Harrogate Agenda takes another step forward

The Harrogate Agenda returned to its North Yorkshire spa town home today, to build upon the outputs from the last meeting in Leamington Spa.

As there were some new faces it was an ideal opportunity to explain what the Agenda is and what it is not.  With new readers to this blog all the time, this is an ideal opportunity to explain the same here:

  • It’s a movement, not a party
  • It seeks supporters, it is not a membership organisation
  • It is not issue based, save the implementation of truly democratic structures
  • It seeks to bring about change from outside the ‘system’, not get entangled within the system and its diversionary intrigues
  • It has revolutionary ambition, but in the classical sense of bringing about significant change from status quo
  • It is non-violent, its campaigning may necessitate civil disobedience at times but that’s all.
  • And finally it is uncompromising, it will hold true to the 6 Demands and not dilute them or be taken off at a tangent.

There we have it.  The Harrogate Agenda is not about remedying specific current issues, such as wind turbines, planning matters or taxation.  But what Agenda seeks to do is bring about structural change that empowers people, so issues such as those can be resolved or prevented from ever becoming an irritant in the first place.  The focus of the movement is empowerment, through a new and truly democratic framework, where nothing can come about or stand without the consent of the people.

As a concept it will be difficult for some people to come to terms with, as they are used to expressing their dissent through tightly targeted protest, which almost always burns out having failed to achieve its objectives after a comparatively few fleeting moments of media attention.

But experience shows that the ruling class, with its top-down approach to decision making and its laughably dictatorial system of ‘guided democracy’ can easily brush aside such complaint because the people don’t have structures that empower them and ensure bottom-up decision making.

It’s helpful to think, therefore, of the 6 Demands as ‘enablers’.  While some of the points may appear narrow in themselves because they do not tackle specific issues people rail against today, the scope of empowerment the demands would deliver would bring about the conditions that allow for wider and more complex issues to be tackled and overcome.  The people would decide how they wish to be governed and the executive would carry out instructions rather than give them.

Moving on, the attendees saw the premieres of two short films.  The first deals with the anti-democratic nature of governance in this country and underlines the need for the type of change The Harrogate Agenda is seeking, including the devolution of power to the local level.  The second examines how Norway thrives outside the European Union, underlining the global nature of rules and directives and demonstrating the UK’s membership of the EU, which while incompatible with the concept of democracy and civil empowerment in any case, prevents this country from being at the top table, wielding influence and formulating decisions.

Both films will soon be available to buy (to cover the costs of making them, which was significant), with trailers soon appearing on YouTube.

The next workshops will focus on each of the demands in more detail, helping supporters to understand the concepts and be able to articulate them to new people effectively, something that is essential if the movement is to grow and the message is to take hold.  This is a vital ‘level set’ to ensure supporters all have the same depth of knowledge and can engage with people in a confident manner.

The movements of the past that have been most effective in advancing their revolutionary thinking have all taken time to develop.  They have ensured they have an intellectual base and forms of revenue that fund further development and campaigning.  That is why the ‘placard protest’ model is unsuitable.  That is why Harrogate may seem to be taking time to make a difference.  But once the ducks are in a row and there is an informed and engaged supporter base carrying the message to more and more people, Harrogate will show itself to be a movement that has longevity and the capacity to drive a real transformation in the way the British people are governed, and most crucially, by whom.

7 Responses to “Harrogate Agenda takes another step forward”

  1. 1 Richard North 19/10/2013 at 10:43 pm

    Magic! An excellent summary

  2. 2 magwitch 20/10/2013 at 11:11 am

    A superb precis of the day AA.

    One of the biggest hurdles I think supporters of THA will have is articulating that the 6 demands are a generalisation, a framework if you like, for addressing the grievances that people have by providing them with true empowerment. In attempting to answer many of my own questions from yesterday I found myself being drawn back to Richard’s argument that these questions are, in fact, about details whereas THA is about providing ‘the means’ to address those details.

