This blog is often written at my home in Furzton, an area of the "New" City of Milton Keynes. (Some posts are written while I'm working away (for example the video posted yesterday was recorded whilst away just outside St Neots in Cambridge) or from Westminster.
While MK is a new city, in the sense that it is England's newest, and completely planned, city - it was formally designated as a "new town" on January 23rd 1967 - and has grown to 245,000 (2011 estimate) - it includes many sites of historic interest. Click here to see the Washminster post on the Roman Villa at Bancroft (very close to the "concrete cows").
Furzton is bordered by Watling Street - perhaps the most most important Roman road in England. It ran from the ports in Kent to Londinium (London) to Wroxeter on the border with Wales. Late it became the main route to Ireland - ending at Holyhead. Most of the route is now the A5.
In the Borough of Milton Keynes the main Roman settlement on Watling Street was Magiovinium, just to the south of Fenny Stratford - where the River Ouzel crosses Watling Street. (the garden centre Dobbies is on part of the site). The route (which of course, being a Roman road, was straight) goes in a north westerly direction until the crossing of the Great Ouse at Stony Stratford. This was itself to become an important centre in English history (Richard III - when he was Duke of Gloucester - intercepted and took into "protective custody" his 12 year old nephew, Edward V - at a inn in the town - the Rosé and Crown)
However, the town is of Saxon origin. Roman remains discovered north of the river suggest that "Old Stratford" (in Northamptonshire) was an administrative post on the ford across the Great Ouse. When England was split between an English Kingdom and Danelaw (Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum c 878) - the border was the Great Ouse from Bedford until Stony Stratford, whereupon Watling Street became the border (going northwards).
The Loughton Brook crosses Watling Street close to what is now Furzton Lake. I am trying to ascertain whether this is Harford Bridge - which appears on page 52 in "Britannia Depicta" of 1720. Any assistance would be appreciated (please email - firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield (a greatly respected historian) put done the following written question which was answered last week -
To ask the Chairman of Committees "what assessment he has made of the possibility of providing greater electronic access for the public to historic Hansard data on Millbank Systems' experimental web domain; what plans have been made to host the information on the parliamentary website; and what steps are being taken to digitise data that are not currently available on the experimental website." [HL13352]
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): "The Historic Hansard web pages and search engine are hosted on Millbank Systems' web domain on behalf of Parliament and are available to all users of the web. The service is supported on a "best endeavours" basis. PICT and staff from the departments of Information Services of both Houses are currently investigating the options for maintaining and enhancing the current service, and for placing the technical support arrangements on a more sustainable footing. Work is also under way to safeguard the Historic Hansard XML data and page images through the digital preservation project, which is led by the Parliamentary Archives. One of the options under consideration for Historic Hansard would involve integrating the historic web pages with the archive of more recent Hansard material on the website and enabling users to browse and search across the full Hansard record in a more seamless fashion. The timescales, benefits and costs of that approach are being assessed. This project, along with others, has been included in a digitisation programme, which will review requests to digitise parliamentary material currently only available in hard copy. Digitised content from these projects will be added to the main parliamentary website or through partnership websites so that it is easier for users to access the material. More information about the various projects included in this programme of work will be published on the intranet in due course."
I should like to commend and recommend the website - I have used it extensively for my own research (particularly for my current work on whips - and for the paper I wrote for the last Wroxton Conference
(9th Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars & Parliamentarians) "The First Labour Group in the House of Lords, 1924").
Washminster will be taking an extended Thanksgiving break - and will return on Monday. In the meantime do feel free to explore "Washminster's archives" - posts go back for over four and a half years - and can be accessed through the search facility on the right - or below that by browsing through the Blog Archive.
You might want to visit earlier Thanksgiving postings such as
I spent many hours yesterday watching proceedings in the House of Lords from the public gallery. Before we were admitted the Lord Speaker's Ceremony took place where she was escorted from her rooms at the southern end of the Palace through Princes' Chamber; along the "Not Content" Lobby (Votes are taken in what is normally a corridor) into the Peers Lobby and finally into the Chamber where she took her seat. Visitors were then escorted from the Peers Lobby upstairs - but we were not admitted until prayers had been completed. In the Westminster Parliament, only Members and certain officials are allowed in while prayers are in progress. Finally we were allowed into the gallery - and Question Time began.
