An open letter to all Harrogate Agenda participants

I have noticed a couple of emails over the last few days pushing the ‘anti-EU’ meme. I wish to address this sentiment in this open letter to all attendees at the Old Swan.

One of the great strengths of the Harrogate Agenda, in my view, is that it is not explicitly anti-EU. Some of you may recall the words from my personal introduction that day (I am vain enough to hope that you will 😉 ) when I said [words to the effect] :

It is not enough for us to say what are against, we must say what we are for. If we fail to make it clear what we stand for then it will be all to easy for our critics to portray us in a negative light.

I stand by those words today. For me one of the most important actions that day was the removal of the ‘EUReferendum’ item from the agenda. We must all realise that if our message is overtly anti-EU then we are fighting the battle on our opponents terms. We will fight the political establishment, the media and the EU on grounds of their choosing.

We will lose.

While Richard may be ambivalent about the ‘limpiks’ I am not. As great art reveals essential truths about the human condition, great sporting events teach us important lessons about life. One of these is that a ‘plucky loser’ is still a loser. Do we want to be ‘plucky losers’ or winners? That is the simple decision. Nailing our colours to the  mast of the good ship ‘Sink the EU’,  will relegate us to the ranks of the ‘also rans’, those who proclaim ‘it is still a bronze’, the losers. We will find ourselves alongside UKIP and others who repeatedly adopt this losing strategy, deservedly so.

From what I have said above it should be clear that a strength of the Harrogate Agenda is that it seeks to define the battle on our terms. To be the leaders of the debate, not the opponents. To set the agenda, not react to it.

When, not if, we determine our six demands, I am confident that they will be of such strength and so undeniably true that our critics and opponents will have no ammunition. In the words of the American Declaration of Independance: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident…’. It may surprise some of you, but an explicit demand to withdraw from the EU, is for many people not ‘a self-evident’ truth. Now you may argue that this is thanks to 40 years of political and media brainwashing, but that is irrelevant. It is not an argument that can be won directly. If it could, why hasn’t it already?

I love history, and one of my inspirations is Wellington. He never lost a battle because he never fought unless it was on grounds of his choosing. In 3 years time we will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of his victory over a European tyrant, on a battlefield of his choosing just outside Brussels. Would it not be a delicious irony if we, metaphorically speaking, could do the same thing 200 years later? But we can only do that if we follow his example and choose to fight the battle on our terms, not our opponents.

The Harrogate Agenda is a Trojan Horse, but a rather curious, transparent one. It’s payload, hidden in plain view, is that acceptance of it’s demands automatically requires the dismantling of the EU in it’s current form. We can therefore expect intense opposition, as we can be sure that politicians, ours and those of the EU, and our EU masters will realise that. However if the people (demos) understand and agree with our demands then, as Richard is fond of reminding us, there are more of us than there are of them.

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14 Comments

August 5, 2012 · 2:29 pm

14 responses to “An open letter to all Harrogate Agenda participants

  1. Anoneumouse

    Agreed

  2. Letmethink

    Almost entirely agree (Napoleon being a tyrant, the main exception).

    However, I cannot emphasise strongly enough my view that the success or otherwise of the entire enterprise hinges on one small word in your final sentence – “if”.

    • rbrooke

      Interesting comment. I don’t post often but when I do I edit, edit and edit again, and yet that ‘if’ got through. Which must mean that I meant it. Of course if they do not understand, we have failed to communicate; and if they do not agree, then we have failed to persuade. Either way we will have lost a debate which is ours to win.

      • Letmethink

        Agreed but I have had quantum theory explained to me any number of times – on a one to one basis; television documentaries and books. I have a great interest in the subject and a very strong desire to understand it but I still can’t get to the bottom of how a particle can be in multiple places at the same time (for example).

        I realise that to all (of the probably twenty people) who are posting and commenting on the ‘Harrogate Agenda’, separation of powers is not quantum physics but this should not be confused with the critical mass of the wider audience whose lack of interest/understanding should not be underestimated.

