Dean Acheson once described Britain as a country which [Speech at West Point (5 December 1962)] "has lost an Empire" but which "has not yet found a role". During the 1960s and 1970s it sought to find a role within Europe. The story of that search is well described in "Britain and European Unity".
(my apologies if you can't see the link to Amazon & John Young's book - I've had some problems getting it to display - but it is there!)
The course he led while I was studying for my MA at Leicester University (1995-7), allowed me to look at the background to Britain's applications to join what is now the EU. British politicians had been very dismissive of European efforts to rebuild the continent together after the Second World War. We didn't think it would last - we thought that we could continue to dominate the world stage alone. By 1962 many at the height of government had concluded that we needed to adapt - and Acheson's comments just rubbed in the fact of our loss of influence. So Britain sought to regain influence and economic power through close cooperation in Europe.
It didn't do too badly. Instead of falling behind and losing markets as we had in the 1950s and 1960s - Britain began to trade more with Europe. We did what we were best at - and Britain made a comeback (Ireland also profited from her membership). Local government in Britain, working with funding from Europe, saw cities rebuilt. (I remember Birmingham in the late 1960s - it was a decaying mess. I particularly remember the gloomy, run down area by the canal basins - which were spectacularly transformed with European funding). My MA dissertation looked at Labour MPs who backed the "No" campaign in 1975 - to find out whether & why their views had changed by the mid 1990s. Interestingly, those who recovered their political careers after losing in 1979 & returning to local government, had been impressed by how productive working with "Brussels" was, compared to working with Whitehall. European work was transforming & building for the future. Communities had better access to decision makers in Brussels than in London.
The growth of the Eurosceptics (or more accurately "Europhobes") has been the big political story of the past quarter century. Aided by a mainly anti-EU press, ordinary British people have gained the impression that Britain loses through its membership of the EU.
The pro-European "British Influence" has researched & produced a report on British Influence in Europe today. It is worth reading, and I hope it will inform the debate about our future.
For as long as I can remember exams for both UK Constitutional Law & British Politics have often included questions inviting the student to discuss the merits and disadvantages of establishing a Bill of Rights specifically for the UK system. It's a super exam question - because it enables the student to demonstrate their understanding of "rights"; to discuss how far a piece of paper can actually protect them; the relationships between elected legislatures and governments and the Judiciary; and the problems caused for such a Bill due to the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty.
The Political & Constitutional Reform Committee - one of the House of Common's Select Committee has been looking at the issue - and a debate has been held in Westminster Hall. It's worth having a look at the debate - It can be accessed directly here or the PDF of Hansard can be downloaded - You'll find the debate about a third of the way through, starting at Column 216 WH. That can be downloaded from here.
Birthday greetings go to Tom Downey, the youngest of the so-called "Watergate Babies" - the freshmen (and women) elected to Congress in the immediate aftermath of Watergate. He is Sixty Five today. He had only been eligible to be elected to the House for nine months when he won the seat for the second district of New York. (Just two years previously the long serving Republican, James Gover had won with 66% of the vote - and Nixon won 72% of the district's votes!).
The term "Watergate Babies" is certainly no longer appropriate now - and wasn't then. Many had previous elected experience - Downey himself had been a member of the Suffolk County, [New York] legislature since 1971. Joseph Fisher (VA10) was sixty, and almost a third had been born in the 1920s or before.
As previous posts have noted - this year is the 40th anniversary of the 1974 landslide election.
Downey was a law student when first elected. He served in Congress until 1993 (18 years - 9 Congresses). He then founded a lobbying group, the Downey-McGrath Group, of which he is Chairman.
The House of Commons Library has produced (yet again! - and I have to say, they regularly produce reports of high quality which are VERY useful!) - a report on Stop & Search powers. It's a useful briefing paper for anyone interested in the topic - and relevant to Law Students (especially OU W201 & W200)
The police have a range of powers to stop and search people. The most widely used of these is under section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) which accounts for over one million stops and searches per year. This allows the police to stop people or vehicles in public places and search them for stolen goods and other articles. However, like most stop and search powers, this only applies where the constable has “reasonable suspicion” that these articles will be found.
