Washminster

Washminster
Washminster

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Week Ahead (and beyond)

While Westminster is now in recess for the summer, Congress continues - at least for the next few days. The schedule for the House of Representatives can be found at http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/24WeeklyLeader07_28_08.pdf?CFID=7017212&CFTOKEN=43085550. A heavy load!
Details of Senate hearings can be found at http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/committees/b_three_sections_with_teasers/committee_hearings.htm

Over the summer holidays, Washminster will appear, though not on a regular daily basis. Do keep popping back!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Why I'm standing for the European Parliament

... actually there are a number of reasons, and I'd be happy to discuss them with you (my email is jdavidmorgan@excite.com). But one of the reasons is that I believe we need to replace roger Helmer as one of the East Midland MEPs. Mr Helmer revels in his outrageous views. He is a Europhobe and a climate change denier.

If we are tackle the threat of climate change international action is required. The European Union ia a major economic bloc - and has great influence with the rest of the world. The European Parliament is an important forum for pressing for action - and legislating!

Unfortunately the East Midlands is currently represented by a Tory MEP who denies that climate change is occuring. If he has his way then no action will be taken. (Bad news for parts of his constituency which are low lying and adjoin the North Sea - but actually VERY BAD NEWS for all of us!)

Listen to Mr Helmer in the European Parliament




Do get in touch if you'd like to help me remove this man from the European Parliament

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

US Elections 2008

Of course the media coverage worldwide concentrates upon the presidential campaign - which of course is the most exciting race for decades. However November 4th this year will also see key congressional elections (plus elections for Governors of some states and lots of other elected posts).

At the heart of the battles are -

For the Presidential Election - the states of Florida; Pennsylvania; Ohio; Michigan; Virginia; Missouri & Wisconsin.
For the Senate - the states of Alaska; Colorado; Maine; Minnesota; Mississippi; North Carolina; New Hampshire; New Mexico; Oregon & Virginia.
Key Districts which could be captured by the Democrats - Alaska at large; Alabama 02; Arizona 01; Colorado 04; Connecticut 04; Florida 08; 21; 24; Illinois 10 & 11; Louisiana 04; Michigan 07 & 09; Minnesota 03; Missouri 06; North Carolina 08; New Jersey 03 & 07; New Mexico 01 & 02; Nevada 03; New York 13; 25; 26 & 29; Ohio 01; 15; & 16; Pennsylvania 03; Virginia 02 & 11; Washington 08 and West Virginia 02.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Summer Opening of the Palace of Westminster

Parliament will rise sometime today for its summer recess. This is usually the time when restoration work is carried out - but for part of the recess the Palace is open to the public. If you haven't had a tour - it's well worth a visit. There is so much history in this place - which has served as a centre of government for a thousand years.

Summer Opening to the paying public runs from 28th July to 27th September 2008 (Monday–Saturday). Further details can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/about/visiting/summer_opening.cfm

Monday, 21 July 2008

Andrew Jackson's Cheese

At the heart of the West Wing episode "The Crackpots and these Women" is the story of Andrew Jackson's cheese. The story is told in John and Claire Whitcomb's (they are father and daughter) fascinating book "Real Life at the White House".

In 1835 the dairymen of Oswego County, New York presented President Jackson with a 1,400 pounds cheese - which was four feet in diameter and two feet thick. He allowed it to age for two years in the White House! Then, for his last big reception before leaving office, he held a cheese tasting - to which the public were invited.
The Whitcomb's describe the scene "Shops and offices closed early, and a throng descended on the White House. The marshal of the city and his deputies screened people at the front door, but what a contemporary called 'rag-a-muffins of the city' got into the gardens, climbed to the terrace, and entered through the East Room windows to mix with congressmen, officers in dress uniform, and elaborately arrayed diplomats. The rooms overflowed with people, until the hall, the doorway, every possible space, were filled...The cheese was demolished in two hours; the White House floors and carpets were likewise demolished, and the mansion reeked of cheddar for months"

Sunday, 20 July 2008

West Wing-athons

This post is being written as I indulge in the second day of a "West Wing-athon". Yesterday we watched the first five episodes of the first season of that remarkable series. Today we have just started on "The Crackpots and these women".

