Saturday 10:00 Fractured: Is British Politics too Broken to Stay Together?
The first panel of the day wasn’t as busy as some of the ones I had been too before, but I came in sufficiently as it was starting to not be able to get a seat too close to the front. Hence the one crappy picture I got from this panel.
As with a number of panels that I ended up attending there was some overlap. So this panel to some degree fit with the Race/Migration panel from the previous day (the idea of language and religion and economic migrants) and the one that followed which was about The Future of Europe. The panel was made up of James Lovegrove, Ian R. MacLeod, Ian McDonald and Nicholas Whyte.
Both McDonald and Whyte have Irish backgrounds, so Ireland once again featured – how the split into Ireland and Northern Ireland changed things like football, and with Irish as one of the languages of Northern Ireland there was the generation of Ulster Scots for the other side.
That follows into religion, with some discussion of how an event like Guy Fawkes day is about the religious divide, and how comments are made on both sides about the conflict between Catholic and Protestants stemming from hundreds of years ago.
By contrast to the previous panel, the migrants being talked about this time were moving into mainland Europe, instead of those from mainland Europe coming into Britain. The contrast of how the poor come here for jobs and to fill skills shortages versus the better off Brits who by houses in Spain or France for the better weather. One of the conclusions regarding this idea was that it was a good thing, opening up Britain and allowing a wider viewpoint of the world and of Europe on the doorstep.
Regards government, there was some discussion about Scotland and Wales gaining more devolved power. How parties like the Conservatives are really a South of England party with very little real representation in the rest of the United Kingdom. Which brought discussion briefly back to Northern Ireland, and how the mainland UK parties had made no impact on Irish politics. In turn it was suggested the reason why regional assemblies in England have been turned down is because people prefer the idea of a remote government, one that can’t meddle in their affairs.
Saturday 11:00 Byzantium at our Borders in the 21st Century: the Future of Europe.
Nicholas Whyte chaired this panel, which was nominally about alternate histories and alternate futures. Though more specifically it was about Europe, the key events that have and will shape Europe, and how those could have been different. Harry Turtledove was present as a writer of alternate histories and as someone who comes from family driven out of Europe. Jon Courtenay Grimwood has also written alternate futures, and travelled round the world extensively. Keith Brooke seemed to have been given the role of insular Brit, he is a SF writer, though also the man behind the Infinity Plus website. Which leaves Patrick J. Gyger from the Swiss science fiction museum.
To some extent the discussion started with how European people felt. Despite being part of the European landmass Gyger insisted that Switzerland wasn’t part of Europe, with several audience members saying the same about their home of Norway. This led to discussion about borders and the development of Europe, and how these things are defined. Whyte works in the European parliament, and as well as having grown up in Ireland has also been involved with Yugoslavia and the resulting splinters that came from there – so he shared some of his insights into conflict and progress.
Developing the discussion in the direction of the alternate history base line, each member of the panel talked about what they considered to be key moments in European/World history and how those could have gone differently and what the effect might have been. If the UUSR had won the cold war. If the US and USSR had actually had a nuclear war. If World War II had started a little earlier. If World War I had been won by Germany, then we might have just finished the German century rather than the American.
One of the overall ideas was how little things have changed really. With the suggestion that the same powers that shaped the world 100 years ago are the same powers shaping it now; with the Austro-Hungarian Empire having been replaced by America in the scheme of things. From there, one of the biggest things affecting world borders today is the 3rd world versus 1st. Part of the conversation covering the debate over Turkey and whether it should join the European community, with Turtledove making the comparison between Turkey and Europe and Mexico and America.