In the Commons questions are directed at Ministers from a specific Government Department. In the Lords they are to "the Government". Thirty minutes are set aside for oral questions. Four Members get to put a question which has been submitted in advance. The Minister's initial reply must be in less than 75 words. Then supplementaries begin - first from the person who had put down the initial question - then from others. After seven or eight minutes (or less if there are no further Peers wishing to ask a supplementary) the next question is taken.
There was a small amount to business to be dealt with before the big debate of the day began. Yesterday it was the Second Reading of the Legal Aid; Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. My post of last Wednesday has the background to this controversial bill.
It is well worth watching or reading the debate - particularly if you are a law student - but also if you are a citizen. There are many important issues involved - and at its heart, the importance of the ability to enforce rights. Magna Carta was quoted (and in the chamber statues of the Barons who forced King John to sign that groundbreaking document, look down upon proceedings). Many references were made to Lord Bingham's excellent book - "The Rule of Law".
The committee stage of the Bill will start soon - and I'll be reporting from it for Washminster.
The "Super Committee" tasked with coming up with an agreement to reduce the US budget deficit must act this week- the deadline is on Wednesday (the day before the Thanksgiving Holiday). In order for congressional action - the real deadline is today.
The Guardian was reporting last night -
"The bipartisan committee tasked with reducing America's $15tn (£9.5tn) budget deficit looks close to admitting defeat as its deadline looms. The committee, created in August, has until Wednesday to report a plan to cut $1.2tn from the nation's deficit. Failure to do so will trigger automatic cuts to defence and social welfare programmes starting in 2013."
Yesterday we learnt that the cricket player, Basil D'Oliveira had passed away at the age of 83. I remember watching him as a youngster who frequently spent much of his summer at Edgbaston Cricket Ground. At that time he was still playing county cricket for Worcestershire. He was a superb player - but was also renowned as an individual who played an important role in the battle against Apartheid in his native country of South Africa.
The BBC Obituary reads -
"Born in South Africa, he moved to England in 1960 because of to the lack of opportunities for non-white players.
In 1968 he was named in England's squad to tour South Africa which was then cancelled as the ruling National Party refused to accept his presence.
D'Oliveira played county cricket for Worcestershire between 1964-80 and represented England in 44 Tests, scoring 2,484 runs at an average of 40.
The headlines made by D'Oliveira in 1968 marked the start of South Africa's sporting isolation.
After being added to the England squad as a replacement for the injured Tom Cartwright the South African government made it clear a 'Cape coloured' would not be welcome.
The tour was called off and the incident culminated in a ban on sporting ties with South Africa which would last until the early 1990s. No official team from any country subsequently toured South Africa until apartheid was abolished following Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990."
Personally, one of my favourite speeches is that made by Tony Blair in 1999 - the so called "forces of conservatism" speech, in which he said:
"For the 21st century will not be about the battle between capitalism and socialism but between the forces of progress and the forces of conservatism.
They are what hold our nation back. Not just in the Conservative Party but within us, within our nation.
The forces that do not understand that creating a new Britain of true equality is no more a betrayal of Britain's history than New Labour is of Labour's values.
The old prejudices, where foreign means bad. Where multi-culturalism is not something to celebrate, but a left-wing conspiracy to destroy their way of life. Where women shouldn't work and those who do are responsible for the breakdown of the family. The old elites, establishments that have run our professions and our country too long. Who have kept women and black and Asian talent out of our top jobs and senior parts of Government and the Services. Who keep our bright inner city kids from our best universities. And who still think the House of Lords should be run by hereditary peers in the interests of the Tory Party.
The old order, those forces of conservatism, for all their language about promoting the individual, and freedom and liberty, they held people back. They kept people down. They stunted people's potential. Year after year. Decade after decade."
So what explains the strength of "conservative" ideology? - and neither I, nor Blair, mean it in the narrow sense of the British Conservative Party. It was rampant in the Russian Communist Party, in some Trade Unions - and in organsations who called themselves progressive. It's a mindset which seeks to protect what existed in the same - at, some argue, the expense of the future.
C-SPAN recently broadcast a very interesting programme in which Corey Robin discusses the nature and history of conservatism. It's a thought provoking programme - I've already listened to it twice. Please do send me YOUR comments (email@example.com)
The Open University have produced this video about the use of the English language in the European Parliament.