  3. Stephen Jenner

    Many thanks for the blog, I don’t think it matters where you post, as long as it gets seen by the relevant people. I haven’t said much at all, as I wasn’t at Harrogate due to illness, but if I may leave a couple of comments on your post Robert?…

    I agree with your argument regarding the counter productive aspect of building a campaign on a negative, but it is also true that it is not for the members of the EU to comment on our status, I mean after all the trauma, I seem to remember that ornery Greek people still want the EU and still want the Euro, presumably they see their government as being the major problem, and really this is the same situation for “team UK” (ha ha).

    Anyway, what I would criticise is the idea that you think it is OK to refer to UKIP people as “losers”. I know that Richard and a number of the “Swanee’s”, hold this opinion of that organisation… I reckon that the membership (and some of us are members) and the leadership want the same thing as us. There is though, a problem with the concept of a political party, as you identified Robert, however, this does not make the supporters or personnel less convinced about the methods employed for getting what we want.

    Put it this way, there are millions of people that would like our government to govern, rather than being ruled from abroad, and they reckon that the truth is to be found within the pages of the Daily Mail, it’s not just UKIP people that are deluded or losers… We All Are.

    UKIP have identified that the way we are governed is the crucial problem… It was our government that went down on (bended knee to) General DeGaulle, not us, we never voted for Heath to commit treason, he just did it and then he got away with it. I am also willing to bet that the founders of UKIP (one of whom was Dr. Helen Zsamuely, one of Richard’s closest allies), didn’t set out to be “losers” either, and I really don’t think they are… It must be remembered that the enemy is particularly vicious and very strong, and it doesn’t take much of a combined effort to make an organisation look crass, especially when we are pioneers, up against the BBC, the printed media and so on.

    So, Harrogate is a different approach, and it is a brilliant concept… Personally I reckon that the tenets of “Referism”, plus the ability for a citizen to put in motion a petition which might eventually trigger a local referendum or a popular initiative vote, is probably all that is needed in order to control our government…for that is what we need to do… Our membership of the EU is OUR GOVERNMENT”S POLICY, and it is our government that needs to change. I say local, because I believe that all government should start in my breast, with my beating heart, and that I should only delegate what I cannot attend to myself.

    As far as our constitution is concerned, I do not think that there is much wrong with the treaties that already exist between the governed and the governors… The common law, the Magna Carta, the various declarations and affirmations of our inherent rights that have been established over the years are not diminished by parliament undermining it, although it may seem that way… These things are implicit in our history. The demands that emerge from Harrogate, would be a terrific complement to our constitution, the point of which is that it is dynamic.

    If the Harrogate message (list of demands) eventually emerges, and attracts attention, the kinds of people that it will appeal to are almost certainly going to be UKIPers, along with all of those others that currently wish to take a different approach… Campaign for an Independent Britain, Bruges Group and so on, there is a long list, all of which were somebody’s idea originally. These people are our potential supporters, and it is supporters that make a movement.

    • AKM

      “…I do not think that there is much wrong with the treaties that already exist between the governed and the governors… The common law, the Magna Carta, the various declarations and affirmations of our inherent rights that have been established over the years are not diminished by parliament undermining it, although it may seem that way… ”

      Surely the very fact that Parliament/government was able to over-ride our then existing constitution without any serious challenge demonstrates that it was flawed and when we are freed from the EU that we will need something better. After all it’s quite possible, maybe even quite likely, that when the existing EU collapses, the political class will try and resurrect it in a new form. Our constitution at that time will need to be strong enough to keep us out next time around (that said I doubt the continental political class will want us in next time!).

    • Vanessa

      I agree with you completely. Although UKIP may not be perfect at least those who support it are generally thinkers and/or rebels at heart and want a change. Also you are right that our old legislation of Common Law and Magna Carta etc. are still very much alive though ignored by government. We must resurrect them and put them at the forefront of what we, the people, want to happen.

      • rbrooke

        ….And yet as this post at WitteringsfromWitney appears to show, the situation regarding Magna Carta etc. is extremely unclear. http://witteringsfromwitney.com/this-renegotiation-thingy-2/
        It’s seems to be a sad fact (IMO) that our ancient rights have been consistently eroded. Many people see the American Constitution as an example of a strong constitution, yet that too is under relentless attack. If politicians are determined and devious enough (that phrase really does not require the ‘if’), it seems they will find a way around the most water tight constitution.

