Monthly Archives: February 2013

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

“Well before Rochdale, at the Co-operative Congress of 1832, the Owenite movement was struggling to resist Owen’s personal domination, and to distance itself from his controversial views. On the one hand, Owen was considered an atheist and a dangerous socialist by the Tories of his day, and this may have complicated the efforts of Owenites to undertake their plans. But also, Owen’s political views were in some respects not sufficiently progressive for his followers. For example, Owen proposed an “Address to the Governments of Europe and America,” calling on established regimes to undertake social reform. Delegates to the congress objected that there was no use appealing to governments; only the people themselves could make changes. Delegates also firmly believed in democracy and opposed Owen’s belief that one could appeal to any form of government no matter what its basis. Furthermore, the delegates objected to Owen’s tendency to take all power in the movement into his own hands. Under the circumstances, it seemed best to limit Owen’s influence and disassociate the movement somewhat from his person. Delegates voted in favour of internal democracy in co-operatives.” (Emphasis mine)

The Meaning of Rochdale: The Rochdale Pioneers and the Co-operative Principles – Brett Fairbairn (12th link down)

Several elements of the above sound vaguely familiar – for some reason, but then I tend to think Robert Owen wrote the “book of socialism” aka “The New Harmony Society”; hence the title of this post.

Food for thought, for my readers?

Carswell “rocks” – for a change!

Now and again – and, unfortunately, only now and again – Douglas Carswell puts “fingers to keyboard” and produces something that is worthy of repetition.

He has an article in the Speccie Coffee House making some points that I covered just 24 hours ago about the power of the internet and twitter where spreading a message is concerned – one could almost believe he “reads” WfW!

Consider, Carswell makes the same points as did I:

  • Politics in the West – especially the UK – can be ‘shaped by groups of like-minded people, mobilising online’;
  • The internet will allow new entrants to emerge rapidly and win a large share of the political market;
  • There has been a strong anti-politician sentiment in this country for years – it just needs mobilising;
  • The internet means that ordinary folk can do something – we don’t need someone “directing” us;
  • The internet means that opinion and votes can now be aggregated online;
  • The digital revolution means that ‘what politicians say will no longer be assessed through pundits … but gauged by the crowds online’.  Thanks to the internet, it is now possible to create a political brand, without massive amounts of money;

The Harrogate Agenda is not a political brand, neither is it a political party. It is an idea, a movement, with the sole aim of changing the way politics is done in our country while encapsulating a better, more acceptable, method of democracy – one which returns power to those to whom it belongs and from whom it has been usurped.

The idea on which The Harrogate Agenda is based does not require it to be “managed” or “directed” – as I have said on many, many occasions it will either be picked-up and gain traction with the public, as has been amply demonstrated by Grillo – or it will “die a death”. To those on twitter who believe in the idea/movement, at every opportunity; use the hashtag #harrogateagenda – lets spread the message! To those not on twitter – get on it; talk to your friends and family.

The foregoing may well result in my “ex-communication” from those behind the Harrogate Agenda – in which case, so be it. Suffice to say: already, those that believe a movement spreads on its own merits outnumber those who seem to believe it needs managing and/or directing.

Lets we – you and I – do this thing!

Afterthought: Carswell “rocks” – for a change – subtitled: A match to gunpowder?


Well, the “buttering up” soon turned to “threats”……

I debated whether to update my preceding post but decided that van Rompuy deserved one of his own. He too, I have subsequently discovered, has also been in London today and speaking at the same event as Ollie Rehn.

The Guardian has an article about van Rompuy’s speech, coupled with one that appears on yahoonews – and if you can bear it, you can view van Rompuy’s speech here. – although you will have to suffer about 3/4 minutes of The Foy Boy. While the entire speech is worth listening to, his remarks regarding the position of the UK vs the EU starts at about 14:00.

van Rompuy talks about having a compass and knowing the direction in which the European Union wishes to travel, while having a dig at those who say it is a train journey without a destination. The only problem is that we in Britain don’t particularly like the direction the compass is pointing – nor the stations through which we are passing.

By conceding, in his speech, that Cameron would be able to discuss the changes he was seeking at an EU summit, while appearing to rule out any fundamental revision of British membership terms, Van Rompuy has in effect told Cameron not to even bother going to Brussels to “renegotiate” – so shall we “cut out the middle man” and just get on with an in/out referendum?


The “buttering up” of the UK continues….

Unbeknown to most people, Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn, has been in London today giving a speech at a Policy Network conference. Speaking about deeper integration in the Eurozone, he also spoke about Britain’s place in Europe, or so the advance copy of his speech informs us.

