What might have been?

Back in 2012 an event took place that was, one could say, ground-breaking where the subject of democracy in this country is concerned and in which I was invoved in the initial stages; namely the formation of The Harrogate Agenda. It was due to my disagreement in respect of the direction it was being taken that prompted my subsequent resignation.

As readers may be aware The Harrogate Agenda is a means of returning power to the people instead of leaving it where it currently resides: with politicians. The reason for aiming to return power to the people is because ‘democracy’ derives from the Greek: ‘demos’ – people; ‘krartos’ – power; hence: people power.

Once again, as readers will be aware, I have not hesitated to mention The Harrogate Agenda when writing about democracy: the latest mention of which comes in this article, one which has prompted a few comments; notably from the Director of The Harrogate Agenda.

The original idea behind The Harrogate Agenda was that it should be a ‘people-led’ movement leading to a form of government similar to that which exists in Switzerland. For that to occur it had to be promulgated; and that it has not is the reason for the title of this article: ‘what might have been’. That a strategy was adopted of ‘workshops’ clearly did not work as those I attended comprised virtually the same attendees – numbering about 20/30. As a means of ‘spreadiing the word’ that strategy failed dismally.

It was never the intention of The Harrogate Agenda that it should become a political party; rather, by spreading the idea of direct democracy – which is the intention of The Harrogate Agenda – it would result in a demand by the people for direct democracy, a system which would result in giving them control of their nation and their lives. Thus from that idea would come candidates who would form a political party who would, in turn, campaign for direct democracy.

That the foregoing has not occurred can only be blamed on those who ‘took control‘ of what is supposed to be a ‘people-led’ movement – and who, with their formation of a limited company, are those ‘in charge’. So it is reasonble to ask, in the following four years since the inception of The Harrogate Agenda, just what have they been doing – to which, on the face of it, the answer would appear to be: zilch.

Oh, The Harrogate Agenda features in FlexCit (a document which has my wholehearted support – bar the order in which The Harrogate Agenda is mentioned: Stage Six), ie: tail-end charlie  – but, once again, one has to ask why such a fundamental and necessary change to our democracy is the last step in extracting this country from membership of a supranational organisation which is not itself ‘true democracy’.

In answer to a question from Douglas Carter – who enquired: Do you think the Harrogate Agenda will eventually necessitate a new political party for the purposes? the response that was forthcoming was: It’ll have to be adopted by the political parties. I think if we start a new political party, power rather than change becomes the aim … rather like Ukip. Forgive me,  but it was never an aim of The Harrogate Agenda to become a political party. The wording: by the political parties leads one to assume the response means one of the existing political parties, which is never, ever, going to happen – turkeys do not vote for Christmas. I have yet to hear the oft-quoted Owen Paterson ( who seems to believe in the principles of FlexCit) agree with the diminuation of his class.

Had The Harrogate Agenda been ‘promoted’ logic dicates it would surely have ‘caught on’ with the vast majority of the electorate, especially those who do not bother casting their vote because they feel if they do vote, nothing changes. From what would surely have been the ‘new majority’ would have come those willing to stand for election under a party banner, which for the sake of an example, would perhaps have been labelled the Direct Democracy Party.

We are told by the Director of The Harrogate Agenda, in the aforementioned link, that we should ‘learn from history’ and in stating such refers to the Chartists. He never fails to remind us that it took centuries for their wishes to come to fruition – but he himself fails to learn from history. Did the Chartists have access to an internet whereby communication was made virtually instant? Did not the aims of the Chartists get ‘taken over’ by the political elite, due to the fact that the Chrartists had no means of gaining support for their beliefs within a resonably short timeframe?

The Director of The Harrogate Agenda pleads that there was no money to publicise same, yet an appeal for funds was successfully made to garner support for The Leave Alliance – so why not for The Harrogate Agenda?

When I queried why The Harrogate Agenda was stage six of FlexCit, pointing out that surely prior to regaining this country’s sovereignty there existed a need to ensure that said sovereignty was not handed straight back to those who had ceded it, no defence of that policy has been forthcoming.

