On Tuesday 17th April the British Counties Campaign held its Parliamentary Launch in Portcullis House in the Houses of Parliament.
With the Campaign’s Founder Pam Moorhouse, Manager Gerard Dugdill and Champion MP Mr Henry Smith and a number of cross-party supporters including Mr Jonathan Djanogly MP and Martin Vickers MP in attendance as well as members and supporters of the campaign we officially launched our bid to finally fix the county confusion by means of legislation to have the 92 historic counties of the United Kingdom granted official status and recognised in law.
During the launch Mr Henry Smith MP spoke about the rich heritage of our counties, some of which are older than England itself, have been carved up, merged or removed from the map thanks to government reorganisations.
Aligning the ceremonial counties to the historic borders, appointing appropriate Lord Lieutenants and High Sheriffs would finally clear up the confusion and legally establish our counties once again in law.
Gerard Dugdill revealed the key findings of the IPSOS-Mori survey, despite the reorganisations in the past people still do use their historic county definition when asked where they lived or what county they come from and that's something to be encouraged.
Three-quarters of people surveyed thought the changes in the seventies were unfair, interestingly, younger people who weren't even born during that time also thought in principle it was unfair.
Just over half of the people surveyed aged 45 and over said they were in favour restoring pre-1965/74 county definitions.
Pam Moorhouse spoke about the unfairness of the changes which imposed new artificial area names on people overnight and how despite objections and protests these new areas have stuck firm with the added problem of the Post Office adopting these names and even their own variations on them which are still used by some even to this day despite being abandoned by the Post Office over twenty years ago.
Pam was inspired to start the petition from which the campaign evolved after reading an article in The Ridings magazine and wanting to save the counties which she believed were at risk of being lost forever as her native West Riding and current Lincolnshire home had been affected by the reforms in the seventies.
Henry Smith MP:
"The historic counties of the United Kingdom go back many centuries and indeed some of our counties are older than England itself. For such a long time they have formed the key constituent parts of our nation and have a strong identity and a wonderful heritage, and sadly really, over the last half century we have seen the county map shattered in many ways by local government reorganisation, when we became members of the EEC lastly the EU, a desire for there to be regional government rather than county government.
Many reorganisations under so many different parties in government that some of our identities of counties have almost disappeared altogether and others have been merged or divided. I think there's a real opportunity on Brexit as we are looking to the future but also taking account of our history and our past that we can rejuvenate the counties and I think the best way to start doing that is so we have the Lord Lieutenants of the various parts up and down the UK representing the historic county areas, High Sheriffs as well, and to use those ceremonial counties as the building blocks for local government when there are future reorganisations. So I'm very hopeful that the historic counties that we've all grown up with, that we love so much, can once again have official status and that here in London they can have once again the recognition of the importance of all of the local county areas of GB and indeed NI as well.
I thank very much everybody who's worked so hard on this campaign not just to the run up to this event in parliament but over so many years preceding that thank you for your participation and the campaign goes on I'm sure from strength to strength."
Gerard Dugdill (Campaign Manager):
"My name is Gerard Dugdill, it's a great honour to be Campaign Manager for the BCC. First of all I'd like to start by thanking Mr Henry Smith for his absolutely fantastic and invaluable support as champion MP for our campaign, we look forward to working with Mr Smith as indeed we go from strength to strength and get our much needed legislation through parliament .
I just want to very quickly introduce some of the key findings from the survey that we've carried out with IPSOS-MORI, it was done to their excellent professional standards in the last three to four weeks in all the ice and snow that we had about a month ago, so thanks to IPSOS-MORI for doing a great job and thanks also to Pam Moorhouse who's the founder of this campaign who actually funded that particular piece of work because it did cost an arm and a leg.
OK so just very briefly the three main points of the survey are firstly:
People still are using the historic county definitions when they are asked what county they live in or what county they come from, they still are clinging on - using their historic county names, and we want to encourage continued use of that.
Secondly, I think this is a very important point that really chimes with the message behind Pam's campaign and the reason why she set it up in the first place. Pam has continually referred to the unfairness of the changes in the 1970s and this survey very definitely vindicates that unfairness, three-quarters of people roughly, think that the changes were unfair, even in principle, even when people didn't realise what had happened back in the 1970s, especially maybe some of the younger people, it still says in principle that the changes were unfair.
Thirdly, we just have enough support at this moment in time from the general public to ask for a reversion or certainly a clarification of county identity up and down the country, so that basically refers to changing our lieutenancies changing, in essence our counties, back to the recognition of the traditional 92 counties that we've got in the UK.
So we've just about have the moral force coming the public at this moment in time and that's something we must build on and as Mr Smith says, align our lieutenancies back to the counties to really cement our historic recognition of our UK counties.
My very final point, we've had similar surveys in Warrington, we had about 50% of the public in Warrington saying Warrington remains in the traditional county of Lancashire rather than the ceremonial county of Cheshire, so that support is really clear as well.
We are in, I think, the last chance saloon for our counties so we must save them and we must save them now."
Pam Moorhouse (Campaign Founder):
"Welcome everyone. I started this [campaign] to bring back the traditional counties of Britain forcibly taken off us in 1974 by people sent from the government to all parts of the country. No one in Britain wanted this change, so they made us by changing maps signs and councils, and media only using the new names from then on.
They set up the new councils with the new county names in the face of complete opposition knowing that the young would eventually accept them as they did to our dismay.
So today they are told that the new places have always existed, so people are unfairly robbed of our history and the young can't study them as they are unknown to them, how can anyone justify doing this to innocent people, deliberately destroying our history and culture, why?
The agents never said, only that as we are not having traditional counties any more you have to give them up, no, we know that you don't want to, but you will, you'll have to as we are changing everything, now off you go and live in these new counties that we have created for you – all objections ignored.
The government statement immediately after the changes were completed - that's it the traditional counties have all gone, there are none left anywhere, the next government statement was these changes are for administration only and will not affect county loyalties.
So why the heavy handed agents forcing us to obey and the removal of all references to traditional areas, the only reference to before local government changes now there are none, only new counties mentioned, even in museums.
So after reading in The Ridings magazine about our history being completely wiped out so no one knows of it any more, I thought I must do something to halt the destruction and bring history back for all who want it it, and will want it in the future and also to compensate those who were robbed by giving the counties back.
We need two million supporters to make parliament give them back. We also need support to lobby MPs, set up web-pages etc., so please help the British Counties Campaign get them back.
People in the future will thank you, but we must do it now while people still remember the old counties, or valuable history is lost forever to please a heartless government.
Thank you very much and particularly thanks to Henry Smith for all his help."