I reproduce that section of his speech dealing with Britain’s place in Europe, one which repeats the “EU keeping the peace in Europe for the last 60 years” meme; coupled with the obligatory football analogy:

“And that brings me to the question of Britain in Europe. Because it is in everyone’s interests for Britain to be an active player here. This is a game in which, if I were a British citizen, I would want my country to be playing as a midfield playmaker rather than watching from the sidelines. No one ever scored goals sitting on the bench.

For forty years now, Britain has been stronger thanks to its membership of the European Union. More dynamic economically. More equitable socially. More influential in world affairs.

To illustrate Europe’s importance for Britain, I think Dr. Simon Sweeney, Lecturer in international political economy at the University of York, hit the nail on the head when he wrote as follows:

“What did the EEC/EU ever do for us? Not much, apart from: providing 57% of our trade; structural funding to areas hit by industrial decline; clean beaches and rivers; cleaner air; lead-free petrol; restrictions on landfill dumping; a recycling culture; cheaper mobile charges; cheaper air travel; single market competition bringing quality improvements and better industrial performance; break-up of monopolies; Europe-wide patent and copyright protection; no paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market; freedom to travel, live and work across Europe; funded opportunities for young people to undertake study or work placements abroad; labour protection and enhanced social welfare; smoke-free workplaces; EU-funded research and industrial collaboration; European arrest warrant…”.

I must stop here for the sake of time, as he listed dozens of other things that the EU has brought for Britain. But he coined it even better:

“All of this is nothing compared with its greatest achievements: the EU has for 60 years been the foundation of peace between European neighbours after centuries of bloodshed. It furthermore assisted the extraordinary political, social and economic transformation of 13 former dictatorships, now EU members, since 1980… We must play a full part in enabling the Union to be a force for good in a multipolar global future.”

That’s the point. And the European Union is stronger today because of Britain’s tremendous contribution to it. Our economy is more open and dynamic as a result of Britain’s liberal instincts, which are an important counterweight to the regulatory reflex which still sometimes surfaces.

The single market we have built up over the last two-and-a-half decades owes a lot to those liberal instincts. But let’s be clear about one thing. The single market needs rules, regulations and strong and effective institutions in order to function. Without those, there is no single market. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher understood this when she signed the Single European Act and had it ratified.

Whatever choices Britain ultimately makes about its future in Europe, I trust this great European country will support the rebuilding of our economic and monetary union, in line with Chancellor George Osborne’s political maxim that “the remorseless logic” of monetary union leads to greater economic union.”

Rehn ended with another “tug at our heartstrings”, thus:

“We have before us many more far-reaching choices, in the eurozone and in the wider European Union. In that context, I believe it is firmly in Britain’s interest to use its energy for reforming Europe rather than seeking to undo our Community, which would leave us all weaker.

In a nutshell, why not focus on reform rather than repatriation?

A former prime minister told the House of Commons in 1967 that British membership of the Community would be “healthier for Britain, advantageous for Europe and a gain for the whole world”.

He was right on every count, and I can only agree wholeheartedly with his next remark: “I do not know of many economic or political problems in the world which will be easier to solve if Britain is outside rather than inside the Community.”

So let’s move forward together.”

Well – and hopefully echoing the views of my readers – if Britain leaving the European Union undoes their community and weakens it; bring it on!

EU tells Germany: clean up or else

From we find that the EU Commission has been threatening Germany with fines if it does not cut the nitrogen oxide levels which were found to exceed legal limits in 33 of 57 German regions tested, including Berlin, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Hamburg.

The article reports that warnings, which were also issued for other European Union countries including Austria, the UK, France and Italy, must now be met with concrete plans to improve air quality and reduce pollution. If levels do not drop below acceptable limits, offenders could face legal action and possible fines from the European Court.

While on the subject of air pollution, the European Envirtonment Agency has today issued calls to reduce the €45 billion health cost of air pollution from lorries. It goes on to say that road charges for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs or lorries) should reflect the varied health effects of traffic pollution in different European countries, meaning charges should be much higher in some countries compared to others. It continues by claiming that overall, air pollution is estimated to cause 3 million sick days and 350 000 premature deaths in Europe.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, is quoted saying: “European economies rely on transporting goods long distances. But there is also a hidden cost, paid in years of reduced health and lost life. This cost is especially high for those living close to Europe’s major transport routes. By incorporating these costs into the price of goods, we can encourage healthier transport methods and cleaner technologies.”. This idea of incorporating the cost of air pollution is but an extension of the polluter pays/user pays principle, a now accepted practice that those who produce pollution should bear the cost.