This is one of the many videos that they make freely available at their OULearn Channel site. The English Language website of the EP is available here - with links to members; current legislation and other activities of the Parliament.
Last Saturday I went down to London - both to go to a concert which was part of the London Jazz Festival (a recording of "Jazz Line Up" - available in the UK, at least, until Sunday here) and to watch the French film "La Conquete" at Cine Lumiere in Kensington.
The film is about Nicolas Sarkozy's road to the Elysee Palace. I thoroughly recommend watching it - it has excellent portrayals of President Chirac; Dominique de Villepin and Nicolas Sarkozy - and is a great primer for the Presidential election which draws ever closer.
(This is the version with English Subtitles - but the VO is also available on Amazon)
This controversial, and far reaching bill, is due to have its Second Reading on Monday (21st November). There are a number of concerns about the effects of measures in the Bill. Below are a number of links to the Bill and reports about its repercussions.
Once the Lord Speaker has arrived upon the Woolsack at the start of business in the House of Lords, Prayers are said by one of the Church of England Bishops. Unlike the US Congress, these are said only before Members and certain officials - the public may not come in to the galleries until they are finished - and they are not made up on the day. The Companion lays down what is said
One of the following:
Psalms 1, 15, 24, 34 (vv. 1-8), 46, 66 (vv. 1-14, 18), 67, 93, 95 (vv. 1-7), 100, 111, 112 (vv. 1-6), 119 (vv. 33-40), 121, 145 (vv. 1-6 and 21). The Lord be with you. And with thy Spirit. Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lord our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most Gracious Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way: Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally after this life she may attain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, the Fountain of all Goodness, We humbly beseech thee to bless Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Charles Prince of Wales and all the Royal Family: Endue them with thy Holy Spirit; enrich them with thy Heavenly Grace; prosper them with all happiness; and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, by whom alone Kings reign, and Princes decree justice; and from whom alone cometh all counsel, wisdom, and understanding; we thine unworthy servants, here gathered together in thy Name, do most humbly beseech thee to send down thy Heavenly Wisdom from above, to direct and guide us in all our consultations; and grant that, we having thy fear always before our eyes, and laying aside all private interests, prejudices, and partial affections, the result of all our counsels may be to the glory of thy blessed Name, the maintenance of true Religion and Justice, the safety, honour, and happiness of the Queen, the publick wealth, peace and tranquillity of the Realm, and the uniting and knitting together of the hearts of all persons and estates within the same, in true Christian Love and Charity one towards another, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help, that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy Holy Name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.
Many prospective university students are concerned about the hike in university fees from September 2012 - and many myths have circulated. Below is some information reproduced from the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information. It may be of use to you (as a pros[pective student or a parent) - or you may know someone who might find it useful - please do share this.
This week I've been listening to the C-SPAN podcasts of their series "The Presidential Contenders". One character that particularly interested me was Eugene V Debs - who ran for the presidency as a third party candidate in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 & 1920. The programme makes the point that though he didn't succeed at the polls, he was a major influence on US politics - and in bringing issues to the forefront of public debate.
The Eugene V Debs Foundation has an extensive website at http://debsfoundation.org/, which has some interesting background and details of books about him.
On another website there are a collection of quotes from him - these include:
"The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough. Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization. The time has come to regenerate society — we are on the eve of universal change."
"Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most — that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least."
"The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles."
"Ignorance alone stands in the way of socialist success. The capitalist parties understand this and use their resources to prevent the workers from seeing the light.Intellectual darkness is essential to industrial slavery."
In the words of "The Companion" (to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords) "The ordinary method by which the Houses communicate with the Sovereign is by Address".
"The most common form of Address occurs at the beginning of every session in reply to the Queen's Speech. Other forms of Address are those requesting the Queen to make an Order in Council in the form of a draft laid before the House or praying the Queen to annul a negative instrument. There has been an Address for the exercise of the prerogative of mercy. There are also Addresses of condolence or congratulation to the Sovereign on family or public occasions. An Address may also be presented in response to a Royal Message, concerning for example the Civil List or the declaration of a State of Emergency." (Companion 2.23)
These addresses are presented either by Privy Counsellors or members of the Royal Household (Most, but not all Whips are members of the Royal Household - The Deputy Chief Whip in the Commons is the Treasurer of the Household; while the number three and four in the Government Whips Office in the Commons hold the position of Comptroller and Vice-Chamberlain. Government whips in the Lords are also members of the Royal Household.)
