The good news is that that I am entering the final stretch writing up my Ph.D. Finally the reading; the interviewing and the thinking are coming together into a single structured paper (well a very long paper!). Soon I’ll be submitting, what I hope is a readable draft.
The bad news is that it has meant that I’ve not been able to keep the Washminster posts flowing. (I hope you noticed!)
The good news is that Washminster is about to enter a new exciting period. I’ll be posting from Labour Party Conference. Because I will also be continuing to hone the Ph.D. paper, I will sadly be foregoing the pictures to accompany posts – and they may be a little raw – but I hope that you’ll enjoy the eye witness account; description and explanation of this annual politics-fest.
Then I’ll be back to the full time work on the Ph.D. and prep for the next “adventure”, which is my visit to Virginia for the last couple of weeks of the Presidential; Senate & House races in that great state. As in 2008, I hope to be posting frequently and fully while I’ll there.
So please keep visiting the Washminster blog. I’ll also be tweeting on ‘jdm_progressive’ during this period.
Today the Political & Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons is holding a hearing into “Ensuring standards in the quality of legislation”. The witnesses will be
Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP – a Labour MP, who has extensive experience of being in Government and Parliament.
Lord Norton of Louth – THE parliamentary expert, both as an academic, he is Professor of Government at Hull University (and my Ph.D. Supervisor), and a former Chair of the Lords Select Committee on the
Lord Maclennan of Rogart – A former Labour Minister (in the 1974-9 Government), who was a founder of the SDP. He was 35 years in the Commons, and has spent 11 years in the Lords – and is the current LibDem spokesman on the Cabinet Office.
Yesterday I attended the evidence session of the Education Select Committee which is looking into the GCSE fiasco. I often watch select committees (either in person or via the parliamentlive website), but I’ve rarely felt as angry as I did after hearing from some of the Heads about the impact of the injustice done to some young people.
The witnesses were
Brian Lightman, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Mike Griffiths, Headmaster, Northampton school for boys, and ASCL President, Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), and Kenny Fredericks, Principal, George Green's School, Isle of dogs, and member of NAHT executive.
In the second session – key individuals from Ofqual including Glenys Stacey gave evidence.
Friend of Washminster, former Congressman, Bob Carr – is now teaching an "Ethics and Congress" class at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University [Legislative Affairs Course]- On the reading list is an interesting book which I read last weekend “ The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty”, by Dan Ariely.
Mr Ariely considers how widespread dishonesty is – yes, ALL of us have a penchant for dishonesty and cheating – though we are superb at justifying ourselves and our behaviour (and not bad in conning ourselves either). The book looks at this tendency – why it arises – and what can suppress it. He also discusses a “fudge factor theory”. There are some interesting results from behavioural studies. I would recommend to everyone.
All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are – as the name suggests – parliamentary groups which are open to Members of either House and any party. Many are either issue or geographically based, and may be serious or have a more social side.
The House of Commons has a number of Departmental Select Committees, who generally have no role in the legislative process (those committees are known as ‘Public Bill Committees’, which meet in committee rooms where MPs sit on either side of the room – like a mini House of Commons – with the Government on one side and the Opposition on the other).
Select committees sit around a horseshoe shaped table – and their role and powers are described in Standing Order 152
152.—(1) Select committees shall be appointed to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the principal government departments as set out in paragraph (2) of this order and associated public bodies….
(3) Each select committee appointed under this order shall have the power to appoint a sub-committee.
(4) Select committees appointed under this order shall have power—
(a) to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to
adjourn from place to place, and to report from time to time;
(b) to appoint specialist advisers either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity within the committee’s order of reference; and
(c) to report from time to time the evidence taken before sub-committees, and the formal minutes of sub-committees;
and the sub-committees appointed under this order shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, to report from time to time their formal minutes, and shall have a quorum of three.
(5) Unless the House otherwise orders, all Members nominated to a committee appointed under this order shall continue to be members of that committee for the remainder of the Parliament.
The 2012 American Football season kicks off today with Dallas Cowboys playing the New York Giants – as many readers of this blog will know (and the title might give a clue), I’m a Washington Redskins fan. Their first game is on Sunday in New Orleans.
I’m a subscriber to NFL’s Game Pass – so most Sunday evenings I’ll be watching like on my Desktop computer – or more likely these days – on my iPad. Should I be otherwise engaged (for example during the Sunday evening of the Labour Party Conference, I can watch later. Being the total nerd that I am, I will have my recently purchased “2012 Official NFL Record and Fact Book” at my side.
I also have on my iPhone and iPad the “NFL ’12” and “Official Redskins Feedr” Apps – and of course – as is my practice – I read the sports news in the Washington Post (also through an iPad App.
What is it that I find interesting about this game? It was the references to American Football in political speeches which first attracted my interest (Nixon and Reagan often made references!), but I enjoy the strategic aspects of the game – (hopefully) marching up the field using a series of carefully planned moves – each team trying to outsmart the other. In many ways so much like politics. I even keep my own “playbook” – plays that have been used in Parliament, and particularly Congress (where the scope for innovative procedural tactics is much greater) in order to advance or halt legislative progress.
Are you an American Football fan? Which team do you support? If you'd like to tell fellow readers of Washminster what attracts you to the game - or why you support a particular team - drop me a short piece on firstname.lastname@example.org - which I can then repost here.
As long time members of the Washminster Community know, I am fascinated by the American Civil War (and very grateful to my friend John Dickert for taking me to so many of the battlefields.) Last week C-SPAN rebroadcast a very interesting programme about Britain's role in the US Civil War. Many Brits served in the opposing armies - and of course the war was of great interest to policy makers and politicians in London (to say nothing of manufacturers and their workers, particularly in the North and the Midlands).
... to the Washminster Blog. Summer, sadly, is now over [though it hasn't been a great one in the UK] - and a busy Autumn (or Fall) beckons. So Washminster will be publishing posts about
- The US elections – which are on November 6th
- The British parliamentary scene – the House of Commons returns this week, and the Coalition must face Parliament after a stormy summer
- British party conferences during September and October
- Forthcoming exams for my Open Students – but all are welcome to read my revision pieces about the British Constitution; English legal System; EU Law and Criminal Law
- The new American Football season
- The conclusion of the Baseball season – which has been pretty spectacular for the Washington Nationals
- And much, much more…
Please do contact me if there are any subjects you’d like to see posts on – or have a contribution you’d like to make.
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.