Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Demand four 'The people's consent'.

The overall aim of THA, as contained in its six demands, is to give a far greater say to the people and thus place real power in our hands.

Demand four ‘The People’s Consent’ is perhaps the most complex but it sets out very clearly, in three parts, how we can influence, determine and ultimately reject the government’s legislation.

The first part sets out the procedure for the people to suggest areas of policy they would like addressed but, to avoid undue pressure and influence from well organised minority groups, any recommendations would not be binding on the government. The second part suggests a framework for the people to actually oppose or alter legislation before it becomes law with the third element covering ways in which the public’s voice can be heard with regards other official bodies covering such things as judicial and planning decisions.

With the above in mind it should not have escaped your notice that over the past nine months ‘Remainers’ have been pushing for parliament to have the ultimate say on the final Brexit deal achieved. The ‘ Leavers’ say this not necessary but there is of course no provision for the people to have their say that is apart from waiting to the next General Election or taking to the streets.

Whatever the final deal Mrs May and her government achieves the vitally important element of it, that is the Free Trade Agreement they achieve, will have to be passed by parliament. Now if THA was in force the second part of The People’s Consent would allow us to reject it, if for example we felt there were insufficient safeguard measures offered, giving us the power to reject the bill and thus demanding the government look again at the FTA they had achieved.

As I pointed out in the beginning of this post the essence of the THA is to provide the people with the mechanisms to have their voices heard and also to reject proposed legislation if they disapprove of it. If THA was in force politicians would never be able to make decisions on their own without considering that the people had the immediate right and the facility to have their say and if necessary reject a given piece of legislation.

This is the level of power we seek and nothing short of this will be acceptable to us because for far too long politicians have been legislating based on their blinkered perspective of life which pays lip service to our views. We demand that the opinions of the grass roots are always considered and taken account of and if they try to ignore us we would have the mechanisms to demand our say.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Spreading the word.

Towards the end of last year I contacted six private and four state schools, in my area, about the possibilities of talking to their sixth forms on our Agenda. I based this request on my own time at school when the last period before lunch on a Friday was given over to a current affairs lecture from an outside speaker. I have received replies from five of the private schools with promises of possibly three talks in their future programmes and one reply from the state sector, from the Richard Huish sixth form college in Taunton, to whom I gave a talk to their political society last Friday during their lunch break.

This talk was fairly easy to organise as their political society is run by the students themselves who aren't as bothered as teachers appear to be with the possibility of an unknown outsider like me potentially corrupting their delicate minds! This society is entirely voluntary and the 25 students that attended had given up their lunch break to attend. Of the 25 I would estimate 20 were girls.

Due to the restrictions in time, as they left me straight to another class, I only talked for 20 minutes which left me 20 minutes to take questions. I divided the talk into three parts starting with an introduction into my political history of, The Referendum Party, UKIP and standing as an independent as it helps explain how difficult it is to break into the existing system which is why the system needs to be radically changed. Next I placed our demands in the historical context of the time it took, between 10 and 63 years, for five of the Chartists demands to be enacted. Lastly I briefly explained each of our six demands and the reasons for them.

There were no shortage of questions and two were of particular interest form which I learnt important lessons. The first asked, as I had briefly covered how our demands required us to have left the EU, which of the EU's laws we now followed did I disagree with and I made the mistake of giving, much of the Environmental legislation, as an example. The trouble is this is just my opinion and so by giving a specific answer I had deflected the topic away from our Agenda to my own personal views on policy which no doubt left some students thinking that I was a Climate Change sceptic. On reflection a better reply would have simply been to say that my own opinions on policy are not the point but what is relevant is that all policy decisions should be made as close to the people as possible and being in the EU would never allow this to happen.

The second question suggested that while our demands placed more power in the hands of the people this particular student didn't feel she had enough knowledge for an informed opinion on some matters which she was happy to delegate to our MPs. In my reply I suggested she had far more faith in our political class than I did and that on a matter like capital punishment our politicians were out of touch with the beliefs of the people. On reflection this was again too controversial a subject and again distracted away for our Agenda to what might have appeared my own hang'em and flog'em views.

