flag Flying Here!

August 18, 2009

Our folky friend Wynfrith has taken time out from storytelling to indulge in a little politics. We found these bits interesting…


If I had as many lives as I have hairs on my head
or drops of blood in my veins,
I would give them all up for this cause,

for the Liberties of England!

John Bastwick (as quoted on Rev Hammer's 'Freeborn John' album)

These are troubled times, liberties that took 500 years and countless lives to secure are being rolled back in the name of ’security’ by a self-serving political elite who treat the democratic process and the electorate with undisguised contempt. To cite security as a reason to deny liberty shows that the politicians – on both sides of the Atlantic – have learnt nothing in the 250 years since Benjamin Franklin famously wrote…

“They who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

from the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania. 1759

In truth it is not just the years that divide today’s politicians from their enlightenment forebears. There was once a commitment – in philosophy at least, if not in practice – to the belief that government should be no more than a tool that exists to guarantee and protect the basic freedoms and liberties of it’s people so that each person might live as full a life as possible.

But modern governments are all too willing to try and control every aspect of human life and few of us today feel that government and politicians are acting in the interests of the people.


In Britain government (both national and European) is becoming ever more invasive and is slowly creeping into every corner of our lives whilst giving us fewer and fewer opportunities to influence, oppose or even debate important political decisions.

Unfortunately no single political party or independent politician is in a position to single-handedly change this worrying state of affairs even if they wanted to.

Luckily we are beginning to see the first signs of a much needed people’s movement for change. The [sic] Joseph Rowntree Trust have just taken over the Real Change campaign which was launched (originally as ‘Magna Carta 2.0′, which I personally thought was a better title) by members of openDemocracy to try and encourage…

  1. An intelligent self-governing citizens’ movement for much better democracy and liberty in Britain
  2. A serious debate about the future of modern democracy, liberty and human rights, drawing on the best of international ideas.

The Real Change site says…

We aim to bring this movement into being through a new group: Real Change: the open politics network. The parties and politicians cannot be relied upon to deliver real change for us [sic]. Citizens have to be in the driving seat. Recent pronouncements by the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition offer little more than vague and cosmetic changes. “Reform so as to preserve” is still the mantra of the political elite, who hope the wave of popular outrage will once again crash and dissipate into passive acquiescence.

Blogland is awash with people of all political persuasions drawing much the same conclusions. Old differences are being set aside as people realise that ideology will count for nothing if we do not address the current crisis of democracy, liberty and human rights. But this fight will not be won in cyberspace[.]

What I am about to suggest is not a campaign in it’s own right, it is simply a strategy to get people talking. We need a highly visible, non-partisan, popular symbol to signify a heartfelt commitment to regain, preserve and expand our aforementioned democracy, liberty and human rights. (We also need non-partisan democracy, but that’s another story – or rather another blog post.)

I want to re-introduce the sea-green ribbon as a symbol of liberty and democracy.


Sea-green ribbons were worn by members and supporters of the Levellers during the English Revolution. The movement began in July 1646 when people came together to petition parliament in an attempt to free John Lilburne, England’s greatest unsung hero, from the Tower of London where he faced the death penalty on grounds of ‘treason’ (Lilburne remains the only man to be tried for treason by both the crown and by parliament). Known as ‘Freeborn John’, Lilburne is admired across the political spectrum because his life physically embodied a sense of freedom that remains an inspiration for us all.


The Levellers were a short lived movement (thanks mainly to the duplicity and cruelty of Cromwell), but their legacy remains relevant even today. As we can see from their main documents (see Richard Overton’s ‘An Arrow Against All Tyrants‘, ‘The Agreement of the People‘ and ‘An Agreement of the Free People‘) and transcripts of The Putney Debates the Levellers believed in the Liberties of England, equality and social justice. Among other things, Tony Benn (speaking at the annual Levellers Day event in Burford, Oxfordshire) has cited a few central beliefs that he believes would be of significance today (please do not take this as a nod to ‘the left’, I have already stated that the crisis of liberty is such that it is more important than political allegiance – to which I am ‘left-libertarian’)

The Levellers would uphold the rights of the people to recall and replace their parliamentary candidates because of the inalienable sovereignty of the people which no Parliament has any right to usurp.

The Levellers would demand a far greater public accountability by all those who exercise centralised civil, political, scientific, technical, educational and mass media power through the great bureaucracies of the world, and would call for the democratic control of it all.

The Levellers would warn against looking for deliverance to any elite group, whatever its origins, even if it came from the Labour movement, who might claim some special ability to carry through reforms by proxy, free from the discipline of recall or re-election.

The Levellers would argue passionately for free speech and make common cause, worldwide, with those who fight for human rights against tyrants and dictators of all political colours

Also the Levellers called for an elected judiciary and an end to both elitism and elitist terminology with regard to the law. So I do not believe they would have been wholly satisfied with our current legal system and they certainly would have been horrified by the law-making powers of our unelected and unaccountable Brussels commissioners.

With this in mind I feel that the use of the colour Sea-Green as a political/philosophical statement would give provide us with a highly visible and unified identity. Sea-green could easily be adopted by any individual or group who is committed to fighting for the protection and expansion of liberty, democracy and human rights. Now, has anyone got any sea-green cloth?


You can read Wynnie’s entire blog post here.


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