There are many wonderful lines - some superb humour - and a sensible discussion of key issues. How I miss it. But, having invested in the DVDs of each of the seven seasons, I can on showery (and sometimes horribly wet) days that are so frequent here in Rugby, indulge in Westwingathons.

There is an excelled wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_West_Wing_(TV_series) and NBC maintains the official website at http://www.nbc.com/The_West_Wing/

Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Week Ahead

Westminster rises for the summer recess on Tuesday. The House of Representatives has a pro forma session on Monday and then faces a busy week.

Business in The Four Houses:
House of Representatives: http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/23WeeklyLeader07_21_08.pdf?CFID=7017212&CFTOKEN=43085550
Senate: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/d_three_sections_with_teasers/calendars.htm
Westminster: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmwib/wb080719/19.07.2008.pdf[Commons p12: Lords p15]

Friday, 18 July 2008

Inside the Beltway

If you are up for an interesting and entertaining hour, you'll enjoy the webcast available on C-Span.

"The Beltway: Offbeat Stories" with John McCaslin. Mr McCaslin is a columnist who regularly writes a column "Inside the Beltway". A couple of years ago he wrote a book outlining some of the stories and facts which had featured in his column. He appeared on Book TV and talks about the book - and recounts some anecdotes.

http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/includes/templates/library/flash_popup.php?pID=181421-1&clipStart=&clipStop=

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Hull

I'm in Hull today, as a proud father attending his daughter's graduation. This afternoon she becomes a graduate of Hull University - where for the last three years she has studied philosophy alongside her main subject of Politics.

Hull University is a centre for political studies, particularly renowned for its work on legislatures. The Westminster Hull Internship Programme (WHIP) was one of the first and most extensive programmes allowing students of legislative studies to work in an MP (or Peers) office as a central part of their course. The Centre for Legislative Studies is based at the University. http://www.hull.ac.uk/cls/index.html. Professor the Lord Norton of Louth (Philip Norton) - described by the House Magazine as as ‘our greatest living expert on Parliament' has lectured at Hull since 1977 and is Professor of Government.
Further details about the Department of Politics can be found at http://www.hull.ac.uk/pas/


Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Late Night in the Lords

The House of Lords rose at 12.39am this morning - an unusually late sitting, after a very full day. The reason for the late finish was that much of the afternoon and early evening was taken up by the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill. Committee and all subsequent stages were taken between 3.09pm and 7.21pm on this emergency bill designed to remedy the problems caused by the House of Lords Judicial Committee (the highest court in England) in the R v Davis case where it considered the use of anonymous witness evidence at trials, which wass governed by the common law. The effect of the judgment was to restrict the courts' ability at common law to allow evidence to be given anonymously during criminal trials.

Only one amendment was made in the House of Lords, put forward by the Government. As a result the bill will be returned to the House of Commons, for their agreement to the amendment, and then the bill can go for Royal Assent.
The controversial Planning Bill then had its Second Reading in the Lords - hence the very late night!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Government's White Paper on reform of the House of Lords is available at

http://www.justice.gov.uk/docs/elected-second-chamber.pdf

The Executive Summary states -

In March 2007, there were free votes in both Houses of Parliament on House of Lords reform. The House of Lords voted for a wholly appointed House and the House of Commons for a wholly or mainly elected second chamber. This White Paper sets out what giving effect to the votes of the House of Commons, which is the primary chamber in the UK legislature, might mean in practice. The proposals, which are Government proposals, follow cross-party talks. The cross-party talks reached consensus on a number of issues. The detailed text of this White Paper indicates where other members of the Cross-Party Group on House of Lords reform dissented from the Government’s proposals.