    That said, supports do not want to be found standing accused of ‘ignoring the implementation’. Perhaps the biggest problem will be found in the transition from the current structure of ‘top down’ to that of THA’s ‘bottom up’. I foresee circular arguments developing along the lines of “if parliament is to draw up a definitive codified constitution” (article 6) how do we select the PMs? If you answer that the people from the ‘entities’ that form the “foundation of our democracy” (article 2) will elect their representatives a response might well be “but how will we define such entities without it being codified?” Although article 2 addreses this as being “the counties (or other local units as may be defined)” one might reply with ‘but how small a group could form an entity? (I’m thinking here of absurd extremes such as those suggested by the 2 Ronnie’s sketch “Independence for Ruislip” or the film “Passport to Pimlico”) and how would entities with small populations get represented at the Parliamentary level? Presumably such matters ‘would be codified’ but then how do we select the PMs to draw up the constitution in the first place…. and round we go again. The answer always comes back to ‘these are details which can, and will, be addressed once the THA demands have been accepted’ but sceptics will need to be shown some possibilities of how these might occur in practice. Whilst supporters won’t want to get bogged down in “hows”, because that’s detail, we cannot just brush these enquiries aside with the generalisation that THA provides the framework and that true democracy will sort out the specifics, otherwise THA might come across as an intellectual exercise rather than a true force for change.

  3. 3 Derek Buxton 20/10/2013 at 11:22 am

    Thank you very much for that report, very interesting and thought provoking. I look forward to seeing the layout of arguments we can use to spread the message.

  4. 4 Richard North 20/10/2013 at 2:06 pm

    Magwitch – you are right to call into question the implementation, but it is probably not as difficult as you surmise. Given demand number 1 is satisfied, demand number 2 (real local democracy) is satisfied by a declaration – and then legislation – formally changing the status of existing local authorities. They become constitutional entities, and independent legislatures and re-enact all existing legislation applicable to local government.

    You then get a long transitional process, where the people in the existing entities re-align themselves into new, smaller entities.

    All this, of course, requires parliament and some careful working out – but is eminently possible – given the political will, forced by a successful campaign.

    The essence is that the end point is a practical proposition. The “hows” are not being ignored, but they are secondary to the “whether”, and must be addressed in sequence – that will take time and a great deal of debate. But no one is suggesting that we leave the “hows” until our demands are met. We have to address them, in time, when we are able.

    At the moment, though, THA is an emerging toddler. We have to walk before we can run. Once we can walk, we can then learn how to run. But if we decide not to walk because we cannot yet run, then that is a recipe for immobility.

  5. 5 Richard North 20/10/2013 at 2:20 pm

    Magwitch – further, it is no part of THA that parliament is to draw up a definitive codified constitution. Demand No 6 calls for parliament to host a convention, to go through the process of writing a constitution – which would then incorporate changes brought about by the other demands. There is no circularity. Accepting the demands changes the constitution. That changed constitution is then codified.

  6. 6 Jo 20/10/2013 at 7:47 pm

    I found the day extremely helpful. It tied up so many loose ends I hadn’t been able to get my head around. For example, how the hell I was going to disseminate the subtleties of all the demands to a wider public who (for the most part) haven’t a clue what ‘Separation of Powers’ means, and think I’m on about the Monarchy when I use the word ‘Sovereignty’!

    I’m still not wholly convinced that The Chartists played such a huge part in the eventual reforms which came about in the latter half of the 19th century, and so I’ll tend to avoid using them as the inspiration for THA I think.

    But apart from that, I’m now much clearer in my mind as to the aims and the direction of the Movement.

    Thanks to all those helped organise it. It was excellent.
    Many many thanks

  7. 7 Niall Warry 21/10/2013 at 10:08 pm

    You say that the next 4 to 5 workshops next year will focus on each demand which is not correct as I understand it as that will come later. Next year’s workshops will be based on the content of the workshop we just attended. In other words next year is about spreading the general principles of our HA.

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