As my opinion is far more refined on this issue, I should have replied that while she did not at times feel confident to vote on an issue it should not be a reason to prevent the rest of the population, if they so wished, to vote on a proposed government bill by means of a referendum or under certain circumstances to propose legislation for the government to consider. Answering her question that way would have prevented any distraction from the main point which is that our governance needs radical reform to become more democratic bringing government closer to the people and more responsive to their wishes, views and opinions.

In conclusion the trip to Taunton was worthwhile and I was assisted by my other half who accompanied me and made a note of the questions I was asked which is the reason I was able to consider the above two question in particular and how they could have better answered. So I now feel better placed to do the same again as and when any of the other nine schools take me up on my offer to talk on our Agenda. My last point is that we are hoping this year to develop other speakers in other parts of the country to arrange similar talks to interested parties including, schools, institutions and any other bodies who might be interested. If anyone is interested in helping to spread the word please get in touch.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The oxygen of populism

The trouble with our current political system is that the views of the public at large are not getting through to our MPs. Yes, I know they all ‘bang on’ about how they are kept in touch by their constituency surgeries but in reality, they only get to meet a vocal minority with specific problems while the views of the vast majority are seldom brought or get to their attention. It could not be clearer, over recent years, that our politicians seldom if ever speak for the ‘people’.

The problems start with the need, for anyone considering a career in politics, to join a party and become part of the ‘tribe’ and accept their mantras for without the support of a party machine the chances of getting elected as an independent are very slim. Adopting the ‘party-line’, from the start of a political career, means fresh ideas are not getting into the political arena which does of course presume that prospective candidates do have them! So, for example, if a new politician is an ardent climate sceptic he or she would have to suppress their views for fear of jeopardise their career prospects. As Bernard Shaw said: ‘He knows nothing; he thinks he knows everything – that clearly points to a political career!’

So, our system of governance will only be reformed when our politicians have to seriously take into account the views of the majority which is what our six demands set out to do. Our first demand requires that the people are recognised as sovereign and from this the other demands follow. Then demand two, ‘Real Local Democracy’, would allow constituents to agree the level of pay of their MPs and set up a procedure for recall between elections if they so desired. Demand three, ‘Separation of Powers’, would enable the whole of Parliament to keep the executive in check with demands four and five giving the people real power to reject or approve the government’s proposed legislation and annual taxation requirements. Finally demand six pulls everything together in a new codified constitution.

So, when enacted, the six demands of The Harrogate Agenda would really reform our current system of governance by ensuring new systems were in place to allow the views of the majority to be heard when so desired. Our Agenda allows the oxygen of populism to puncture the Westminster bubble allowing fresh ideas to enter the system from the people for the people.

Monday, 12 December 2016

When will the people be spurred into action?

One of the recurring questions that I have encountered, since our foundation in 2012, is why the pace of change we seek is so slow in coming.

The first thing I learnt, after reading ‘Chartism a new history’ by Malcolm Chase, is that political change is a slow process and that five of the Chartists six demands took between 10 and 63 years to become enacted – fortunately their demand for annual general elections never materialised.

The second realisation I’ve registered is that the majority of the people are still too comfortable which was summed up nicely at the end of the editorial, in the Christmas edition of the Spectator: -
“There is no doubt that the old rules of western politics are being rewritten, the clich├ęs disproved the old electoral playbooks abandoned. But this is not in itself a reason to panic. There can be a tendency amongst politicians to confuse their own disorientation with the end of the world - when, in fact, the world is doing rather well. By most objective measures of human progress, this has been yet again the best year ever. It might go against our instincts and against much of the news agenda – but most of us have had firmer grounds for expecting, or for wishing others a happy new year.”
Now I grant you this is rather OTT but in principle it is true that the ‘people’, on whom we rely to progress our movement, are not sufficiently bothered to take to the street in protest. However, when presented with an opportunity on a plate, as they were on 23rd June, then they clearly are able to muster enough energy to let our, out of touch, politicians know what they really want but then voting in a referendum is really not too taxing.