There is already widespread consensus over the role of the second chamber and its relationship to the House of Commons. The primacy of the Commons and the right of the Government to get its business through Parliament is acknowledged as beyond debate. But the second chamber has a crucial role to play.

In its three main functions of scrutinising legislation, conducting investigations and holding Government to account, the second chamber should complement the work of the Commons. Irrespective of its membership, this should continue to be the case in a reformed second chamber.

There are four key principles underpinning the reform proposals to maintain the difference between the membership of each House after members are elected to the second chamber:

• members of the second chamber should be elected on a different representative basis from members of the House of Commons;
• members of the second chamber should be able to bring independence of judgement to their work;
• members should serve a long term of office; and
• the second chamber should take account of the prevailing political view amongst the electorate, but also provide opportunities for independent and minority views to be represented.

The Government welcomes a confident and assertive second chamber. It sees this as further enhancing our democracy and something that is entirely consistent with the primacy of the House of Commons. That primacy rests in the fact that the Government of the day is formed from the party or parties that can command a majority in the House of Commons. It also rests in the Parliament Acts and in the financial privilege of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister and most senior ministers are also drawn from the House of Commons. A more assertive second
chamber, operating within its current powers, would not threaten primacy.

One of the key reforms proposed in this White Paper is the introduction of elections to the second chamber. It was a recommendation of Lord Wakeham’s Commission and has since enjoyed widespread support, including within the Cross-Party Group, that elected members would normally serve a single, non-renewable term of 12-15 years. They would be elected directly in thirds and with each member serving three electoral cycles. Large constituencies, each returning more than one member over the three electoral cycles, would be used. The elections in thirds would take place at the same time as general elections for the House of Commons. To mitigate the risk of members serving very short terms, where a general election occurred less than three years after the previous one, it would not be accompanied by elections to the second chamber. The Government would welcome views on the appropriate size for a reformed second chamber.

Further consideration should be given to the options of using a First Past The Post, Alternative Vote, Single Transferable Vote or open- or semi-open list system. The Government would welcome views on the voting system to be used for electing members to a reformed second chamber.

The current powers of the House of Lords and the conventions that underpin them have worked well. The second chamber is likely to be more assertive, given its electoral mandate. The Government and members of the Cross-Party Group welcome this. Increased assertiveness is compatible with the continued primacy of the House of Commons, which does not rest solely or mainly in the fact that the House of Commons is an elected chamber whilst the House of Lords is not. Instead it rests in the mechanisms identified above. There is therefore no persuasive case for reducing the powers of the second chamber.

The key argument for any appointments to the second chamber is that it would preserve a significant Crossbench element. If there were an appointed element in a reformed second chamber, appointments would be made by an Appointments Commission, which would seek applications and nominations, against published criteria. Appointments would be made on merit, with the key focus being an individual’s ability, willingness and commitment to take part in the full work of the second chamber.

As with elected members, appointed members would serve for three electoral cycles without the possibility of re-appointment. One-third of appointed members would be replaced at each set of elections to the second chamber.

The Appointments Commission would operate on a statutory basis.Legislation would contain only broad parameters in relation to the role and operation of the Commission,to give it flexibility.The Commission would be accountable to the Prime Minister.

There would be no reserved seats for Church of England Bishops in a wholly elected second chamber. If there were an appointed element in the second chamber, there would be a proportionate number of seats reserved for Church of England Bishops. Retired Law Lords, or after 2009, Justices of the Supreme Court who were formerly Law Lords, would have the same status as other existing life Peers.

Membership of a reformed second chamber would no longer carry with it a peerage, nor would it be associated with the award of any other honour.