    • rbrooke

      Stephen, your thoughtful reply has made me think about my wording.

      “…what I would criticise is the idea that you think it is OK to refer to UKIP people as “losers”…

      Regarding the word “loser”, this is a word that, through recent popular usage, has unfortunately come be regarded as disparaging. For me this standard definition is how I use the word and intended it to be understood :
      “One that fails to win. One that fails consistently, especially a person with bad luck or poor skills”
      Regrettably this outrageous definition found on the ‘urbandictionary.com’ is what many think of today:
      “A dumb b**** who uses the wrong hand to make the “L” symbol on their forehead”

      On re-reading what I wrote I stand by the view that UKIP, by my preferred definition can be defined as ‘one that fails consistently’. I accept that that tag is unfairly applied at local and European level where they have enjoyed some success, but at Westminster level they have failed to make any inroads and they are still regarded by much of the electorate as a marginal party. After 19 years that cannot be called success. In addition they are clearly identified, policy wise with the Conservative right, and by association being Anti-EU is generally regarded as a ‘right wing’ issue. If we are to attract support across the political spectrum we can’t afford, rightly or wrongly, to be tainted by association with a particular political idealogy.

      Having said all that, I will drop the ‘loser’ tag in future. Despite what I said, on reflection I think the word carries unfortunate associations, in a similar way to the word ‘denier’ when applied to climate skeptics.

      There are many sincere and hard working members in UKIP, and for that matter in all political parties. But, as a generalisation, all parties and the nation as a whole are suffering from an appalling lack of leadership. If we can harness the grass-roots members across the parties, with a vision that all can agree on, then we will have a movement. It’s a big dream, but someone’s got to have it.

      “It must be remembered that the enemy is particularly vicious and very strong, and it doesn’t take much of a combined effort to make an organisation look crass, especially when we are pioneers, up against the BBC, the printed media and so on”
      I agree completely here. This is precisely why I made the plea not to fall into the trap of making negative demands, as you acknowledged earlier in your response. By keeping the movement small to start with we present a smaller target, with a focussed and hopefully unarguable set of demands.

      “I say local, because I believe that all government should start in my breast, with my beating heart, and that I should only delegate what I cannot attend to myself.” – I wish I had said that!! Very well put.

      “the kinds of people that it will appeal to are almost certainly going to be UKIPers, along with all of those others that currently wish to take a different approach… Campaign for an Independent Britain, Bruges Group and so on, there is a long list, all of which were somebody’s idea originally. These people are our potential supporters, and it is supporters that make a movement.”
      I agree that it should attract UKIPers and those of similar views. I hope, as I indicated earlier, that we can appeal to those of all political persuasions, otherwise this will become a political debate and instead of a debate about how we a governed. A good sign was that there were delegates at Harrogate who were of a ‘leftward’ persuasion, there were libertarians, former and present UKIP members, etc.. Whilst I may not agree with their political views, I regard their participation as vital for gaining support from across the political spectrum.

      Thanks for taking the time and trouble to reply to my post.

  4. Nibor

    More of us than them .
    To make it more of us than them we need to build bridges to those that feel affected and alliances with any wanting to go along our route .
    Which in turn brings many others into our fold .
    That means giving others a little more slack and no rancorous venom directed against anyone who reached the top of the mountain by another route .
    To continue the ( tired )analogies a little more ; if you found the answer to all problems was 12 , because you saw 6×2 , would you hate someone who thought the same because he saw 3×4 ?
    In other words lets stop pissing people off .

  5. I am replete

    I fear that if the issue of EU membership is not resolved in a satisfactory manner, it will matter not one jot what any British government does in response in response to the Six Demands. Even if the then Prime Minister agrees to all six demands, the real power will still rest in Brussels, which will just reject whatever has been agreed. The EU situation is crucial.

    As for the comparison with the Declaration of Independence, it is my understanding that at that time in the Americas, there was not a clear majority for the “self-evident truths”, self evident as they obviously are now to us. There appears to have been at that time three groups, the “rebels”, the “loyalists” and the “don’t knows”. Similar to today in Britain. Even so, a moments thought will make clear that the case for British Independence from Brussels today is far, far stronger than that of the American Settler’s case against Britain, for Britain inspired (by hundreds of years) the vast majority of those freedoms now held by our friends in Europe, as well as all of those held by our American friends, even unto the present day.

