Tuesday 28 September 2021

Puncturing the Westminster bubble.

 Observing the odd report of the Labour conference in Brighton who could seriously conclude from those present, the politicians, assorted platform speakers and people in the audience,  that they speak for the public at large?

This questions becomes even more apt when you consider Angela Rayner, their Deputy Leader considers, in effect, that all Conservative politicians and by implication all their supporters are scum. 

The trouble with our current political system is that the views of the public at large are not getting through to our MPs. I know they are forever reminding us that 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 they represent.

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 or member of a new party 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 once had fresh ideas in the first place! 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's inherent sovereignty is recognised and from this the other demands flow.  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.

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 and also the mechanisms to say no to government legislation with which the majority disagreed. 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.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

What did the ‘Levellers’ ever do for us!

Quite a lot actually as they started the ball rolling on political reform over 400 years ago!

The Levellers were prominent during the Civil War in the 1600s with the political aim of extending the franchise and achieving manhood suffrage as they believed that everyone had equal rights to the vote.

They were called the 'Levellers', as they wished to level out society (one wonders if our PM is aware of this!?) They had many ideas on how they thought society should be and their political and religious objectives were put forward to Parliament in 'The Agreement of the People' in 1647. This document was much more radical than those before it. Along with their political aims they wanted to reform the legal system to give equality to everyone before the law and achieve recognition of people's fundamental rights and liberties.

They were however not successful primarily because they
didn’t gain popular support which meant that they could easily be ignored. They also failed to make inroads into the army with only limited rank and file support as soldiers were more interested in their pay and conditions than in theoretical schemes of government or even the vote! They also had no support from the officers, the so-called 'Grandees', like Cromwell and Ireton as their power could have been curbed by the Levellers ideas. This meant they had little support in Parliament because the rich and wealthy landowners felt their power base, land and money were threatened. They also felt there would be a major destruction of the social order.

Interestingly as with the Chartists, some 200 years later, the Levellers emerged at a time when there was severe economic hardship and this made their policies attractive to working class people, who would have mostly benefited from their reforms. However, as the economic situation improved support for the Levellers started to decline. This was the major reason as to why they lacked popular support.

Coming right up to date for our agenda to achieve mass support we sadly need the economic conditions to seriously deteriorate so that the people are forced to consider how badly the current system of governance
in this country has let them down. At that point they should hopefully focus on the necessary improvements needed to give them a far greater say in the way they are governed which of course needs to start with a recognition of their inherent sovereignty.

There is no doubt this government’s troubles are building up what with the inadequate Brexit trade deal including the NI Protocol, Covid, housing shortages, the growth in inflation, immigration, costs of Net Zero and the pending shortages of energy. As things get worse the people would have to be in a complete coma not to realise things need to change.

 As Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard “If we want things to stay as they are, everything will have to change.” 


Thursday 16 September 2021

Team spirit and freedom.

Last Saturday I attended a regimental reunion at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. It was my first visit to this 150-acre site which was founded in 2001 and is now well established. There is a central memorial wall and obelisk and various individual service memorials spread around the grounds. The site remembers all in-service deaths since the end of the Second World War.

I served in The Royal Green Jackets between 1970 – 1980 which consisted of two tours in Belfast, one with the United Nations in Cyprus on the ‘Green Line’ between the Greeks and the Turks and finally a two-year exchange posting with the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry in Calgary, Alberta. The RGJ was founded in 1966 and amalgamated into the Rifles in 2007. Our traditions are based on five things –The thinking riflemen, camouflage, rifle marksmanship, reacting to bugle calls rather than words of command and marching at 140 paces a minute. If you used to watch Sean Bean in ‘Sharpe’s Rifles’ you’ll have the general idea of our background!   

Our service around the RGJ memorial was taken by the Reverend Kelvin Price who had served as a corporal in the regiment. He spoke well and I was particularly taken by a point he made about team spirit. He said watching England play football was good but was easily beaten by watching his own team play but both were surpassed by being amongst fellow Riflemen who had all volunteered to serve our country.

He continued that fighting for freedom was a long term and ongoing goal for which our individual contributions will be a small part of the eventual whole. We may now query our 20-year commitment in Afghanistan, but over time it will have served a purpose in helping to spread freedom throughout the world.

Reflecting on this experience as I drove back to Somerset, I was acutely aware that any contribution in fighting for our freedoms, however small or transitory, will always be worth it for the longer term good. My desire is to reform our governance in favour of returning the people’s inherent sovereignty. Our politicians would then become our servants and not our masters. It is for this reason I have continued to promote THA and its six demands for the last 10 years.

THA’s eventual success may well, at best, only begin during my life being completed in the years ahead. However, I’m convinced it will happen as I simply cannot see the people putting up with our current system of governance for ever. My role in the meantime is to keep THA’s pilot light burning.         


Tuesday 7 September 2021

The people's opinion really should count.

What do the people think about vaccination passports, Channel crossing economic immigrants, National Insurance increases to pay for social care, the potential costs of Net Zero, voter ID and so much more besides?

The answer is that nobody really knows and our governments and politicians really don't care because the last thing they want is to have the inconvenience  and hassle of having to carry out policies with which they basically disagree and would probably cause them grief from vocal minority groups.

If anyone needs reminding of the point I'm making you only have to reflect back to the whole Brexit saga that dragged on for years with a clear division between many politicians, the liberal elite and the majority in the country at large.

Our fourth demand, ‘The People's Consent', sets out three ways the people can let governments know their opinion through the holding of a referendum. The first requirement in all three cases is that enough people would need to sign a petition to initiate the referendum. Then the Electoral Commission would set a timetable and approve both campaign teams on either side of the debate. After the referendum the results would only be valid given a set turnout and a clear legitimate winner according to the rules agreed and set.

The first type of referendum can be initiated by the people on any issue and the results, if won, would only be advisory. 

The second would enable the people to try and stop any piece of government legislation going through parliament and if successful that particular bill would fail to become law.

The third type of referendum would allow the people to raise objections to certain types of decisions by governments or official bodies, like appointed officials including ministers and judges.

This demand would prevent any government, once elected, from ignoring the people.

The people's views and opinions do matter but there are inbuilt safeguards in that the first type is only advisory and for all three the benchmarks must be met  before a referendum is held and the results, to be recognised as a 'win', would have to have met certain criteria including turnout totals and winning margins.

A sovereign people have the right to be heard as well as actually stop government legislation.      

For referendum sceptics I would add that not every person or group who sets out to get a referendum held will necessarily succeed in reaching the support required for it to take place. However, for those that do that would rather prove the point that the people clearly do want to have their say on the issue at hand. That is how real democracy should work.

Finally no other group, seeking reforms to our governance, comes anywhere close to advocating the detail contained in our fourth demand ‘The People’s Consent’.

Real democracy requires that the people’s views to be heard and where applicable acted upon.