Eligibility requirements for membership of the reformed second chamber would be brought more into line with those for membership of the House of Commons. The minimum age for membership of the second chamber would be 18, and there would be no maximum limit. British, qualifying Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland citizens would be eligible for membership,as they are now.Those subject to a bankruptcy restriction order, those holding full-time judicial offices, those with certain criminal convictions, those detained for mental health reasons, those who had been convicted of electoral fraud and those who were not UK taxpayers would be ineligible. Those who had served as elected members would not be eligible to be appointed as members and vice versa.There would be provision for members to resign,but not to take leave of absence except if they had a major illness. Members would be allowed to vote in elections to both the House of Commons and the second chamber at all times.The Government would welcome views on whether there should be provision, similar to that which applies for the House of Commons, disqualifying those in certain public professions and offices, or who are members of certain public bodies, from membership of a reformed second chamber.

Further consideration would need to be given to the accountability arrangements for members of the reformed second chamber, particularly in light of proposals that they serve long,single terms.The Cross-Party Group discussed the possibility of introducing recall ballots,along the lines of those that exist in some states of the USA.The Government would welcome views on the proposals for such ballots set out in this White Paper.

Members of a reformed second chamber would receive taxable salaries.The Senior Salaries Review Body would advise on an appropriate level of salary and on the possibility and desirability of linking it to a member’s contribution to the work of the second chamber.

There would be a transitional phase of three electoral cycles during which the three tranches of new members took up their places.During this time,new practices both internally and in relations with the House of Commons would develop.Existing peers would have key roles in ensuring that the second chamber continued to work effectively with the House of Commons and in transmitting knowledge to new members.

The sitting and voting rights of the remaining hereditary Peers would be removed,but the timing of this is for further consideration.This is linked to the need for further discussion about how far the rights of life Peers to sit and vote should continue during the transition and about whether they should continue after that phase is complete.TheWhite Paper sets out three options, on which the Government would welcome views.

A common feature of almost all recent proposals is that the peerage itself, as an honour bestowed by the Crown, should be distinct from membership of a reformed second chamber.A peerage would therefore be neither a qualification nor a disqualification for membership.This would make it anomalous for the reformed chamber to be called the ‘House of Lords’, and a new name would be needed. Many, though by no means all, second chambers around the world are called ’Senates’, and the title is no guide to their powers and functions. Such suggestions have been made for the reformed second chamber here.There may be others.The Government is open-minded on this, though there was a strong consensus among members of the Cross-Party Group for the name ‘Senate’.To avoid a preoccupation with name over function and composition in the debates about the future,we use the neutral term "reformed second chamber" throughout this document.

Chatham House

This evening the Royal Institute of International Affairs holds its Annual General Meeting. This will be held at the House the RIIA is better known as "Chatham House". The RIIA was founded in 1920 and is based in St James Square. Chatham House itself was the home of William Pitt the Elder (later, the Earl of Chatham); and two other Prime Ministers - William Gladstone and the Earl of Derby.

Chatham House has its own website - http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/. It is also famous for the "Chatham house Rule" - which says "When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed".

Monday, 14 July 2008

Statement on Lords Reform

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on House of Lords reform on which I am today publishing a White Paper.

In my statement to the House on 19 July last year, I said that I would continue to lead cross-party talks on reform of the House of Lords. Those talks have included front-bench representatives of the main parties from both Houses, as well as of the Crossbench Peers and the Bishops. The talks have made good progress. I am most grateful to all those who have served on the group. I pay tribute for their constructive contributions and readiness to consider alternative proposals. Our discussions have been much informed by the work of others, including the Public Administration Select Committee, informal cross-party groups, the Cunningham report and above all the report of the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of the noble Lord Wakeham.

The basis for our talks was the outcome of the votes in the House of Commons in March 2007. This House voted then for a wholly elected, and for a mainly elected second chamber and rejected all other alternatives by a large margin. The Lords took a different view. It voted for a fully appointed second chamber. However, as I said in my statement on 19 July last year, reflecting the remarks of my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister on 3 July last, work taking forward House of Lords reform had to be based on the will of the House of Commons, which is the primary chamber in our legislature. The proposals we make today are consistent with the 2005 manifesto commitments of the three main parties.