The letter from Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax referred to - which puts HM Revenue & Custom's view on the disclosure of taxpayer confidential information to a Parliamentary Committee is available here.
Any comments would be welcome.
Questions were taken (mine is at 59 mins 50 secs to 1 hr 00 mins 25 secs - I was deliberately provocative - but the point remains, the Lords is very limited in its ability to effectively challenge the Government of the Day).
I've recently been asked questions, to which the answer is "Privy Counsellors". (see the post on 5th November - "who is entitled to sit on the steps of the Throne in the House of Lords?"; and the other question is "who is referred to as as "Right Honourable?").
So what is a Privy Councillor? The immediate answer is "a member of the Privy Council". Senior Ministers (and often senior backbenchers - such as long standing Chairs of select committees) are given membership. There is also the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which is the court of final appeal for the UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies, and for those Commonwealth countries that have retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council or, in the case of Republics, to the Judicial Committee.
Daniel Greenberg, a Parliamentary Counsel (1991-2010), has written - and Sweet & Maxwell have published "Laying Down the Law" - a very useful detailed guide to how legislation is put together in practice. It would make a useful companion to my current series on How Law is Made in the UK, should you wish to have a much more detailed text.
Yesterday, my daughter and I travelled to Birmingham for one of the out-of-London events for Parliament Week. The Archives & Heritage team within Birmingham Central Library had organised a "Right to Vote Walk" around Birmingham. It was an excellent morning - full of some very interesting places.
Don Hazzard, a historian, gave a fascinating tour of places associated with the campaigns for votes. The Chartists were very active in Birmingham, as were the Suffragettes. We learned about the incredible Thomas Attwood, a local man who was a far-sighted economist and political reformer - and later MP for Birmingham. He was arguing after the Government slashed spending post-the Napoleonic Wars - that such a policy was short-sighted and would lead to greater economic distress. He urged spending to promote a virtuous circle - creating wealth rather than destroying it. As a political reformer he sought the extension of the franchise (sad that in both the UK and the USA there are today, those trying to recreate barriers to voting). The whole morning was a reminder of the great reforming tradition in England (British History isn't just Kings, Military battles and a sanitised version of progress towards Democracy - people had to fight for the freedoms we enjoy today). We also heard about John Bright - another great reformer. He too served as a Birmingham MP.
If you watch broadcasts of the House of Lords - you may see individuals sitting on the steps of the throne. Often these are Peers who wish to listen to a debate - but don't want to participate (Technically the steps are not part of the House for the purposes of proceedings).
The Companion to the Standing Orders (referred so simply as "The Companion") sets out who is entitled to sit on the steps -
· members of the House of Lords in receipt of a writ of summons, including those who have not taken their seat or the oath and those who have leave of absence;
· members of the House of Lords who are disqualified from sitting or voting in the House as Members of the European Parliament or as holders of disqualifying judicial office;
· hereditary peers who were formerly members of the House and who were excluded from the House by the House of Lords Act 1999;
· the eldest child (which includes an adopted child) of a member of the House (or the eldest son where the right was exercised before 27 March 2000);
· peers of Ireland;
· diocesan bishops of the Church of England who do not yet have seats in the House of Lords;
· retired bishops who have had seats in the House of Lords;
As you may know, I have a particular interest in political communication. (both as an academic - I'm a member of APSA's Political Communication Section & subscribe to a number of academic and practical journals on the subject; and most of all as someone who has been a candidate at local; national and European levels).
One of my great concerns is that a lot of material is sent to prospective voters - is completely wasted. Recently I participated in handing out leaflets at a shopping centre - the material was very worthy; had lots of useful information - but was too crowded with print to encourage anyone to fully read it. I've also noted the (natural) tendency to substitute lots of leaflets for personal contact - a very dangerous path to go down.
To communicate effectively - that is to win hearts and minds - we need to think about what works. I found the following video a useful one - I hope you do too.
The second video which forms part of the series on How Law is Made in the UK....