    As for Wellington, his preferred place of battle was Quatre Bras, but Napoleon got there first, immortally “humbugging” the Duke.
    As a result Wellington was forced to retreat on Mont-St-Jean, the famous crossroads South East of Waterloo, which then of course, became the site of the Battle.

    The point is, Waterloo, although being short-listed by the Duke as being a good position to hold, was not Wellington’s chosen place, at that time, for stopping Napoleon.

    However, without the delaying action at Quatre Bras, coupled with the drain on French resources by the battle of Ligny against Blucher, as well as the effects of the massive thunderstorm, it is conceivably possible that Napoleon might have attacked Wellington with more success.

    The morals are:-
    -By all means select a battlefield of choice, but also be prepared to fight elsewhere, be flexible.
    -If “humbugged” by the enemy, be prepared to admit so to your people with good grace, and take early action to rectify the situation, (be flexible).
    -Have good and reliable friends of the calibre of Blucher, (a Prussian, dare I say German) who may be able to inflict massive attrition on the enemy, and still remain standing, able and indeed willing, to assist.
    -Oh, and pray for rain!

    It worked 200 years ago and as you so aptly remark, it might do so again.

    • rbrooke

      Thank you for the ‘unabridged’ version of the background to Waterloo. I am afraid I did apply a little artistic licence to the full situation, for the purposes of brevity.
      However it is interesting how the more you look at the full circumstances, the more lessons you can draw, as you rightly point out.
      As a meteorologist by training, though sadly not practising, I find the fortuitous rainstorm the night before a particularly interesting feature. Yet another occasion when weather has played a pivotal role in major historical events. Thick fog played a major role in the defeat of the House of Lancaster at the Battle of Barnet. Mind you I’m not sure that we can rely on weather to help us defeat the EU 😉

      As for the EU rejecting our demands if they were to be met, I would anticipate that you are correct, however the situation would be a great deal messier. This is all a bit ‘pie in the sky’, but If the people of the country back the demands and an incumbent government enacts them, then the situation has changed entirely. Due to the nature of the demands, by definition the people will have rejected the construct of the EU, and it will be much easier to persuade them that the EU must be rejected in order for those demands to be fully enacted. If a government has enacted the demands, then it seems reasonable to assume that they would not be averse to a ‘proper’ referendum on continued EU membership. If our demands have been met, then it again must be assumed that this referendum would return a ‘NO’ to continued membership. At that point, an orderly withdrawal can be negotiated using the appropriate mean. (not a point for discussion here). In the time honoured words of comic adventures – “…and with one bound he was free…”
      Yes, I know that is hopelessly naive and unrealistic, but let’s be honest, nobody knows what will happen.

  6. thespecialone

    I appreciate that politicians at all levels have to be given these 6 demands, but what if many say ok then, we like them. You then have to persuade the populace. That could be a sticking point and would take years to change. Remember that we could talk all day knowing what is wrong. People can post for weeks on the Daily Mail website. But large swathes of the population would probably go “Uh?”, and then go back to watching some trash reality show or a soap opera. I know one. In fact I am married to her!! She just has no interest in politics whatsoever and it is people like my lovely wife who would need to be persuaded that what is being proposed is for their benefit. Look what is likely to happen in the next election. Labour back in government (I don’t want to say power because that belongs to the EU), because people have such short memories. Or another coalition of Lab/LD.

  7. As an American who sees the adoption of a constitutionally-limited direct democracy by the States as a moral imperative, I envy your political straits, ironically, with respect to the troubled EU. Much as the failures of the Articles of Confederation forced our hands into drafting a strong constitution, the fiscal crises overhanging Europe also afford you an opportunity to fundamentally redefine the contract between the governed and their government.

    I’d be pleased if you had the time to review the polity I designed to overcome the challenges of implementing a system of direct democracy, while including as much local autonomy as possible, in a nation as large as America.

    http://whatdirectdemocracymightbe.wordpress.com/51-2/

    And for debate:

    http://themoraloctagon.freeforums.net/index.cgi

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