The White Paper sets out how a wholly or mainly elected second chamber might be created, within a bicameral legislature in which the House of Commons retains primacy.

The White Paper reflects the considerable consensus reached in the cross-party talks. Inevitably, we did not reach agreement on all issues. In some instances, those taking part asked that the White Paper record their difference of view, which it does

As I indicated to the House in my statement on 19 July last, our intention is that the product of the cross-party talks would be the basis of “a package that we would put to the electorate as a manifesto commitment at the next general election and which hopefully the other main parties would include in their manifestos.[1]” It has never been the intention to legislate in this Parliament. The White Paper represents a significant step on the road to reform and is intended to generate further debate and consideration rather than being a final blueprint for reform.

The White Paper sets out how members could be elected to a reformed second chamber from the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. It was a key recommendation of Lord Wakeham’s Royal Commission, and has since enjoyed strong consensus including within the cross-party group, that members should serve a single, non-renewable term of three electoral cycles, that is, of 12-15 years. This reflects proposals in the February 2007 White Paper.

Elections would be held at the same time as those for members of this House, so as to minimise disruption to the business of Parliament.

The current House of Lords has over 700 members. The Government intends that the reformed second chamber should be significantly smaller, not more than 400-450 and maybe less, and that costs should be similar or reduced. We envisage all members of a reformed second chamber making a full contribution to its work and would welcome views on its size.

Single, non-renewable terms would help provide a membership for the second chamber which continued to be distinct from that of this House and hence which could bring an added dimension to the work of Parliament. It is proposed that this be reinforced by the use of large constituencies for elections to the second chamber.

I referred earlier to the primacy of this House. Analysis of other countries’ arrangements and our own history shows that primacy does not depend on the fact that this House is elected whilst the Lords is not. It is rooted in the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, and the conventions which govern relations between the two Houses. But, with the introduction of elected members into the second chamber, we have to ensure that the mandate of this House and the government it sustains continues to hold sway. The membership of a reformed second chamber should be such that it could not challenge that mandate. This is why we saw considerable merit in staggered elections to a reformed second chamber, with a third of members returned at each election. In this way, the electoral basis of the reformed second chamber could never, as a whole, be more recent than that of this House.

The cross-party group considered at some length possible voting systems. The White Paper presents detailed modelling on the possible effects of each of four electoral systems for elections to a second chamber. The systems are first-past-the-post; alternative vote; single transferable vote; and open or semi-open list systems. The Government would welcome views on the choice of system.

The cross-party group considered the powers of a reformed second chamber. We took the view that it would be wrong to pre-suppose conflict between this House and a reformed second chamber. The working relationship between the two Houses currently functions well, and we could see no reason why it should not continue to do so. Creative tension between the Houses can lead to better government, not an undermining of this House’s primacy. If conflict arose in future, it would, as now, be for both Houses to devise a way through that conflict. We identified no persuasive case for reducing, in advance of that, the powers of a wholly or mainly elected second chamber.

Given that the Commons voted last March for both, the White Paper does not take a view between the options of either a 100% or an 80% elected second chamber. But the White Paper does include detail on a possible 20% appointed element, should the latter option be chosen. There would be a statutory Appointments Commission and published criteria for appointments. Any appointed members would serve for three electoral cycles in the same way as elected members.

If the second chamber became fully elected, there could be no seats appointed or reserved, including for Church of England Bishops. But in recognition of the wide and important role played by the Lords Spiritual in the life of the nation and the special constitutional position of the Church, we propose that their representation should continue in a mainly elected House. In that instance, their numbers would not contribute to the 20% appointed element.

The White Paper includes proposals on eligibility, and on disqualification. Because of the long non-renewable terms for which they would serve we were attracted to the system discussed in the White Paper of recall ballots for elected members of the second chamber, with analogous arrangements for any appointed members. This would apply only after the first of three Parliamentary terms which members would serve. The Government would welcome views on this.

