Document:The Harrogate Agenda
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The Harrogate Agenda
Our Six Demands
When the State calls for defenders, when it calls for money, no consideration of poverty or ignorance can be pleaded, in refusal or delay of the call. Required, as we are universally, to support and obey the laws, nature and reason entitle us to demand that in the making of the laws, the universal voice shall be implicitly listened to. We perform the duties of freemen; we must have the privileges of freemen ...
Extract from the original Chartist petition, 1836
The premise on which our movement is based is that democracy means "people power". The word democracy stems from the Greek word, dēmokratía, comprising two parts: dêmos "people" and kratos "power". Without a demos, there is no democracy. But people without power is not democracy either.
Our current system of government includes the vestiges of what is known as "representative democracy". That phrase embodies a misuse of the word democracy. People do not hold power: that system cannot – by our definition – be a democracy. We seek to return power to the people. We are concerned with power – who holds it and under what circumstances and controls, and how to get more of it. Above all else, we hold to the core principle that in a true democracy the people must hold the power.
For a long time, the association between power and democracy been blurred. When we see a real example of people exerting power, as in Switzerland where the outcomes of referendums are binding on governments, this is sometimes called "direct democracy". But there is only democracy – a system in which the people hold the ultimate power, and are able to exert it. It needs no qualification. Direct democracy is just democracy.
In our movement, there is no confusion about the relationship between power and democracy. Our objective is to recover power. Our focus is on the acquisition of power. And once we ourselves, the people, hold the power, we can then attend to the many problems and injustices that plague modern society. But without power, there is only protest – we achieve nothing of any lasting value.
To help us acquire power, we are adopting the original strategy of the Chartists. Like them, we felt it was vital to frame a very limited number of achievable demands – six in number. These are listed below.
- Recognition of our sovereignty: the peoples of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland comprise the ultimate authority of their nations and are the source of all political power. That fact shall be recognised by the Crown and the Governments of our nations, and our Parliaments and Assemblies;
- Real local democracy: the foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which shall become constitutional bodies exercising under the control of their peoples all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted by the people to the national government;
- Separation of powers: the executive shall be separated from the legislature. To that effect, prime ministers shall be elected by popular vote; they shall appoint their own ministers, with the approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of such powers as may be granted to them by the sovereign people of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; no prime ministers or their ministers shall be members of parliament or any legislative assembly;
- The people’s consent: no law, treaty or government decision shall take effect without the consent of the majority of the people, by positive vote if so demanded, and that none shall continue to have effect when that consent is withdrawn by the majority of the people;
- No taxation or spending without consent: no tax, charge or levy shall be imposed, nor any public spending authorised, nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government except with the express approval the majority of the people, renewed annually on presentation of a budget which shall first have been approved by their respective legislatures;
- A constitutional convention: Parliament, once members of the executive are excluded, must host a constitutional convention to draw up a definitive codified constitution for the peoples of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It shall recognise their sovereign status and their inherent, inalienable rights and which shall be subject to their approval.