From the EEA website we also learn that the EEA analysis attempts to capture the complexity of different geographical influences on air pollution across Europe. The report includes the average costs of pollution for 66 separate classes of vehicles, with the cost of each estimated on three different types of road (suburban, interurban and highways) in 30 countries and 108 cities. Estimates of cost per kilometre, depending on the vehicle and its surroundings, range from virtually nothing to over 30 eurocents per km for a non-Euroclass lorry more than 20 years old. European Union Member States must report to the Commission by October this year on how they will implement road charging, if at all. The detailed figures released by EEA are intended to help Member States decide on individual schemes. The high cost of air pollution is in line with a 2011 EEA analysis, which shows that air pollution from large industrial facilities cost Europe € 102 – 169 billion in 2009 in lost life, poor health, crop damage and other economic losses.

Not another EU vs Switzerland spat?

Having upset Switzerand by their earlier suggestion that Switzerland’s bi-lateral agreements with the EU had “reached their sell-by date”, it would appear that the EU have now put their “foot in it” by committing what could be termed a bureaucratic gaff, or even one of plane stupidity.

Aviation Week has an article which gives the details of this spat which relates to the EU including aircraft in their Emission Trading System (ETS) and the “stop the clock” proposal.

What with the bi-lateral problem and now the EU ETS, when one also takes into account the Swiss worries over the proposed EU/USA trade agreement, Switzerland must be feeling that it has been placed “on the rack”.


Public increasingly interested in affairs EU

So reports TheParliament website (the one with a ring of stars) stating that: “Europeans are increasingly interested in European affairs, and a majority want to be informed on what happens at EU level.” With the survey, conducted between 17 November and 2 December 2012, on 26,739 European citizens from the 27 member states out of a population of 500m, it can hardly be termed representative – but I digress.

 From what coverage of the Eastleigh by-election campaigns I have seen, it would appear that mention of matters EU did not feature that prominently, other than immigration, which is a tad surprising when considering how much the EU affects life and how we live it. Needless to say that may well change, come the 2015 general election, although it is a given that the three main parties will do their utmost to ensure discussion of matters EU is kept to a bare minimum, if that.

It is worth remembering that next year, 2014, William Hague’s promised audit of EU “influence”, in how we are governed, is due for publication. He would not be surprised to learn that with my, and that of the public, opinion of our political class at such a low state, any hope that this audit will be fair, reasoned and, more importantly, factually correct, is virtually non-existent. Yet no doubt the findings of this audit will be widely used in the 2015 general election and during the proposed referendum, if and when it is held.

The “pile of cards” being stacked against any wish of the people to cease this country’s membership of the EU grows higher with the passing of each day.


Free Speech

Philip Johnston, writing his usual “comment piece” in the Daily Telegraph, has an article about “free speech”. Commenting on the fact that gays are entitled to extol their own sexual identity, so people who take another view, on whatever grounds, should be allowed to say so, Johnston ends by “hitting the nail on the head” where his article is concerned:

“….the fact that some people may dislike or object to what others say should not be a matter for the law, or for official censorship.”

When talking about the suppression of free speech and the expression of opinion, there is a much deeper and, one might say, a more important point that can be made.

Does not our system of representative democracy limit our right to free speech, one which encapsulates the ability of the electorate to express their right to disagree with any government policy, for a period of 5 years? Does representative democracy give us any voice over the subject of how the money we provide should be spent – and on what it should be spent? Does representative democracy allow us to decide how we wish to lead our lives – and remember, those lives are ours, not those of the politicians.

The form of democracy under which we are forced to live is but a faux democracy, or as I prefer to term it: democratised dictatorship.

That change to our system of democracy is required – and required now – cannot be beyond doubt; and a suggestion as to how that might be achieved will be made known in the next few days.

Stay tuned – as they say……….




David's Musings



And so say all of us!


“Personally, I can’t stand those columns where it’s obvious the writer has taken dictation from one politician or another, getting “access” in return for taking “the line” they’re given.”



Votes at 16

I see that the House of Lords today debated the issue of lowering the voting age to 16. Lord Adonis has conveniently posted his speech, he being in favour of this proposal. (Note: at the time of writing Lords Hansard is not yet available)

Adonis is someone who believes we are ambivalent about educating teenagers in democracy and democratic duties; who believes democracy and civic responsibility need to be taught and learned in schools; and who believes that education and democracy need to go together, literally.

Bearing in mind that there is a general election due in 2015 and a possible referendum due in 2017; and having regard to this, might one suggest that the move to lower the voting age – as with the move to allow unlimited immigration – is but another ploy to garner electoral support and thus a classic example of social engineering? And let us not venture into the field of “vote tampering”.

So Adonis would like democracy taught in schools – especially one form of which allows someone to become a Government Minister without ever having been elected to Parliament.

And politics and democracy in this country are not both past their sell-by date?

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