Again, regular readers will know that I have stated had The Harrogate Agenda been actively promoted the result of the forthcoming referendum would have been a ‘given’ for the leave side. The Director of The Harrogate Agenda, in the comments to my article linked to above, states: ….you honestly suggest that The Harrogate Agenda could in just four years, with no money, have become embedded in the publics mind to make the results of this referendum a ‘Brexit’ given. Yes I do and with, it is felt, some justification.

The Harrogate Agenda was formed into a limited company with just two directors (one of whom resigned just four months later) who, I then contend, ‘parked’ the issue due to one event: namely the outcome of the 2015 general election whose outcome they had not foreseen; consequently winning the resultant referendum took precedence. What was that about power, rather than change, becoming the aim? At this point one has to ask a basic question: having taken control and thus the direction of same, it becomes a tad ‘rich’ for those of us ‘underlings’ to be expected to do what is their job for them.

I must then turn to FlexCit – the basics of which I repeat I am fully behind – and the complaint that those in the ‘Westminster Bubble’ fail to acknowledge its existence. It is any wonder when one of its aims is to dispense with that which prevails at present; namely a democratised dictatorship –  a system wherein a minority have engineered control over the majority?

The Director of The Harrogate Agenda, in the comments of the above linked article, accuses me of being Ted Heath Mark II. Far from it because it is not ‘sulking’ to which I will plead guilty; that to which I will plead is frustration with the ignorance and misdirection of one who would have us believe he ‘directs’ a movement which should be changing the basis of democracy in our country – and for the better. That one such has to plead ignorance of 5* and AfD (see comments mentioned above) – and the accomplishments that each have achieved within a  relatively short political timeframe – can but beggar belief. If 5* Star and AfD can accomplish that much, why not The Harrogate Agenda?

In his latest comment on my linked article the Director of The Harrogate Agenda writes: First, given that I believe THA is a 25 year + project…….as the priority became the campaign to leave the EU without which constitutional reform will NEVER happen. Is it not logical to believe that constitutional change can happen prior to leaving the European Union and that achieving that cessation of this nation’s membership of that odious body would then be a given – and thus a requirement?

All I seem to hear is but excuses for ‘mismanagement’ of an idea that would solve the deficit in our democracy; that would have made the result of the forthcoming referendum a foregone conclusion; and which would have negated Cameron’s ‘Project Fear’; coupled with the fact it would have also negated all the verbal incompetence that we hear from the likes of Cummings, Johnson, Gove, Farage and Hoey.

The title of this article is derived from a comment on this blog – a new one to me – in which, in listing those blogs who are anti-EU, kindly includes mine with the comment: The pros and con of the Electoral Commission Lead designation process and what might have been.

What might have been indeed, had those commandeering an idea actually done something with it. It is no defense of the Director of The Harrogate Agenda berating those of us of who believe in the idea; they ‘highjacked’ what was to be a people’s movement and in so doing one can only assume that power, rather than change, became their aim.

Of course, expecting the Director of The Harrogate Agenda to accept any of the foregoing is akin to him agreeing heaven is similar to hell.

Just saying………………………..


37 thoughts on “What might have been?

    1. Certainly on this blog for sure where a select few grumble about how it might have been had they been in charge!

      1. I remember saying several years ago to you Niall, I’m not interested in being a leader. However, in the intervening years, since I attended the meeting in Harrogate, absolutely nothing has been done to promote the Harrogate Agenda. I thought that was you were in charge of. So I don’t think it’s grumbling, it’s stating the bleeding obvious.

        1. I will admit that the focus on the EU referendum issue stalled the plans to promote THA in its own right BUT, and it is a big but, the inclusion of THA in Flexcit will I believe prove to have made the last two years extremely beneficial to our cause.

          Watch this space!

    1. Yes it was well written as David’s work always is but it is only one point of view, shared of course by you.

      However in the wider world, outside this blog, where I talk with other THA supporters and interested individuals they share the understanding that there has never been a quick fix to revolutionary constitutional change.

