The religious analogy is too appropriate to resist. Jesus of Nazareth was wont to speak of False Prophets:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Dan has promoted himself along with Douglas Carswell as Libertarians inside the Conservative Party. They put out a book, The Plan, They appear to be at loggerheads with the party leadership, a thorn in Cameron’s side, but are they? Or are they working to the same plan as Cameron.
In a series of articles in the Telegraph this week, Hannan’s true colours are coming through, and the truth is that Hannan is as much a ‘progressive’ communitarian as Cameron.
The Committee of the Regions is made up of appointees, not necessarily anyone who holds an elected position. It is this EU Committee that will ultimately hold regional power, not National governments. When John Prescott first mooted the idea in the UK of Regional Assemblies, the public rejected it. That was the last time the public was asked to participate.
His then department, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) went into overdrive, and diverted billions of taxpayers money into setting up regional government by stealth, recruiting and training personnel to run it all in the background using the subversive and secretive training company Common Purpose, which operates on a Europe wide scale invoking the Chatham House rules to ensure secrecy.
The conjurer’s trick is that, in devolving power to regions or to local communities, people may feel that committees are an openly elective, democratic thing, that anyone can play. Yes, they can play but the decisions are guided bt a smaller number. The whole point of Common Purpose is that their people are already in place in local areas – “respected” community leaders etc., ready to “lead beyond authority”.
The alarm was raised, quite some time back, by James Barlow, Constituency Chairman for the Conservative Party in the three-way marginal Bristol-West seat who was writing about what would presumably be the ultra-boring subject of local recycling and landfill but it actually turned out to be anything but boring.
The moment he touched on Citizens Juries, danger signals abounded:
Now my party colleagues in the Conservative Group of the council have taken an active part in this process – John Goulandris as Chair of the OSM committee, and Richard Eddy as Chair of the Quality of Life Scrutiny committee.
But I’m concerned that the Jury process is misleading us all. I suspect that it removes the impetus for oversight of Council policy by the opposition party, and it creates an illusion of impartiality and “judicial” deliberation when it’s really just a rubber stamp on existing policy – i.e. it ain’t a Jury.
As another UK user of Citizens’ Juries comments on their website: “[It c]an be difficult to ‘reject’ the Jury’s recommendations.” In our city, a Citizens’ Jury is constructed as an off-shoot of the Citizens’ Panel (“Bristol’s Biggest Think Tank“) which consists of two thousand local residents, some randomly selected, some self-selected.
I further quote James here:
If you like, you can apply to join the Citizens’ Panel, for which you will be asked your ethnicity, sexual orientation and whether you consider yourself to be transgendered, but not whether you are a council tax payer in Bristol.
He goes on [on his site] to comment on its purpose in giving feedback, which it certainly does, but then:
I’m slightly more sceptical of some of the other aspirations for the Panel – “[to contribute] to democratic renewal and [to encourage] participation in democratic processes”
I thought that was achieved by voting, and doesn’t seem to be compatible with the stated utility of the panel “as a vehicle for developing public relations”. You can petition the electorate, or persuade the electorate. Doing both at exactly the same time seems a tricky proposition.
So, is this Citizens Jury a legitimate representative body?
The jurors are recruited to be a cross-section of the community: the Jury is said to ‘reflect’ the local population, rather than to ‘represent’ it.
In other words, recommending policy without being elected but with the virtual guarantee of recommendations being adopted – and leading this process are “facilitators”:
The role of the facilitators is to enable the jury to complete its task, not to lead the discussion in any particular direction.
Officially. But the facilitators are also charged with this task [taken from N10’s guidelines for the Nine Regional Focus Groups, i.e. the EU concept of regions]:
“Participants will be given facts and figures that are independently verified, they can look at real issues and solutions, just as a jury examines a case. And where these citizens juries are held the intention is to bring people together to explore where common ground exists.”
Independently verified by whom?
By “experts” approved by the ODPM, of course, from whence came Julia Middleton. Hang on a minute – why would a government need to spend “£45,000 to run the jury“, multiplied by however many Citizen Panels there are [by page 10 of Google, they’re still being listed]? Why the expense?
