Monday, 29 June 2020

Ideas from France

 A Citizen's Convention on Climate in France, which consisted of 150 randomly selected citizens, reported its final conclusions after nine months of deliberation. You can read the (English version) of their report here.

A Citizen's Convention to discuss an issue of great importance is an interesting idea - certainly not representative democracy as we knew it, but as we are seeing in many countries - and the UK and the US are worrying examples - democracy is being smothered to death, by interference in the democratic process - not just by hostile regimes, who have their own fears of democracy - but through the influence of massive amounts of money. We've seen both of those in the UK Brexit Referendum & 2019 General Election and US Politics. Is it perhaps time to build new structures to better represent the aspirations and wishes of ?

What do you think?

Then there are the proposals themselves - what do you think of them?

Both questions deserve to be discussed - and while I'd love to hear from you through - it's more important that you discuss with your friends, family, co-workers, and with and within political parties.

Could France have some ideas that could be used in the UK and USA? - both on procedure and policy?

Today, the Guardian reported -

"Emmanuel Macron has promised an extra €15bn (£13.7bn) for measures to combat the climate crisis over the next two years and a referendum on whether to introduce the crime of “ecocide” for harming the environment.
The measures were announced just hours after environmental candidates sparked a green wave across France with major gains in local elections in which the president’s governing party failed to make its mark.
At a meeting with members of the Citizens’ Commission for the Climate – a committee of 150 randomly chosen French people that reported back after a nine-month deliberation last week – Macron promised extra funding and strong measures.
He said he accepted all but three of the 149 recommendations put forward by the commission.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Wisdom from a Whip

I have a great deal of respect for Jim Clyburn - currently the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives. [I studied whips in both the British Parliament and US Congress for a long period of time]. He makes some very wise points in this article, first published in South Carolina's "The State", and send out by him as a press release. The principles apply to other countries too.


In my memoir “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black,” I share a philosophy I developed as a student protester on the campus of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg:
“We can be no more or no less than what our life experiences allow us to be.” 

I continue to hold to that notion.

As Americans, we must come to grips with the reality that the life experiences of blacks in this state and nation have been vastly different from those of whites. 
With few exceptions, whites came to America of their own free will, fleeing bondage and subservience in search of freedom and justice. To the contrary, with few exceptions, blacks came to America against their will, shackled in chains and enslaved. 

Our country’s economy and social order were built upon these two sets of divergent experiences — which were based upon race and color. The unrest we are witnessing across the nation and around the world are responses to the remnants of these experiences and the pain and suffering they visit upon their current victims.

Vicious and senseless killings like those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are not new stories. 

In South Carolina we remember Walter Scott, who was shot in the back and killed by a North Charleston police officer in April 2015. Then just two months later a white supremacist infiltrated a Bible study at historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and snuffed out the lives of nine black worshipers.

There were protests after both of these events, and I participated in some of them. Both North Charleston (led by a Republican mayor) and Charleston (led by a Democratic mayor) provided enlightened leadership; their constituents responded appropriately and justice was served with the convictions and significant sentencings of the perpetrators.

Not a single business was looted — and not a single building was burned.

Today’s protests are sustained and growing because of the larger inequities that have plagued our society since this nation’s founding. Our racial health disparities have been laid bare by COVID-19, and judicial discrepancies exposed in the deaths mentioned above have ripped open a scab that has been long festering.

Time to repair

In one of his iconic poems Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore and then run? ... Or does it explode?”

And in his great work “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville observed that America’s greatness “lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

We must repair the faults in our law enforcement practices that allow young black men and women to die at alarming rates at the hands of police officers. 

We must repair the faults in our health care system that have led to chronic inequities in health delivery and outcomes. 

We must repair the faults in our education system — exposed by this pandemic — that have caused children of color to fall further behind because they lack access to affordable high-speed internet in their homes. 

We must restructure our judicial system to outlaw primitive methods and provide police accountability and transparent oversight.

Stay vigilant 

I am often asked what advice I would give to this generation of protesters. As the son of a fundamentalist minister, I often reply by quoting Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

I have faith that we shall overcome but as the age-old adage tells us, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

Vigilance means organizing, not agonizing.

It means organizing peaceful protests, organizing legislative lobbying efforts and organizing to vote. 
As my fellow student protester and current congressional colleague John Lewis often says, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” 

The prize of “liberty and justice for all” remains a lofty pursuit, and its attainment requires our eternal vigilance. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Divisions in the House of Commons

If you click on the link below you'll be taken to a clip of the House of Commons whilst a division takes place. In the photographs which follow you have the notes I made from Erskine May which go in order through the elements in that division.                   [CLICK ON THESE TO EXPAND]  
                                                                                                                                  I hope it will give you a deeper understanding of the process.

Just a few words of explanation. The clip starts with the Minister (Nadine Dorries) responding to an Opposition Day debate on health inequalities. Then the Opposition Chief Whip moves closure (an issue I will deal with in a later post). The key words are "the question now be put". which is agreed to unopposed.

Then the Speaker puts the question "that the original words stand part of the question." - these original words were - 

"That this House notes the publication of Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On; is concerned by its findings that since 2010 improvements to life expectancy have stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and declined for the poorest women in society, that the health gap between wealthy and deprived areas has grown, and that the amount of time people spend in poor health has increased across England; agrees with the review that these avoidable health inequalities have been exacerbated by cuts to public spending and can be reduced with the right policies; and calls on the Government to end austerity, invest in public health, implement the recommendations of the review, publish public health allocations for this April as a matter of urgency, and bring forward a world-leading health inequalities strategy to take action on the social determinants of health."

As you'll see the government backing members don't want that wording - so there is a division on the question "that the original words stand part of the question." which they will oppose.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The Liaison Committee

Tomorrow (20th May) - there will be discussion and then a vote on a motion concerning the Chair of the Liaison Committee -

That -
(1) With effect for the current Parliament, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 121 (Nomination of select committees), the Members elected by the House or otherwise chosen to be chairs of each of the select committees listed in paragraph (2) shall be a member of the Liaison Committee;
(2) The committees to which paragraph (1) applies are: ......
(3) Sir Bernard Jenkin shall also be a member, and the chair, of the Liaison Committee.

Amendment (a) 
Ms Harriet Harman 
Yvette Cooper 
Hilary Benn
Meg Hillier
Ian Mearns
Sarah Champion (plus others)...

Line 43, leave out paragraph (3) and insert-

“(3) The chair of the Liaison Committee shall be a current chair of a Select Committee.“.

Amendment (b)
Mr Peter Bone
Nigel Mills

Line 43, leave out paragraph (3) and insert-

“(3) The chair of the Liaison Committee shall not be a current chair of a Select Committee, but a member from the governing party, elected under arrangements made by the Speaker as if Standing Order 122 B applied.”.

It might sound a bit parochial - but there are key issues at stake. I would encourage you to read the Report prepared by the Hansard Society. It is called

"Who chooses the scrutineer? Why MPs should resist the government's attempt to determine the Liaison Committee chair" - and is available via the link below


Monday, 20 April 2020

The National Constitution Center

A few years ago, whilst on a family holiday in Pennsylvania - we drove down to Philadelphia - and part of that visit involved a tour of the National Constitution Center. Well worth a visit - though as with many buildings at the moment - it is closed during the Coronavirus Crisis.

However the work of the Center continues. There are some excellent resources available online. I spent some time exploring what is currently available - and was excited at what was available. The website to go to is https://constitutioncenter.org

I was particularly impressed by the range of videos available - which you can access here.