The three points that need to be made to get any idea "on the agenda" are -
1 It is a good idea
2 It can best (only?) be realised by legislation (as opposed to a change in policy or practice not requiring a statute)
3 The matter is so important that it needs to be given high priority
Of course this year the elections are not as high profile. 2012 will see a Presidential election; the whole House of Representatives will be up for election; and one third of the Senate.
This year however there is only one Federal election - a primary for the special election in Oregon's 1st Congressional District (The special election (by-election) will be held on 31st January). There are Gubernatorial elections (for the State Governor) in Mississippi and Kentucky - and a handful of States have State and Municipal elections.
Virginia has State Legislative elections (General Assembly) and local elections - further details can be found at the website of the Virginia State Board of Elections ( http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms/Index.html). My particular interest is in the Stratford Landing, Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County - where votes are to be cast for
Virginia Senate, 36th District (1)
Virginia House of Delegates, 44th District (1)
Commonwealth's Attorney (1)
Chairman, Board of Supervisors, Fairfax County (1)
Member (Mt Vernon), Board of Supervisors (1)
School Board (at large) (3)
School Board (Mt Vernon) (1)
Soil & Water Conservation Area Director (Northern Virginia District) (3)
and the School Bonds referendum ("Shall the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, Virginia, contract a debt, borrow money, and issue capital improvement bonds in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $252,750,000 for the purposes of providing funds, in addition to funds from school bonds previously authorized and any other available funds, to finance, including reimbursement to the County for temporary financing for, the costs of school improvements, including acquiring, building, expanding and renovating properties, including new sites, new buildings or additions, renovations and improvements to existing buildings, and furnishings and equipment, for the Fairfax County public school system?"
For further details of precincts and candidates press here.
As promised recently, I begin a new series on how law is made in the UK. This video considers some important principles to keep in mind, and looks briefly at "Sources of Law".
Standing Order 14 (House of Commons: Public Business) reads (full text of Standing Orders available here)
(1) Save as provided in this order, government business shall have precedence at every sitting.
(2) Twenty days shall be allotted in each session for proceedings on opposition business, seventeen of which shall be at the disposal of the Leader of the Opposition and three of which shall be at the disposal of the leader of the second largest opposition party; and matters selected on those days shall have precedence over government business ......
(3A) Thirty-five days or its equivalent shall be allotted in each session for proceedings in the House and in Westminster Hall on backbench business of which at least twenty-seven shall be allotted for proceedings in the House; the business determined by the Backbench Business Committee shall have precedence over government business ......
(4) Private Members’ bills shall have precedence over government business on thirteen Fridays in each session to be appointed by the House.
(5) On and after the eighth Friday on which private Members’ bills have precedence, such bills shall be arranged on the order paper in the following order— consideration of Lords amendments, third readings,
consideration of reports not already entered upon, adjourned proceedings on consideration, bills in
progress in committee, bills appointed for committee, and second readings.
(6) The ballot for private Members’ bills shall be held on the second Thursday on which the House shall sit during the session under arrangements to be made by the Speaker, and each bill shall be presented by the Member who has given notice of presentation or by another Member named by him in writing to the Clerks at the Table, at the commencement of public business on the fifth Wednesday on which the House shall sit during the session.
(7) Until after the fifth Wednesday on which the House shall sit during the session, no private Member shall—
(a) give notice of a motion for leave to bring in a bill under Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to
bring in bills and nomination of select committees at commencement of public business); or
(b) give notice for presenting a bill under Standing Order No. 57 (Presentation and first reading); or
(c) inform the Clerks at the Table of his intention to take charge of a bill which has been brought from the Lords......
I am a tutor for the Open University and have practical experience of working in the UK and European Parliaments.
Until May 2010 I worked at Westminster as Political Secretary to Lord Bach and to Lord Hunt of King's Heath. Previously I had worked as Research and Policy Director in the Office of Sir Peter Soulsby MP. In 2001 and 2005 I stood for Parliament in the South Leicestershire Constituency of Blaby. In 2009 I was a candidate for the European Parliament in the East Midlands Region.
I have a keen academic and practical interest in the workings of both the UK Parliament and the US Congress. I have made a number of study visits to Washington DC - and monitor proceedings, procedure and practice in the four chambers [House of Commons, House of Lords, House of Representative and the Senate]
Over the years I have broadcast on both UK & US Politics for BBC local radio including Radio Northampton; BBC Three Counties and BBC Radio Oxford.