Friday, 6 January 2012

Once debate is allowed, 'consensus' opinion gets blown out of the water

Courtesy of Edward Spalton my attention is drawn to this post from The Freedom Association, one which reports on a debate at the Oxford Union.
"Last night (4th January) the East of England UKIP MEP and farmer, Stuart Agnew won a surprise victory in the Oxford Union Conference debate on the motion: “This House believes that British Agriculture could thrive outside of the European Union.” He debated against Liberal Democrat MP, Andrew George and Young Farmers Club Agriculture Committee Member, Mark Houlton.......
......In a straw poll taken before the debate, 80% of the delegates voted against the motion. By the end of the evening Mr Agnew and his seconder, Ms Milly Wastie, East Midlands Regional Officer of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, had turned the audience around and achieved a shock victory by 195 votes to 186."
Which just goes to prove that once debate is allowed and people are able to voice an opinion, political spin and misinformation counts for nowt!

Just saying........... 


Edward Spalton said...

The Oxford Farming Conference is probably the most influential of the agricultural year. For decades its agenda was under the evil influence of Henry Plumb and successors who made the National Farmers' Union probably the most Vichyite trade association in the country.

The original 80% vote in favour of the EU's CAP is what I would have expected.

To have achieved this result is remarkable and shows a real turn in the tide of opinion. Mr Agnew is greatly to be congratulated in demolishing that consensus which was so habitual as to be taken for granted.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

ES: Agreed and thanks for your comment.

PeterCharles said...

Well, yes, informed debate can often overturn preconceptions based on a biased media and government. However there are too few forums with too few attendants to change public conceptions and even fewer to change government conceptions/desire in far too many areas; the EU, climate change, the system of governance and so on.

Only when a loud media voice gets behind such informed debate, or some highly influential group like the financial lobby can buy enough political influence, will the situation change. Like it or not, for government public opinion is what the media says it is, subject to the government's fall back veto 'in the public interest' or what its current crop of cronies of influence demand.

Making matters worse, much of what the media gets steamed about concerning matters of importance as opposed to celebrity cellulite is actually of little public interest or an outright falsification and I suspect this more than anything contributes to the lack of interest in politics and the dwindling of news media sales.

Edward Spalton said...


You are quite right about the need for media exposure. Apart from the Express and, of course, the Morning Star, ALL the national press is Europhile - just as it was in 1975. The Mail, the Telegraph and the Sun run "straight banana" stories about EU regulations but all are convinced that it is in Britain's interest to remain in the EU.

HOWEVER, there are groups which are far more crucial to influencing political and official opinion than the man in the street. The European Movement worked through such groups from the start and their success followed.

The sort of people who attend the Oxford Farming Conference come into this category. Their opinion will influence many more opinion formers . Mr Agnew's success will provoke a determined counter attack - you may be assured of that!

But the fact that he was invited to speak and the success he achieved are indicators that the tide of opinion is changing among people who matter - and in any country there are groups of powerful people who do matter more than others in making the political weather.

At one time in such circles, expressing robust pro-independence sentiments was regarded as something of a social solecism - not the done thing at all.

Now that is no longer the case and all
credit to Mr Agnew for speaking up so successfully.

PeterCharles said...

I accept your arguments, Edward, however, the groups you refer to as being crucial for the influence of political and official opinion are, for the most part, the 'cronies of influence' I spoke of and 90% of them are as committed to the EU as the BBC, Cameron and Clegg.

It is also highly commendable that Mr Agnew and his team could overturn a substantial misconception, but he was, as far as I know, not arguing that British farming would be better off outside of the EU, simply that leaving the EU would not necessarily prove a disaster. Most farmers that I know get a substantial part of their income from EU subsidies in one form of the other. I recall one a few years ago cackling over the fact he had for the last three years gained agreement for planting a substantial acreage of linseed on what was semi-marginal land that carried a hefty subsidy and then was paid another substantial subsidy to plough it back under instead of harvesting it. I am sure most farmers quite rightly from their point of view prefer the guarantee of subsidy to the uncertainty of 'normal' farming.

Unless the EU collapses or decides to do something so inimical to British interests it cannot be ignored the political class and their cronies of influence will not leave, only an informed, national debate over real issues conducted through the main stream media, or at least honestly reported by them, has any potential to sway government policy. With such a debate we could expect the election or even the near-election of a handful of UKIP MPs which would frighten the sh!t out of them enough to be rushing to hold a referendum, not that the outcome of that would be a foregone conclusion.

Edward Spalton said...


It is precisely because the European Movement took the trouble to woo the different groups of power and privilege that they were successful.

The CAP was highly lucrative in its early years, giving British farmers prices which were calculated to keep small French peasants happy. I was in the grain trade and animal feed business all my working life. I can bore for England on the subject!

Now that the whole EU project is coming apart at the seams, thoughtful men in positions of power in all sorts of industries are beginning to realise that it probably will not last forever and will be looking, quite understandably, to protect their interests - as everybody tries to do.

It is up to our side to take the argument to them BY GIVING CREDIBLE, WORKABLE ALTERNATIVES , as Mr. Agnew has done, as well carrying on with wider agitation. Heaping abuse on them will not change any minds and may rather stiffen resolve against us.

Whether they like it or not, farmers have to work within the system as it exists. In the early days, my own firm was drawing many thousands a month in "denaturing" subsidy on wheat and milk powder. It was part of the perverted price structure and we could not have remained competitive and in business without it.

I run a correspondence campaign for CIB and sometimes have to remind our valiant letter writers (to the press and to their MPs) that the aim is to persuade people - not to make the writer feel better by getting his understandable anger and frustration off his chest.

We can learn from how the European Movement won and kept on winning - or we can ignore it and go on losing.

Events are beginning to work in our direction and those with large interests, who often lead opinion, know it.

PeterCharles said...

I disagree Edward. As I see it the EU has the same fundamental advantage climate change for example has; it offers substantial advantages or profits to a huge proportion of those with the greatest power or political influence.

Things are bleak for the 'project' now and it may well be that a substantial number of those with power or influence may well move from support to advocating withdrawal and if sufficient number do so government policy will change. If sufficient public opposition can be generated and expressed in such a way that it would seriously erode party political support at a General Election government policy would change. It is only the second of these that debate and rational argument can affect, and that can only really be done with leading MSM support.

I suppose it would be possible to organise a kind of grass roots opposition in some organisations that are EU supporters to possibly engineer a different stance, this is what Mr Agnew may have done in a small way, but for the great majority of persons and organisations of power or influence that encompass EU supporters (or climate change supporters) there is little to no chance of any debate or argument changing their view, only their own perceived best interest or what best supports their prejudice will do that. These are not foolish or ignorant people in the main, excluding the political class, of course, nor do they even really care about the EU, you and me or even the country as a whole particularly. Their views are generally pragmatically based on what they see as providing the most advantage or profit to themselves or their organisations. Only events and circumstances will ever change that.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

ES & PC: Understand and can appreciate what you both say, however the public's lack of understanding on a number of matters is not their fault - they have never been 'educated', have they?

What you both are discussing is a very complex subject and is wrapped up in other questions such as EU membership and the stare of our democracy.

As a result have either of you joined, because it is thre that all you discuss can be decided........