      If however there is an alternative, to the very hard slog of building a people’s movement at grass route level, then all you need do is provide the facts figures and necessary evidence and be prepared to debate the same. Then if your views and ideas have merit I can guarantee you that I and others will sit up and take notice.

      Over to you always write.

      1. Engage brain Niall and then you won’t need us to do your job for you – you may even find you have an enthusiastic following.

        I would grant you that a quick fix to our problems with democracy has no quick fix, but for heavens sake, when was a concerted start made?

        1. That reply is a complete cop out and favoured by you over the years.

          Let’s see some hard evidence and debate the same otherwise you are just spouting platitudes.

      2. Go and see Grillo i am sure he could give you some directions in how to build a grass roots people’s movement, all you do is disparage the result. How he did it is the issue …all the political parties are against him, so is the Italian media, and yet he turned this massive disadvantage around,up to fifty thousand people,sometimes more attended his rallies…yes go and see Grillo i think he lives in Genova.

        1. Promotion of THA is a team event, you may well have chosen not to be in it, but nobody I talk with believes mimicking Grillo is the way to change our constitution. If you think it is and really do support our six demands then please go and see him yourself and report back and argue your case with a larger audience than David gets on here and try and win your over others to your point of view.

          1. NIall,

            I have to return to the point that you are the director of THA and suggest that if you had been aware of 5* then it would have been your job to ‘go and see him’ – not ours? That fact you had to ask me who 5* were says a lot!

            Disparaging remarks about the magnitude – or not – of my readership does your argument no good I woud suggest?

            Who said ‘mimicking Grillo’ was the way to change a consitution? Had you engaged brain it would have been obvious that was being suggested was learniing how to promulgate.publicise a movement?

            As a final thought, talking to those of like sycohantic mind is hardly likely to result in new thought, is it?

            Please now go to my response to your last comment……..

            1. My brain is fully engaged and reads and learns every day the trouble is the people of Italy compared to the people here are in a completely difference place and what Grillo has achieved, which is actually nothing yet of consequence, has little to no bearing on promoting the THA in the UK.

              1. …its always someone else’s fault isn’t it! THA has a short video on youtube it’s had just over 800 views i believe the said video was uploaded in Nov 2013! Thats not a very convincing use of the Internet is it? Now if we take a look at our home grown anti establishment comedian,Russell Brand, we find someone who absolutely knows how to use alternative media . His final episode of the trews was watched over 700,000 times! So you want some idea’s? if you cant learn anything from Grillo, why dont you ask Brand about how he created this very popular youtube channel?

              2. Niall the only people producing nothing of consequence is you! Referendum Party…no MPs ….UKIP….1…1 miserable Tory turn coat in over twenty years! Cinque Stelle over 160 elected to their parliament! oh and they achieved this within 5 YEARS! You you need to wake up Naill!

                1. ….its called politics…something you seem incapable of doing , at least successfully.

          2. ….so you won’t consider this an option?…. its called fact finding……incidentally Westminster MPs often go on fact finding missions… why can’t you? It’s not about mimicking Grillo it’s about how he overcame the establishment and how they tried to stop him,it’s about how he used the Internet, and social media, how did he do it? why was he so successful? how did he fund this grass roots movement? Fundamental questions i would have thought, obviously you know better.

            1. The one thing we are doing for TLA and to a less extent THA is use the internet with some success but if the people in the UK are not yet ready to get motivated then there is nothing left but to keep preparing our foundations. However after the 23rd of June we will move up a gear and as a team anyone in it is free to help out and not just expect me to be able to wave some magic wand.

                1. Yes and although I say so myself I have keep the show on the road virtually single handed.

              1. “However after the 23rd of June we will move up a gear….”

                After 23rd of June it will be a bit too late I’m thinking.

                To continue with your motoring metaphor I suggest you now drop two gears and floor the accelerator to get the vehicle moving more quickly.

                One of the gears to drop it seems to me is a prickly attitude to even the mildest criticism.

