“When the history of Brexit comes to be told, it should include a strong comment on the failure of the media, from its own resources, to research, analyse and report on the predictable consequences of a no-deal Brexit.……” (Source).
It is with a heavy heart that I take issue with a follow blogger, one who I admire for his depth of knowledge on ‘matters EU’ and his ‘research ability’, both of which are second to none.
However, if a history of Brexit is to be written then it must include the subject of The Harrogate Agenda (THA) and since it’s conception, the subsequent failure to influence the outcome of Brexit.
The ‘catalyst‘ for The Harrogate Agenda was an article I wrote, when I blogged as Witterings From Witney, which subsequently caused a meeting to be held at The Swan Hotel in Harrogate. From said meeting evolved the formation of The Six Demands.
The Six Demands were incorporated into FlexCit (a paper which is now on ‘version 09 dated 17th May 2018) and are listed as Stage 6 of a plan setting out how the United Kingdom can leave the European Union. Page 364 of this latest version states:
The plan so far deals largely with external matters, but the fact of withdrawal
from the European Union also affords an opportunity to undertake a series of
domestic reforms. These form the sixth and final stage of this exit plan.
Specifically, this stage confronts the idea that there is little point in recovering
powers from the EU, only to hand them back to the same institutions that gave
them away in the first place.
Later, on page 365, is stated:
…while THA was not framed specifically with EU withdrawal in mind, it has
been used as the basis for the post-exit domestic reforms…,
Logic must therefore maintain that prior to recovering powers only to hand them back to the same institutions that gave them away in the first place, The Harrogate Agenda should have been at the forefront of any plan, or ‘run’ in conjunction with FlexCit – yet it was not.
In fact The Harrogate Agenda has been ‘sidelined’ in that no real attempt has been made to promote it; other than interminable meetings that became no more than ‘talking shops’ about what was needed to accomplish this.
The Harrogate Agenda has been ‘usurped’ by its author, ably assisted and abetted by the Director of The Harrogate Agenda – who it appears must have been ‘anointed’ as I do not recall any election held to appoint him to office – neither of whom appear willing to entertain any discussion of its aims or content; of which in respect of the latter, more later.
Initially The Harrogate Agenda was conceived as a ‘people’s’ or ‘grassroots’, movement; yet the usurpers of The Harrogate Agenda seem not to realize that a ‘grassroots’ movement is unlike anything else in the political world. By it’s very nature it is fiercely resistant to centralised control – yet it can be extremely loyal and self-sacrificing to achieve it’s aims ; which are simple and comprehensive – as is ‘Harrogate’..
Bearing in mind the content of the preceding paragraph it would appear that those who have ‘usurped’ The Harrogate Agenda have ignored/forgotten the basic concept of any ‘grassroots’ movement, which is this: ‘grassroots’ cannot be ‘managed’. They can be enlisted, you can motivate them, you can inspire them, you can ‘offer’ leadership and direction, but you cannot centrally contain, restrain or coerce them. Any attempt to ‘manage’, ‘manipulate’, ‘govern’, ‘direct’, ‘exploit’, or otherwise ‘use’ them from the top down will fail, because such ‘oversight’ is intrinsically antithetical and even offensive to ‘grassroots activism’. It should be remembered, but seems to have been forgotten/ignored, that ‘grassroots’ can be ‘led’ but they must never be made to feel ‘subservient’.
Let us consider what appears to be the current strategy of those who have usurped The Harrogate Agenda. Due to their leadership, it has led to a website which has hardly changed in the 7 years since it’s inception; coupled with the occasional tweet from the Director of The Harrogate Agenda (@NiallWarry) who, when countering a tweet from a politician/think tank etc, can only post a comment along the lines of: this is why we need the Harrogate Agenda; coupled with an occasional blogpost, one which I would suggest has a minimal readership – not that I have, before any such comment is levied.
No attempt has been made to ‘sell’ the idea of the Harrogate Agenda. This movement needs to be ‘sold; and, as any good salesperson will tell you, first it is essential to ‘create’ the ‘need’ in people, whether the subject in question is an idea or a product. For an idea, it is essential that people can understand and then be able to articulate a problem. Even if they can ‘feel’ there is a problem they do not necessarily identify with such; and unless they can identify with same and be able to articulate it within their own circle of friends, family acquaintances, it prevents them from moving forward to solve it.
When questioned by me about lack of progress the Director of THA informed me that a big problem was lack of funds. So why was no attempt made to ‘crowd source’ funds – something which to my knowledge was never attempted.
The Harrogate Agenda, whilst intellectually appealing to the educated – even with some explanation – needs to appeal to the less sophisticated who, perhaps, are not so articulate but nevertheless ‘feel’, as we all do, the sense of powerlessness coupled with the frustration that goes with this. Most people do feel powerless; they just don’t know how to articulate this beyond the usual mutterings of frustration; and are desperately seeking an alternative to the faux democracy under which we all currently live.
The lack of real democracy – or direct democracy – is a major source of all the problems in the United Kingdom today. The current system increasingly exemplifies that age-old idiom that: ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ (Lord Acton 1834-1902). When a society evolves, as it has in the United Kingdom, to provide functions and state mechanisms to support the self-serving interests of a privileged few, the inevitable consequence is a lack of concern towards those that politicians are elected to serve; contrary to that which the privileged few say they have. They have introduced economic and energy policies – windmills; vast military expenditures in life and materials – Iraq and Afghanistan; pointless and wasteful overseas aid that fund oppressive and corrupt regimes – India and Pakistan; excessive largesse and abuse of public funds – MP’s expenses; and global military intervention in Libya and Syria – all of which and over which we, the people, have had no voice.