The third point I’d make, which leads on from the above two points, is that history shows us that our politicians never volunteer to give up their privileges or power. They don’t wake up one day and say ‘I’ve suddenly realised that the way I control and dominate others is wrong. I must change my ways. So, I’ll initiate a variety of changes to our governance to give the people more power over their lives.’ That is NEVER how it works. History is full of examples how power has to be fought from those that have it.

So, in conclusion, until people become more uncomfortable, and therefore have the incentive to take positive action, then all those who support our aims can do is to help ensure The Harrogate Agenda’s pilot light stays lit so we are there ready and waiting when needed.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Parliament is oblivious to our wishes.

When you stop to consider the recent issue of Keith Vaz and his exploits with male escorts and who is now being probed over drug allegations you realise that Parliament is as divorced from the people, they supposedly serve, as it is possible to be.

For while Keith Vaz did step down as Chairman of the Home Affairs committee 150 tory MPs supported his appointment to a committee over-seeing the justice system despite the above pending investigations.

Our pamphlet had this to say in its conclusion:-

"Furthermore, we the people have the right to demand a Parliament which truly represents our interests and does what it is told. Parliamentary representation, we feel, is compatible with THA. But we do not see the function of Parliament as being to provide a distressingly shallow gene pool from which ministers are recruited. The antidote to the contempt with which politicians are regarded is for Parliament to do its job as the protector of the people, rather than the supporter of governments and the provider of its management personnel.

Its main task should be preparing legislation for public approval. the scrutiny of government, and then the representation of the people to government. For that to happen, the institution has to attract the right people and be properly structured. As long as its main function is to provide ambitious politicians with the means to enter government, it can never properly perform those duties." 

The Brexit result and Trumps success are all signs that the people wish to teach the 'Establishment' a lesson but we still have a long way to go for the people to join up all the dots and realise that it is only through the reform of our governance, in line with our six demands, that real and lasting change will come about.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Leaving the EU is the prerequisite to reforming our system of governance.

Blog Action Day at the being of this month apparently saw bloggers from all over the world post on the usual suspects of the environment, poverty and climate change. The real issue they should be addressing, if they want to see things really change and to have their views listened to, is who should ultimately hold political power because unless there are mechanisms for the will of the ‘people’ to influence and if necessary alter government policy, outside of general elections ,then sadly nothing much is going to change.

The Harrogate Agenda, from its conception in 2012, has promoted the need for genuine ‘People Power’ or ‘Direct Democracy’ the key to which we believe is the recognition by the state that the people are sovereign. We have six demands for better governance, as covered on our website, and we also acknowledged from the start that our demands could never be enacted while we were members of the EU. On page 26 of our pamphlet we say this.

“As it stands, the direct democracy embodied in THA is not compatible with membership of the EU. It confronts one of the core principles of the EU, as specified in Article 10. This states that- ” The functions of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy” and that: “citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament”. Direct democracy – and the EU cannot exist side-by-side.”

It is because of this very clear belief that the EU and THA are incompatible that we joined with five other groups to form The Leave Alliance to fight the referendum. The Leave Alliance supported Dr North’s ‘Flexcit- The market solution’ which is still the only staged, flexible and continuous exit plan to leave the EU yet devised. However, despite winning our work is not yet done as there is no point leaving the EU to end up in a worst trading position than we currently have and so the need to promote ‘Flexcit’ must go.

The point is that after 43 years of integration into the EU it is totally impractical to believe we can simply leave overnight without the need to negotiate a deal. A further key issue is to differentiate between the 27 members of the EU, the 31 countries in the Single Market or EEA and the 51 countries which make up the continent of Europe. The Leave Alliance believes that while we should leave the undemocratic, corrupt. moribund and unaudited EU we should initially stay in the EEA, as an interim measure, until we can lead the way to help create a genuine free trade area between all the countries of Europe.

The interim solution, of initially remaining in the EEA, is also the only deal that has any chance of being finalised in the two years available once Article 50 has been triggered and there is plenty of evidence that to try and improve on the deal we already have will take much longer with adverse consequences for our existing trade.

Also it should be noted that free of the EU but still part of the Single Market/EEA we would be able to negotiate on Freedom of Movement under Article 112 of the EEA agreement. I would also point out that the issue of migrant workers is very different from the problems we face with refugees and asylum seekers which require quite different solutions involving the cooperation of the international community. Again free of the EU we could lead on these issues in our own right.