                1. THA is a long term project so the 23rd of June is neither here nor there.

                  As to the speed of the car it is entirely related and governed by the peoples desire to get on board and not by the speed the driver goes at!

                  As to criticism I welcome constructive criticism which contains constructive alternatives which the originator is prepared to debate and discuss. The trouble is I’m being described as having done ‘zilch’, which I reject, with no concrete alternatives being put forward.

  1. A well written, as always, and thoughtful post but saying nothing you have not already said before.

    Likewise in response I can only repeat what I have said before which is that the lessons of history are important to learn and while the use of the internet will hopefully speed things up it is completely unrealistic to believe that revolutionary constitutional change can or will happened in a few years. You believe 5* and AfD show us how it can be done but neither has achieved ANY constitutional change at all.

    Next there seems genuine confusion about what THA is or should be. I’m quite clear that it was NEVER intended to become a political party and would always remain a political movement. Whether a party grew up to support our demands is another matter but the initial concept was based on our demands becoming accepted and adopted by the people who would then pressurize their MP’s to accept them or not get elected. Yes turkeys don’t normally vote for Christmas but when the alternative is not to be a turkey then gradually some would be persuaded that voting for Christmas would be worth it. This analogy of course has its limits as in asking existing MPs to accept our six demands we are NOT asking them to be plucked, gutted, roasted and served on a plate.

    Then there this the issue of ‘THA’ versus ‘leaving the EU’ promotion and the considered option, of far more people than post on this blog, was that over the last couple of years, leading up to the 23rd June, the priority of effort should be directed to campaigning to leaving the EU. This concentration of effort on the EU brought about Flexcit of which, as you well know, THA is stage six but only by name as its promotion can and should be promote now.

    The only other point I will cover is that despite your repeated criticisms of the THA you have thus far completely failed to offer or practise any realistic alternative to what has been achieved thus far. Of course I would have hoped for greater recognition and acceptance of our demands but the evidence of trying to promote THA over the last four years is that apart from a few committed types, who are already interested in politics, the public at large are not yet that bothered. It is I would contend completely wishful thinking, with NO evidence whatsoever, to suggest that without literally Millions of pounds of funding we could have achieved much more. After four years a large part of our foundations have been built. Lastly on this point I find it simply beyond comprehension that you and your supporters on here adopt the attitude that because you disagree with the current direction of THA you are not prepared to share or practise your supposed alternatives.

    So finally I challenge you and your loyal followers to leave the comfort of this blog and enter the more robust world of EU Referendum (and whatever it may be renamed after 23rd June) and have your views challenged by a greater number of politically interested people.

    1. Niall,

      First, thank you for your kind views on the content of this article.

      You miss the point about 5* and AfD and that they have representation by winning seats – and THA?

      You would have hoped for greater recognition of THA? What have you done, besides those workshops which basically accomplished nowt. The THA website is dormant, the is no facility for comment, nor discussion. You are the, now sole. Director, so how about harnessing those of us who still believe in THA? How about asking us what we would be prepared to do? How about arranging for those of us who are proepared to stand up and talk doing that, where possible, at the same time, or within a day or two of each other?

      Tthink back to Harrogate and Leamington Spa and then consider those who were extremely enthusiastic (such as Andy Baxter, Robert Brook (both of whom wrote in-depth papers for THD) Drew Belobaba, Seve White, Gill Chant – to name but a few – why do you think they have ‘disappeared’?

      You accuse me of not doing anything – well probably like me they have lost heart and are a tad despondent.

      You are the Director, as I said – in which case Niall: direct. You cannot deny that the are a great number of people who will not vote (for reasons I have stated previously) and they just may have been energised by THA to vote to leave. It may have worked Niall and you cannot say it would not – it would have been worth the effort though.

      1. First let’s start with a fact and admission that in these first four years of THA’s existence ( the inaugural meeting was in July 2102) the last two years became diverted into the EU referendum issue which was agree by a majority of those present at the ‘Way ahead’ planning meeting held in Warwick on the 31st May 2014.

        Now let me reply to each of your paragraphs above.