There are two powers which do not require the police to have “reasonable suspicion” of the individual being stopped and searched:
• The police can authorise stops and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000. The rules governing these have recently been reformed following a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights that they violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to privacy).A separate Library Standard Note (SN/HA/6742) deals with Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (stop and search at airports etc)
• Under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, a senior officer can authorise such stops and searches in a particular area if he or she reasonably believes that serious violence may take place or that people are carrying offensive weapons. This provision has also recently been subject to a legal challenge.
Both these have proved particularly controversial, but stop and search powers generally have long been at the centre of tensions between Black people and the police. Overall, Black people are stopped and searched around seven times more than White people. In 2010 the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a report examining some of the explanations which have been given for this disproportionality. Stops and searches were cited in a number of reports on the August 2011 riots in England as being a cause of resentment.
A Metropolitan Police review has resulted in recent changes to policy in London, including a more intelligence-led and targeted approach. In July 2013, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced a public consultation into the use of stop and search powers. Responses are currently being analysed. There were media reports in January 2014 that the Prime Minister was blocking plans by the Home Secretary to restrict the use of stop and search.
Otto von Bismarck is credited with the comment - ""Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."
Perhaps that comment is understandable - making laws can be messy. As different views are expressed, it can look like endless argument. That is one of the reasons that many voters are put off politics. But it is necessary. In a democracy laws should not be handed down from on high. Members of legislatures are there to express the (very often) quite differing views of citizens. As a consumer I want my rights protected; "sharp" practices outlawed; dangerous products prohibited; and redress if my person or my property is injured by someone else's actions. A business wants "red tape" to be minimised or abolished. A right for me may limit your rights.
These things need to be discussed. Experience and "common sense" may need to be applied to an idea that a policy maker has come up with. Different perspectives need to be applied so that the danger of the "law of unintended consequences" is lessened.
The legislative process may be messy - it may be long - but it is vital. Citizens need to know how law is made - so that they can - when they need to - become involved in the process. They can ask their representative to support or oppose a particular measure - or advise of the consequences which the legislator may not realise. Often citizens only find out about a measure when it is too late to do anything. They might not know how or when to make their views.
Our democracy is enhanced when citizens know how it works.
(There are some excellent online materials available -
On Monday I wrote about the excellent material available from the House of Commons Library. The US equivalent is the Congressional Research Service. I am in awe of their output. It would be possible to become a high level expert on the workings of Congress, or many policy matters - just by reading CRS publications.
Like the House of Commons Library and British MPs - CRS exists to provide research material - and supply answers to questions posed by members of Congress. It doesn't directly publish its material to the public - but many of the publications find their way online. Individual members may publish the material on their official websites - and the House & Senate use CRS material on theirs. I find OpenCRS a useful site to visit. Many CRS publications are available there. The FAS (Federation of American Scientists) site is another useful place to look. The Annual Report of CRS gives an insight to the extent of work that they have undertaken. It is available here.
Do note that the material is regularly updated by CRS - so make sure that you use the latest version.
The of Commons Library now has its own blog. It is well worth taking a look. There's always something interesting which will improve your understanding of the information which MPs and other decision makers need (but sadly don't always use) for their work.
If you don't yet use the services of the House of Commons Library - then take a look at what they have to offer. High quality material is prepared for MPs - and much of it is available to the public. Of course non-MPs aren't able to make specific inquiries or borrow books from their extensive stock - but as a student, researcher, teacher and citizen, I have found their publications invaluable. You can find them at http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/
Research Papers are more detailed documents - often on a specific subject or on a bill before Parliament; whilst Standard Notes are shorter.
I travelled down to London on Friday and Saturday to visit "The French Show". This is my third year - and it has become a highlight of mid January. (Last year we had heavy snow - so it wasn't as crowded on the Friday).
Really there are two exhibitions running together in Earls Court. One is for property owners and prospective property owners. Lots of Estate Agents; Lawyers; Removal Companies; Banks etc. A second home in France would be nice - but a little beyond my budget - and anyway, living in Milton Keynes has a lot of attractions which I never had living elsewhere in England. So I had only a cursory look round that part of the show.