So once free of the interference of the political EU and with our own Parliament regaining control of our own affairs The Harrogate Agenda can once again focus on promoting our demands. Realistically nobody should expect that our government or our politicians will simply roll-over and accept our demands without a great deal of resistance as our primary aim is the recognition that ultimate power resides with the people and not with Parliament.

People power requires checks and balances to ensure it is not abused but real democracy requires that a sovereign people have the mechanisms to hold the government of the day to account as and when they want to rather than having to wait until the next general election. This is why it is so important to spread the word and to build up a grass root’s movement to bring pressure to bear on our politicians and other elected officials to point out that without supporting our demands we will not support them.

Finally remember this that until we the people have real power to directly influence government decisions as and when they are made we will always live in fear of a future government taking us back into the EU against our wishes. Parliament must become responsive and ultimately subordinate to the final will of a sovereign people.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

'Way Ahead' workshop in Warwick on Saturday 1st October 2016.

In a recent post-mortem on the EU referendum on BBC Radio 4 entitled Two Rooms, remainers from Brixton and leavers from Boston shared their thoughts on the vote and its aftermath. There were obviously differences of opinion, but one common aspiration for both groups was to take advantage of the opening provided by Brexit to bring power closer to the people.

The Harrogate Agenda (THA) was founded in 2012 for precisely this purpose and on Saturday 1st October seven established and eight new supporters met in Warwick, in a workshop environment, to discuss the ‘Way Ahead’. A few months ago, The Harrogate Agenda became involved, with full consent of our supporters, in the referendum campaign and along with the Campaign for an Independent Britain and several other groups, we became part of The Leave Alliance (TLA) which supported and promoted Dr Richard North’s Flexcit plan to leave the EU.

The Harrogate Agenda (THA) has six demands which, when enacted, will revolutionise the way we are governed in this country. These demands all evolve from the principle that ‘we the people’ must be recognised as sovereign. It is essential that our six demands are met to ensure we will remain outside the EU once we finally leave.

At the moment, there is nothing stopping any future government taking us back in, without even consulting us. This is because sovereignty - or power - currently resides in Parliament. This makes a travesty of the claim that we currently live in a democracy, for demos means ‘people’ and kratos ‘power’. Without demos these is no democracy, but people without power is not democracy either.

The origins and location of sovereignty are rarely understood fully. In the beginning, people had power in their own hands but over time this power was eroded by sovereign monarchs whose decrees were absolute. Later, in this country, sovereignty was wrestled from the monarch to Parliament where it resides to this day.

The past and present incumbents in Westminster feel that the criteria for democracy are met because at General Elections power is temporarily handed back to ‘us’ to vote in the next government. However, our politicians conveniently overlook that they promise us the earth before an election and then happily ignore us once in power. We have little scope to hold them to account.

In other words, our supposed “Representative Democracy” is a sham. The referendum result, where we voted against our government and the leaders of the Labour, SNP and Lib Dem parties, shows why things must change, with the recognition that sovereignty - and thus power - ultimately resides with ‘us’ the people. Our twenty-nine-page pamphlet which you can request from our website, linked via our logo on this blogspot, explains how we believe this would work out in practise.

Our workshop last Saturday confirmed the importance of communicating our message on two established and one new fronts. First, there is the ‘bottom up’ approach consisting of any one of many possible types of meeting that can be set up at a local level. These range from organising a meeting with your own MP to giving a talk at schools or even organising meetings in village halls and similar venues.

The second way of spreading the word is via the internet, including our new Blogspot, which can be accessed from our website. Also covered under this heading is the use of Social Media, especially Twitter. Third and lastly we considered the importance of working from the ‘top down’ which is currently an area that we had not previously considered. It is now our intention to create a think tank to explore the whole area of political power. This sounds ambitious and we are under no illusions that working from the ‘top down’ will take us a few years to become established and thus recognised. In the meantime, we will continue to develop our bottom up approach, using grassroots activists and the Internet to promote our cause.

So if anyone shares our desire to re-boot our country’s political system and see real power returned to the people, please get in touch with us form the 'contact' link on our website.