        1. I have always acknowledged that you write well as you continue to do however I find your approach of chastising us lesser mortals, to think and engage brain, not the most helpful or team spirited of responses when I’ve asked a question!

        2. I think you totally overplay the significance of 5* and AfD who may well have a few MPs but they have in reality achieved nothing of consequence and will in due course wither on the vine as history proves.

        3 & 4. When I look back on my e-mail files on the progress of THA from the first meeting to today I think you conveniently overlook the enormous effort we all put in to get THA up and running and through its early teething problems which mostly involved those annoying things called ‘people’!
        That we exist at all is no mean achievement and I simply do not accept your continued stance that I’ve done zilch. If I’ve done zilch than my e-mail correspondence says very different. I’m not going to spell out again what I and others have achieved but it is considerable and our foundations are well and truly in place from whcih to advance.
        As to asking you and others to help, who had made it very clear you were unhappy with the agreed direction of travel, it was clearly for you to come back and offer to help rather than the other way around.

        5. As to you becoming despondent I have always tried to lead THA team to the best of my ability and my door has always been open to anyone to contact me should they wish to do so.

        6. As to directing that is exactly what I have been doing, based on majority support, and I thought that is precisely what you and others found difficult to accept? One of the things I’m prepared to blow my own trumpet over is that in my life, through the Regular & Territorial Army, business and politics, my management of people skills are quite good and I have used them to a great extent to keep THA show on the road. That you and others have found it difficult to accept the majority decisions on the direction of travel is fine but I don’t think then attempting to lay the blame at my door, for the lack of the THA’s advance, is entirely fair. Also be very clear those who have stuck with us accept our rate and pace of progress and understand that being part of Flexcit, achieved in the last two years, is no mean achievement and will become a major plus for THA.

        Looking to the future I hope things will now gather speed but I’m realistic enough to realise that there is a very hard slog ahead but clearly the more help coming from those who accept our demands and principles the better.

  2. The original comment in the linked article I made was really directed in a different consideration.

    I recall the inception of the Harrogate Agenda – sent £200 to fund refreshments at the first event at the pub – (Old Swan meeting?) and I’ve always been aware the idea wasn’t supposed to be held by a nascent political party.

    My illustration however was of where we actually are right now. To forget Team Cameron right now, we have a Parliamentary Conservative Party, around half of which is publically supporting a process which is both openly a lie and profoundly anti-democratic. Yet the other half daren’t point it out either. The wider national party is falling in behind that in their traditional role as gutless sheep. A party which permits itself and the electorate to be treated so is not one deserving of power. Presumably readers of this blog would be repelled by today’s Conservative Party, and by association, that of tomorrow?


    Logically, the Conservative Party should launch itself into Civil War on June 24 if there is a ‘remain’ vote. However, I’d predict a damp squeak. They have too much form – party unity and the allure of power has always trumped policy principle and electorate. Silence and unity in that party for the rest of this Parliament should prove their untrustworthiness.

    If you broadly support EU withdrawal and\or the Harrogate Agenda then you’ve no business voting LibDem nor Labour. The point I was really making was that 2020 may present a unique opportunity to take advantage of the lack of opportunity the electorate will have in that year. Because other than UKIP – currently a haphazard civil war machine – who would we vote for in that year?

    This time last year many of us were reading acrimonious insults over those who wouldn’t place a vote for Cameron ‘Because at least he’s promising a Referendum’. I didn’t vote Conservative last year for the specific reason I was 100% confident that Cameron would play exactly the tricks he has. So those who, last year, were insistent upon a continuity Conservative vote have some credibility issues. A week may well be a long time in politics but June 23 this year and election day in 2020 will come and go in the standard time frame. If we’re to look to the future, it’s difficult to see an acceptable one with the current Political landscape we have.

    The established parties are a busted flush – and naturally they wouldn’t accept the strictures of the HA in a billion years.

    Is it worth revising that initial principle – that the HA wasn’t to lead to a specific party? If the facts on the ground haven’t necessarily changed, they have certainly become more clear. To me, that clarity says we need that new party.

