Sunday 11 August 2019

The People are key to protecting our freedoms.

While campaigning  groups and individuals do there best to try and hold each government of the day to account, whenever it transgresses our freedoms, what we really need is a permanent solution for keeping our governments in check which needs to be established on a statutory basis. 

To me the answer lies in the significant political reforms as advocated by the six demands of The Harrogate Agenda which seeks, as its most basic, to make our politicians our servants and not our masters.

Our first demand turns on its head the fundamental assumption on which the UK is based, which is that Parliament is sovereign. This is an archaic convention which belongs to the days of the horse and cart, when the outlying provinces had to send their representatives to Westminster in journeys lasting days, then not to see them for months, perforce to trust their judgement.

In a world of instant communications, it is no longer necessary to argue for a sovereign parliament. In modern democracies the people exert their sovereignty. The people of the UK comprise the ultimate authority of their nations and are the source of all political power. The fact should be recognised by the Crown and the Governments of our nations and our Parliaments and Assemblies.

However, when it comes to real democracy, this frames our second demand. We believe that the foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which should become constitutional bodies exercising, under the control of their people, all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted to the national government. Democracy is nothing if it is not local.

Our third demand addresses national government and calls for the separation of powers. The executive should be separated from the legislature. Prime ministers should be elected by popular vote and they should appoint their ministers, with approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of their powers and responsibilities.

One of the most powerful and most controversial, however, is our fourth demand, where we demand that no law, treaty or government decision shall take effect without the consent of the majority of the people, by positive vote if so demanded. Furthermore, no law shall continue to have effect when consent is withdrawn by the majority of the people.

Our fifth demand requires that there should be no taxation or spending without consent. No tax, charge or levy should be imposed, nor any public spending authorised nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government, except with expressed approval of the majority of the people, renewed annually on presentation of a budget which shall first have been approved by their respective legislatures.

That brings us to our final sixth demand. Accepting that there are many flaws in our current constitution, we do not presume to dictate what it should contain. Instead, we demand the setting up of a constitutional convention. Parliament, once members of the executive are excluded, must host this to draw up a definitive codified constitution for the UK.

Crucially, it should recognise the sovereign status of the people and their inherent, inalienable rights, latterly to be approved by them through the mechanism of a referendum.

All this is of course not going to happen overnight but we in The Harrogate Agenda are prepared for the long game learning from the Chartists before us that took around 75 years to get five of their six demands enacted. Only with our six demands enacted will the political climate exist that allows the people to preserve the freedoms that they hold dear and not see them whittled away by our politicians who currently act as our masters and not our servants.