Monday, 16 July 2012

Post Harrogate

Having attended the Harrogate meeting (now an agenda) I wish to articulate a few post meeting thoughts here. Firstly many thanks to the organiser Niall Warry who among other things ensured that the agenda was tightly kept to, meaning that it went without a hitch (or seemingly so) and also thanks to WfW for the lift. The meeting was great to have the opportunity to put faces to 'internet' names.

Like many others I'm a veteran of such things, yet rather than suffering an overdose of corporate flim flam where the only benefit is the free food, this meeting had a sense of purpose attended as it was by people with a deep passion to make our country better.

Given the tight timetable it was probably unrealistic to expect a declaration to be fully formed which could be signed by us all at the end, and so it proved. Many good points were raised and trying to whittle them down in to 6 concise 'demands' is not easy, although proposals such as separation of powers and a constitution had general agreement by virtue of being raised independently by several groups.

I did feel though at times, discussions got bogged down with too much detail. Our demands have to be simple and concise and if they're good sound proposals the detail will naturally follow. As an example of the problems detail causes, when I arrived back home yesterday, I was debriefed (or intensively 'grilled' depending on how you look at it) on my weekend by Mrs TBF. While she has an interest in politics or at least how it affects her directly the discussion of separation of powers (a very good proposal) veers off into political theory territory. Now she understood once I explained it, but that's the point - it took explanation. I feel therefore as a demand it could be phrased as 'a directly elected Prime Minister': simple concise and easily understood. And the outcome of which is precisely the same - separation of powers.

On another note, one subject I meant to raise, but unfortunately forgot was establishing a principle (not one of the demands) of methods. A invitable source of conflict is likely to emerge should the movement gain traction between peaceful or more belligerent methods. This is a conflict which blighted Chartism, Women's Suffrage and more notoriously Irish Republicanism. I feel it's important to try to negate this potential problem from the outset establishing a principle of peaceful methods within the current framework, as tempting as it is to want to line certain people up against a wall.

These are a couple of my immediate thoughts...more to follow.


  1. good points raised and good to meet you TBF

    I for one subscribe to the rule of law and would not wish to see violence as a means no matter how much fustration and anger I feel at times.

    if we advocate violence then we fail, TPTB will simply have the excuse they want to quash our movement.

  2. There's one which people could begin with straight away, mooted some time back - Say No to the Big 3 come election day.

  3. The desire for a separation of powers, I understand completely: it reduces the opportunity for abuse of power, reduces conflicts of interest, and fosters an adversarial form of government where the people are served by having an improved chance of bad decisions not being made and an improved chance of bad actions not being taken.

    The desire for a (written ?) constitution, I don’t understand much at all. Is it the thought that there should be a single document that captures the principles for government and the limits placed on government that have been developed over the centuries? Or is the thought that there should be a reboot and a novel instrument comprising a different set of principles and limits be adopted?

  4. anonymous

    go check out the Harrogate Agenda debate thread at

  5. I agree with the proposal for a directly elected Prime Minister. We can have no more Browns imposed on us by his Party, with no mandate, and no more stitch-ups like the present PM and his Deputy.

    If that means the PM is facing a Parliament which opposes much of his agenda, then he/she will just have to negotiate and build consensus like the American President.

    I also agree with James Higham. The first step is to withdraw your vote completely from LibLabCon. Vote UKIP (preferably, to destroy the Conservative Party); vote Independent - anything except LibLabCon.

  6. The arguments concerning separation of powers are so well rehearsed and blindingly obvious that this concept (and many other political theories being bandied about) should not really use up any of our grey matter in debate.

    The real point is how do you make it happen.

    Our 'rulers' control all but one of the levers of power. They are the ones who have created the current political system and they haven't done it in order to undermine their own interests. They like it just the way it is thank you very much.

    The only lever of power they are not in control of is a popular uprising.

    My daughter, who is off to UCL in September and therefore no dunderhead, asked how the weekend went and I started talking about separation of powers. She didn't know what it meant and her eyes quickly glazed over as I tried to explain the importance.