Members of a reformed second chamber should receive salaries, with the Senior Salaries Review Body asked to advise.

Mr Speaker, the transition to a reformed second chamber raises a number of important issues, not least about the future arrangements for existing members of the Lords. It is those members who, collectively, enable the chamber effectively to fulfil its key roles of scrutinising legislation, conducting investigations and holding the government to account. This Government and I know the whole House greatly values the work of the Lords and the contributions of individual members to it.

However, it was made clear in 1999 that the rights of hereditary peers to sit and vote would be removed as part of the next phase of Lords’ reform. The Government proposes that following legislation, and during the transition to a reformed second chamber, there should be no further by-elections to fill vacancies for hereditary peers.

The February 2007 White Paper included a proposal from me that a reformed House should be 50% elected and 50% appointed. One of the many merits I saw of that proposal was that it would have enabled existing life peers to remain for life, if they had wished to. But that 50/50 proposal was comprehensively rejected by both Houses. The votes in this House for a wholly or of 80% elected House mean that the context for the transition to a reformed second chamber has changed. There may not be an appointed element in a reformed second chamber. If there is, it may comprise 90 or fewer members. A discussion is therefore now required to determine how far the rights of life peers to sit and vote during any transition to a reformed second chamber should continue. The White Paper sets out three options for managing the transition to a second chamber – these are (i) for all existing life peers to leave in tranches allied to the three electoral cycles, (ii) for all to leave on the third cycle, and (iii) to remain as now for life. The Government would welcome views on these options.

Mr Speaker the cross-party group faithfully and assiduously followed the mandate set for it by the Commons last March. We are now keen for there to be a wide-ranging and thorough debate. But I think all members of the cross-party group share my view that to have got this far on such an important but highly complex issue is a considerable achievement.

As I said in my statement on 19 July last, our intention now is to continue developing consensus round a comprehensive package for reform of the House of Lords. Any final package would have to be put to the electorate as a manifesto commitment at the next general election. I hope that we will be able to build on the considerable consensus established already in the cross-party group, to the extent that other parties include similar commitments in their manifestos.

Mr Speaker, an effective second chamber plays an invaluable role in holding the government to account and in scrutinising legislation. Our belief is that the proposals in the White Paper, and of the group, will lead to a more legitimate and strengthened second chamber. I commend this statement and the White Paper to the House.
[1] House of Commons, 19 July 2007: Column 450

Le quatorze juillet

Today is Bastille Day in France. Washminster extends its greetings to all its French readers, and those who celebrate another key date in the battle for liberty. One man unites the histories of Britain, America and France - Tom Paine. In his introduction to the French edition of "The Rights of Man" Paine wrote -

"The cause of the French people is that of all Europe, or rather of the whole world; but the governments of all those countries are by no means favorable to it. It is important that we should never lose sight of this distinction. We must not confuse the peoples with their governments; especially not the English people with its government.

The government of England is no friend of the revolution of France. Of this we have sufficient proofs in the thanks given by that weak and witless person, the Elector of Hanover, sometimes called the King of England, to Mr. Burke for the insults heaped on it in his book, and in the malevolent comments of the English Minister, Pitt, in his speeches in Parliament.

In spite of the professions of sincerest friendship found in the official correspondence of the English government with that of France, its conduct gives the lie to all its declarations, and shows us clearly that it is not a court to be trusted, but an insane court, plunging in all the quarrels and intrigues of Europe, in quest of a war to satisfy its folly and countenance its extravagance.

The English nation, on the contrary, is very favorably disposed towards the French Revolution, and to the progress of liberty in the whole world; and this feeling will become more general in England as the intrigues and artifices of its government are better known, and the principles of the revolution better understood. The French should know that most English newspapers are directly in the pay of government, or, if indirectly connected with it, always under its orders; and that those papers constantly distort and attack the revolution in France in order to deceive the nation. But, as it is impossible long to prevent the prevalence of truth, the daily falsehoods of those papers no longer have the desired effect."