    1. In life it is important to keep an open mind on things but on my journey, over the last few years, I have studied and learnt that forming a new political party is very unlikely to be the answer as they have thus far proved to come and go with the wind.

      I suppose one should never say never but I still believe the most likely route, based on many historic precedents, is that when the THA catch on as a grass route movement, the existing lot of politicians will be forced to sit up and take notice.

      New parties have a history of factional infighting, splits and non achievement and our priority is to build a genuine grass route movement.

      However I believe THA was created ahead of its time and over the last four years, even considering the relatively limited promotion, the corresponding uptake has been disappointing apart from the committed few visionaries.

      That after the 23rd June this might change will be in no small part the results of THA’s inclusion in the Flexcit publication which is gaining traction by the day.

      I’m an optimist but importantly a realist and anyone who thinks that the revolutionary change prosed by THA will happen quickly is taking no account of history and YES history can and does teach us a great deal.

      1. New parties do rise and die – the SDP? Thus agreed.

        Should THA gain traction I guarantee the existing parties will fight it tooth and nail because it would mean their loss of power – oh, they’ll take notice alright!

        You say your priority is to build a genuine grass route movement – how?

        You state that new political parties have a history of infighting and factional disagreement – does not the Conservative Party, does not the Labour Party? Since when has either not suffered such – and still do? So your point is?

        THA’s inclusion in FlexCit has accomplished exactly what? FlexCit has been read by a miniscule of the electorate – which hardly promotes THA?

        You continually cite history, which is a negative argument – so how about making an effort to change history?

        Think on all the above, do – otherwise any conversation we have will be but wasted time.

        I, for one, am not interested in what you and a sycophantic coterie think – start thinking ‘outside the box’ – all of you? Is it just not possible that a successful promotion of THA would have effected the result of the forthcoming referendum, thus swaying the decision of the ‘don’t knows’? Of course, you all, who know everything based on history, will no doubt argue otherwise. I have no facts to support my idea – but then, do you/

        There is also the point that if THA is to be a ‘people’s movement’ then why the element of control which you and others appear to wish to impose? Or is it that the imposition of control gives power; and that is what you all crave?

        In conclusion I would suggest you ‘stay’ any further comment until we have had our talk; after which I will summarise, I hope fairly, said talks and you can then comment further, as at present we are ‘going round in circles’ where our discussion is concerned.

  3. And that party will not appear until THA – and the publicity of it – is totally overhauled and those who have taken control of it get their act together. From a successful strategy will come a groundswell of support for the idea of true self-government at both local and national levels; and from that groundswell will appear those who will stand on that ticket – as I stated in the article.

    I have made contact with the director of THA and he and I are to have a telephone conversation (or two) during the course of next week. I shall write further at that time.

  4. David good luck with Niall, I’ve tried my best to offer some simple and very basic advice…..although it doesn’t seem to be getting through!

  5. I can’t believe so much time and effort has gone into the above comments. We have a referendum to fight, not each other. Can’t this wait until 24th.June.
    As to the Harrogate Agenda, sometimes, as I found out with fish, your timing is wrong, but how this referendum is going, as is now coming out on fisheries, the Agenda is coming into play.

    1. I do not consider questioning and debating ‘fighting each other’. – neither it seems do others.

  6. Having read the blog and the comments one thing becomes clear to me what THA needs is a leader, an organiser and driver and dare I say it a politically astute manipulator of people and based upon the way that he comes across to me that isn’t with respect Niall.

    THA also needs an income stream to pay for slick video presentation and advertising initially this money will have to come from the grassroots “little people” like me and I won’t be putting my hand in my pocket unless the organisation has a credible “can do ” person driving it that I can have confidence in.

    It seems to me that the original meetings did produce a core of people enthusiastic enough to get involved to the extent of putting their hands in their pockets but their potential seems to have been thrown to the four winds through lack of management / leadership /direction.

    1. Tell me about it………

      I have been approached to become involved (once again) in THA and I shall be writing on this in the not too distant future……….

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