Political power ultimately rests with the people – a principle asserted by the first Demand of The Harrogate Agenda. Those in power can only ‘rule’ as long as they have the consent of the people. Ultimately the people will give this consent only as long as those who govern uphold the public trust and the basic morals, values and interests of the nation they govern – that is of course assuming the people understand that for which they are voting. That is why all governments attempt to justify their power by spending vast amounts of public money enveloping such expenditure in terms of ‘accepted’ values and traditions; values and traditions that have been, over time, ‘imposed’ on the minds of the people of this nation.
There is much that is ‘wrong’ with the current Harrogate Agenda. One of the ‘ideas’ of the Director of said organisation was for ‘Advisory Panels’. On this point, some questions:
- Advisory to whom and for what purpose?
- Who are the decision makers of same, how are they selected, what are their terms of office?
- What are their terms of reference?
This compounds the idea of a ‘cabinet’ or a form of leadership, both of which are a ‘turn-off’ to ‘grassroots endeavours’
Another point of contention is the idea of advisory referendums whereby an advisory referendum can be held demanding a course of action, but one which the government can ignore if it so wishes. When this was queried with the Director of THA the response was that if the government ignored such a referendum, they (the government) could be kicked out come the next general election. What? This is no more than an attempt to introduce an element of representative democracy into direct democracy – and the two are as different as chalk from cheese. Not only that, but if the people are sovereign, under direct democracy, no government can ignore the wishes of the people.
I could continue on this theme………
On that last point, the author of THA is on record of stating that he quite likes representative democracy even if it has lost it’s way (source: para: 10). This begs the question of why, if one quite likes representative democracy, would one then ‘take over’ the idea for a system of direct democracy?
The progression of THA has been, to be quite blunt, pathetic, in that no discernable effort has been made so to do. Why have the ‘grassroots’ not been given ‘free reign’ to ask such questions as:
- How would you like something you have never had?
- We all believe we pay to much tax, so how much is enough? Perhaps that question should be: how much is too much?
- Do you not get angry when convicted criminals are let off with what appears to be ‘slapped wrists’ when pensioners are jailed for refusing to pay part or all of their council tax in protest of waste and inefficiency?
- do you not vote because you know your vote is meaningless and will not make the slightest difference?
- do you not shake your head in despair when you see the waste of money spent by both central government on foreign aid, wind farms and welfare?
- do you worry how you will meet the ever increasing heating (gas and electricity) bills forced on you by government subsidising renewable energy?
- do you ever feel angry at being unable to influence how your money (via taxation) is spent by national and local government?
- Consider government cannot give to anybody money that it has not first taken from you. There is no such thing as government money; it is your money.
- Ever wondered why there are so many ways to tax people and then thought who benefits from this?
- feel powerless to change how our nation is governed?
- frustrated because you know, under representative democracy there is nothing you ca do to change what happens to you and your life?
- ever wanted to feel and realize that it is time for a meaningful real and lasting change in this nation?
- wondered how you could change the status quo?
- wanted to feel and know how you could have a meaningful voice in how things are run nationally and locally?
- wanted to know feel and know that your vote could have a meaningful impact on what happens to you, your life and that of your loved ones?
- wanted to feel and know that if sufficient of us said ‘No’ then central and local government could not continue as they do , implementing policies, or laws, with which you did not agree?
- ever wanted to feel and know that it is time for a meaningful real and lasting change in British politics?
Questions such as the foregoing would, without doubt, have captured the attention of the electorate, rather than the benign blog posts which have appeared here. Had the above questions been posed, they could have been immediately followed up with: well, there is another way; a way to return power where it belongs which is with us the people. Go to: then quote the link to THA and a supporting blog.
On this subject of THA progression, any societal and political movement must resonate with the moral and ethical values of the people who will support same; and, importantly, be ‘grounded’ in the strongly felt and widely held cultural values, symbols, sensibilities of the general populace from which it seeks support, such as the personal freedom and liberty to lead one’s life as one chooses, social and public justice and the ethics and morals of the culture of which it is part.
None of the above has been attempted by the Director of THA, or it’s author; and one has to ask why. Admittedly the author of FlexCit has been concerned with the withdrawal of the United kingdom from the European Union – one can understand this. Unfortunately, if one is asked to ‘take care’ of THA, perhaps it helps if someone is chosen who appears not to have a brain cell of their own; other than one implanted/lent from another?
However, as stated previously, there is little sense in returning power of governance to those who ceded same in the first place. There is little sense in returning power to those who have no knowledge of ‘matters EU’; who have no knowledge of the derivation of the origin of EU law and the standards which govern the making of law; who have no knowledge of ‘trade per se’; who refuse to listen to anyone outside their coterie; and who are thus ‘brain-dead’.
Run concurrently with FlexCit, had a competent Director of THA been in place, THA should have been a vehicle to educate those who believed that Brexit meant a clean break with the European Union (ie, for example, no Common Market, no EEA, no freedom of movement) the error of their ways.
When we read: But that is not to say that the shambles of what is currently the House of Commons comes out any better. Stuffed with lightweights and political carpetbaggers, the MP collective is a disgrace to humanity, consistently missing the points and failing to get to grips with the technical issues. It is not only the prime minister in office who has suffered a fatal loss in reputation (source), one can only ask, hopefully for the last time and, plaintively: why was THA sidelined? Is there an agenda to which we, who believe in direct democracy, are not included?
Footnote 1: I am indebted, where some of the above content is concerned, to an acquaintance with whom I have unfortunately lost contact.
Footnote 2: I appreciate the forgoing will, no doubt, ‘ruffle a few feathers’; but in conversation with others the general consensus was that the foregoing needed to be said