    Nothing in the future can be guaranteed but I really would like the opportunity to place a wager that we will not be able to mobilise ten million Britons to march behind the idea of separation of powers.

    There is doubtless a political/media bubble but there is a danger that another bubble is being created. It's one that we're starting to inhabit.

  7. And good to meet you too. Poll tax is a good example it was easy to condemn the riots by tptb but what really killed it off was mass peaceful disobedience in not paying it.

    @James Higham There is that option agreed, but I don't think the alternatives have any better proposals. The EU is a symptom not a cause of our problems UKIP for example has no plans to deal with the enemy within

    @Anon My thinking is that a codified constitution lays out what is already on the statute books in a concise way and is upheld by a court in order to prevent abuse of power in the future or giving power away to foreign unelected body.

  8. @DeeDee99 A directly elected PM passes, for me, the 'pub test' for reasons you outline. Brown did nothing wrong within the constitution but it left a very bitter taste.

    If you were to enter a pub and suggest a 'directly elected PM' you would elicit a far more positive response than start a discussion on separation of powers.

  9. A written constitution could be a top line vision that might just motivate our fellow inhabitants of this once great land and could be used to deliver many other changes and safeguards that have been mentioned already, such as: -

    . separation of powers
    . elected head of state
    . limited terms of office
    . direct democracy
    . referism
    . BoE independence
    . etc

    plus others that have not yet surfaced but are nevertheless worthy of consideration, such as: -

    . primaries
    . legal binding of manifestos
    . candidate pledges
    . Breakup of party system
    . End of whipping system
    . supremacy of parliament
    . repeal of certain Acts
    . Extension of open data
    . Sound money
    . return to the gold standard
    . CBA for all new bills
    . balanced budget
    . limits on secondary legislation
    . new bills drafted in good time
    . economic bill of rights
    . private sector practices
    . wider areas of governance
    . etc

    not to say I necessarily agree with these lists but most of them are worthy of thought and none of them will capture the public imagination

  10. . . . except maybe an elected head of state/PM :-)

  11. The Boiling Frog,

    Perhaps you will allow me to repost a bit of discussion I have tried to post at EUReferendum.

    A minor theme, almost as a counterpoint, has run through much recent forum discussion. It has usually been expressed as a desire for accountability, but it has also surfaced as a desire to be freed from government elitism and abuse. While a minor theme, I think it is a significant motivator behind the Harrogate Agenda.

    Elitism, abuse, and lack of accountability arise from the agents of a government benefiting unfairly at the expense of the governed from their powers and position.

    Most governments are flawed, but in the universe of all possible governments, some governments must be better than others. Does a written constitution, a separation of powers, a bicameral legislature or a system of elections ensure an acceptable government? I doubt it.

    A government is a complex system of relationships between sets of people. Though complex, the majority of those relationships could be classified as obligations; i.e., a relationship where a set of people, whether through compulsion or assent has an obligation to another set of people. This classification is broad and covers diverse relationships such as family and banking, but we could limit the discussion to where one set of people are agents of the government and the other are the governed: in some cases the obligated party would be the governed, in others the obligated party would be the agents of the government. For the sake of discussion, let’s say that a government comprises the set of all obligations between the agents of the government and the governed.

    A government could be more narrowly classified as a democratic government if all the obligations were ones of assent, balanced if the aggregate weight of obligations neither favors nor burdens any set of people, and checked if the net effect of obligations ensures that drifts from balance are reversed.

    The problem is that past and contemporary governments have comprised obligations that favor the agents of the government over the governed. Even where protections have been granted to the governed, more protections and privileges have been granted to the agents of the government. Worse yet, the drift of balance has strongly and perpetually been in the favor of the agents of the government. While these drifts have occasionally been reversed, they have generally been by sudden alterations imposed extra-governmentally.

    If desiring to improve an established government, perhaps an area of special attention should be to addressing the checks that reverse the drift from balance.