The illusion of legitimacy.
All this is old material from NuLab days and yet whatever the Citizens Juries are now called does not negate their original structure and their formation. Is it any better under the coalition?
Now look at the whole mechanism.
There is a group of approved citizens who, for a start, have been raised above the common throng to oversee local government policy, traditionally the preserve of councils. But councils are corrupt, incompetent, in thrall to paymasters and political parties, aren’t they?
So The Select Body of Citizens feels it’s doing important work and that government will listen to their recommendations. Hell, isn’t that what we’re all going on about – government listening? And they do listen – to the decision the facilitator is able to get out of the forum. [Remember Power 2010?]
No region and no part of any country are ever going to go anywhere until it manages to engage the talented.
The other day I was in a meeting in Belfast, I have no idea how I ended up in this meeting. It was a really wonderful meeting with about fifteen people there. When we were really getting going there was this little jerk in the corner, who kept piping out “What is your legitimacy?” and we all said “just shut up” and we kept on going.
Anyway, he went on and on about our legitimacy to such an extent that in the end I turned to him and said “Let me just be absolutely clear that at this meeting we are not trying to allocate any public funding, nor are we trying to make any public policy.
Actually in this meeting are the fifteen people that are the only people in Northern Ireland that have done anything for the homeless in Northern Ireland for the last 10 years. That is our legitimacy and it is a totally compelling and overwhelming legitimacy”.
… and then the anti-democratic agenda is further laid out:
I believe with a passion that there is a democratic space. There is an enormous space in it for politicians. They call the shots. They are accountable. That is right and proper. But there is another space for leaders of civil society.
They themselves seem quite proud of their ubiquity in the local communities [read the article]:
We run a Common Purpose programme in every major city and town in the UK and in an increasing number of European cities. 12,000 leaders from all sectors and backgrounds have become Common Purpose ‘graduates’.
Coming back to Dan and Doug – this is what their book signs us up for. However, more than a few are now not all that sure about these two and in fact, about any of Cameron’s “useful idiots“:
There seems to be no end in sight to politicians seeking to dismember grassroots campaigns while pledging to advance them in another guise. Closing down a grassroots campaign like Better Off Out so it can be replaced by a politicians’ ego club within the walls of the Palace of Westminster, which will wither and die, suffocated by the desire to attain consensus and horse trade over vested interests, is the worst thing that could happen. I can’t wait to hear what Simon Richards at The Freedom Association has to say about this.
Thankfully the author of the Critical Reaction piece has their wits about them, unlike Hannan and Carswell. As the editorial rights points out:
If Tory MPs are reluctant to join BOO because of the implications for their career prospects, any group which is established that doesn’t threaten their personal ambitions isn’t likely to be doing its job. David Cameron has been unambiguous on this point: he fully supports British membership of the EU. A group that he and the whips can tolerate ambitious Tory backbenchers belonging to is, almost by definition, a neutered body. With, in this instance, the proposed distinction of being one that intends to neuter itself.
Perhaps that is Hannan and Carswell’s intention? Cameron would be very grateful.
And of course, he has support:
A top US diplomat has urged the UK to rule out any possibility of the country ever quitting the EU.
The demand by Louis Susman, America’s ambassador to the UK, comes amid growing public scepticism about the EU and its institutions. Opinion polls regularly show that support for EU membership is among the lowest of any member state.
Witterings from Witney adds to this on the credentials of the supposed sceptics:
Third, it is also obvious that certain “Eurosceptic” Conservative MPs are anything but, seeming to be content with the present situation of “this far, but no further”. Even Bernard Jenkins declared himself an opponent of an in-out referendum! It would appear that those of us opposed to the EU most definitely need to reclassify the term “Eurosceptic” when applied to Conservative MPs.
Fifth, the non-appearance of certain MPs was puzzling in the extreme, the most notable absences being John Redwood and Douglas Carswell. In the case of the latter I copied this post into the comments section of his post on Lidington and asked for his response – which at the time of writing is still awaited.
Daniel Hannan, meanwhile, continues his Telegraph column, the voice of the Eurosceptic Right.