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The Harrogate Agenda the meeting

2012-07-15 16:19:44

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People travelled from all over England, from Dorset and Somerset to Carlisle and beyond, to a sunny day in Harrogate, where we decided to make our own history instead of letting others do it for us. The event was masterminded by Niall Warry, who kept the whole event running like clockwork.

The task was ambitious, to frame those six demands in the manner of the Chartists, and we set to it with a will seated around a table boardroom-style. There was no top table, no "us and them", just we, the people.

Our style of working was then to split into syndicates, each of which elected their own chair and then worked to decide their own lists. Through the morning and a buffet lunch, the groups travailed, pausing only for the "family photograph" in the manner of the European Council.

By then, we were getting a feel of how hard this was gong to be. Democracy in practice required that everybody had their say, everybody could bring their own idea to the table, and everyone was allowed to argue their corner.

Then it came the time for the group chairmen (none of our women volunteered for the task). Five men stepped up to the board, not always easy for people who are not practiced in public speaking, and we got five lucid presentations.

Such was the intensity and determination of the groups, who had kept at it continuously from the start, that we ended with over thirty points. There were some duplicates but not as many as we thought there might me. And it was clear that there had been issues raised that needed a great deal of work and consideration.

It had then been my intention to refine the offerings and, from the synthesis, emerge with our list. But it was too much. The were too many points to discuss, too many issues raised and, we felt, more focus was needed on some of them.

Furthermore, although some great points were raised, not all got to the heart of the issue. Not all precisely fingered the areas where transfer of powers, the restructuring, and improvement might have best effect.

So began the great labour of hammering out what, we later agreed, would be called provisionally the Harrogate Agenda. I think it would be fair to say that we had a spirited discussion, and ended up with seven broad "heads". There was also a general agreement that these were a good working start.

By then the clock was against us, and there were several important points raised which had not been discussed, properly if at all. Thus, to railroad a declaration through we felt would be unfair and premature.

What I thus suggested was that we use the power of the electronic media an a force multiplier. I undertook to put up one on the points raised, with a discussion around it, for each of the days next week or however long it takes.

Each would then be discussed and hammered out on the forum, and more or less finalised over the coming weeks, and then circulated as provisional list a putative "Harrogate declaration", or with another title if that was the general agreement.

To aid in the discussion we also have Witterings from Witney and The Boiling Frog, both of whom took a pivotal part in the proceedings.  Other blogs are more then welcome and we will highlight discussions there. 

For the next step, what we then all agreed was that we would convene another meeting, perhaps further south, and certainly by September. Then, we would formally agree the declaration and decide on the next moves.

Thus, although we did not achieve what we set out to do, I thought the groups excelled themselves. There emerged a rough synthesis which was more and better than any of us could have produced individually.

What was striking about the members, though apart from their dedication and the sheer intensity of the work was the number of ex-UKIP members, many of whom had been former activists.

No one could say, though, that there was not a buzz to the proceedings. Time flew and, as far as I could judge, everyone enjoyed themselves. And I certainly don't see why changing the world should not be fun.

What we saw then was a wonderful start thirty plus people, brimming with ideas, determined to make a difference. With that faith, we can move mountains and probably will.