An untrustworthy British press - some things never change!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

An interesting week ahead in all Houses. Amongst the 34 bills due for consideration in the House of Representatives under the 'suspensions' procedure my personal favourite is
H.Res. 984 - Expressing support for the designation of July 26, 2008 as "National Day of the Cowboy".

Today a statement is due, which will be made first in the House of commons, and then repeated in the Lords about future reform of the House of Lords. On Wednesday there are two opposition debates in the Commons - one on Fuel Duty; and the second on Trade Unions and the Warwick Agreement.

Bothe the House of Representatives and the house of commons will be considereing intelligence matters this week.

Business in The Four Houses:House of Representatives: http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/22WeeklyLeader07_14_08.pdf?CFID=7017212&CFTOKEN=43085550
Senate: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/d_three_sections_with_teasers/calendars.htm
Westminster: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmwib/wb080712/12.07.2008.pdf[Commons p10-12: Lords p13-14]

Monday, 7 July 2008

Apologies

Due to circumstances beyond my control, Washminster will not be appearing this week - I hope that normal service will be resumed by Sunday 13th July

David

Sunday, 6 July 2008

British Celebrations of American Independence Day

This weekend it will not only be Americans celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Each year in the County of Northamptonshire celebrations are held at Sulgrave - the ancestral home of George Washington. While sadly, I won't be able to attend this year - due to the East Midlands Labour Party Conference, taking place in Nottingham - I know that each year many Brits turn up.

If you can make it - it's a really good day!




http://www.sulgravemanor.org.uk/visitorinfo/independence_day_2008.pdf

Friday, 4 July 2008

The Declaration of Independence

July 4th is the day for celebrating the declaration, and the independence of the USA. It is worth reflecting on the ideas which lie behind the declaration.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
May I wish all readers of Washminster an enjoyable 4th of July.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought 145 years ago (July 1st-3rd 1863). There are various events planned on the battlefield itself - including ones hosted by Daughters of the Confederacy/Sons of Union Veterans. There will be re-enactments of the Battle and lectures at various locations around the site.

The National Parks website for the battlefield can be found at http://www.nps.gov/gett/
A very interesting website on the Battle can be found at http://www.army.mil/gettysburg/flash.html

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

US Elections, November 2008

The following website gives daily updates based on opinion polling data - I shall certainly be visiting it on a regular basis!

http://www.electoral-vote.com/

If these figures are right - the Republican Party could be facing meltdown. I'd be interested in any views on this, or other scenarios. Would such a result be a one-off? or could it mark an significant shift lasting perhaps for years? What would happen to the various strands within the Republican Party? What implications would such a result have for the democrats? There's much to ponder.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Nye Bevan

The architect of the NHS was Aneurin Bevan (known as Nye). He was born in November 1897 and began his working life as a Miner. He was a gifted orator and passionate for the interests of the working class which he came from. Michael Foot wrote a superb two volume biography, which greatly influenced me. [For my A-Level History Project I undertook research into the life of Nye Bevan].

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1929 and became one of the leading figures in the Labour Party. His crowning achievement was the creation of the NHS - which was bitterly resisted by the Tories and many Doctors. "At all its procedural stages in the House of Commons the NHS bill was opposed by Conservatives. Even before the third, final, reading of the bill, often a formality, Churchill mobilized his troops into opposition. Whatever words may be used to describe creation of the NHS, 'consensus' should not be among them. Bevan encountered 'dogged obstruction' and 'virilent opposition' from Conservative Members of Parliament' [Creating the National Health Service - Marvin Rintala (2003, Routledge).
The BBC website quotes a doctor "Doctors were a pretty conservative bunch, certainly the older ones, and many hated the NHS. "They saw it as the government interfering in the doctor and patient relationship, although some just opposed it outright on political grounds."
An appreciation of Bevan's life can be found at http://www.sochealth.co.uk/history/bevan.htm