Much of my time was spent at the "Flavours of France" Theatre. There were cookery presentations - which have given me lots of ideas for cooking in the months ahead. Christine Vidal of "Made in Provence" made a superb "Risotto de Petit Epeautre de Haute-Provence". I tasted in - and have bought some "Petit Epeautre" to make some at home. Guy Wolley acted as host for the events in the theatre and also gave his own presentation. Chicken with Fennel Chorizo is going on my "to do list".
I enjoyed Clotilde Dusoulier's demonstration - her recipes for vegetarian French meals can be found in her latest book - and I look forward to making some avocado & radish mini tartines. She was one of the first cookery bloggers - at Chocolate & Zucchini. Worth a visit.
Jean-Christophe Novelli gave an inspiring demonstration. He (being of a similar age to me) has become more and more concerned with healthy eating. He gave tips on how to reduce saturated far; salt and sugar - whilst maintaining superb taste.
The cookery demonstrations were just a part of the Show – I will write more about the Show soon!
It's worth checking out. There are links to a number of blogs run by leading members of the APG; Links to other sites of interest to academics and students of the USA (from history to politics to culture - and beyond!); Details of forthcoming events and Information about the group.
APG is aPolitical Studies Association sub-group and the
major professional organization for researchers and lecturers in the UK whose
work concentrates on the government and politics of the USA. If you are working in this field - whether as a lecturer, researcher or student (or if you are interested in American Politics) it is worth joining.
Not unreasonably, many politicians think that policy is more important than procedure. Procedure is for the "geeks", the (slightly) obsessed individuals who take great pleasure in things that bore the rest of us rigid.
But smart politicians (or students of the legislative process) don't think that way. As John Dingell once said "I'll let you write the substance . . . and you let me write the procedure, and I'll screw you every time." The outcomes of any policy process is often determined by the procedure that is followed. Understand the procedure - and you can be alerted to the ploys of your opponents - and how to defeat them. (See my post of October 2009)
Rules matter - and so today I am posting the C-SPAN video of the debate that was held at the start of the current Congress on the House of Representatives rules. In coming weeks, I'll be looking at some of those rules - and their significance.
I was very disappointed last year that I was unable to attend the lecture given by Randall Woods on "Avatar of Reform: LBJ and the Great Society". Woods has written the superb - "LBJ: Architect of American Ambition". I have become increasingly fascinated by LBJ over recent years. He was of course one of key whips in the history of the Senate - and Robert Caro has written a compelling series of large books on his life.
The good news is that the lecture is available on a podcast from the Rothermere American Institute of the University of Oxford. It was there that the lecture was delivered. I have been listening to it - and I thoroughly recommend it.
I have returned from an excellent conference held in Oxford. The American Politics Group has its annual conference early in January each year. Last year we met in Leicester; and in 2012 in Manchester. (Previous posts here, here, and here.)
This year's conference theme was " The 50th Anniversary of Lyndon B Johnson's 'Great Society'". Professor Richard Blackett got the conference to a great start on Sunday with a lecture on "The Long Struggle". It give a fascinating insight to the 19th Century struggles for racial equality.
Many papers dealt with LBJ, but there were also papers on other areas of American politics and political history. I gave a paper on the 1974 Election at which the Democrats made sizeable gains in the wake of the Watergate Affair. While I dealt with the short term context and the details of the results - I also looked at how the policies of LBJ had set in train events which has had an effect on the election 10 years later.
There was a host of excellent papers. The trouble with conference like that, is that there is so much that it is impossible to get to hear all the papers and the following discussion. Hence I was at another session when Ursula Hackett delivered her paper, which won the Neustadt Postgraduate Paper Prize. I have subsequently read the paper - and it provides an excellent analysis of the different meanings which have been attached to LBJ's phrase.
There were for me many highlights. As a law lecturer I enjoyed the panel on law issues - which ranged from a discussion of the approach taken by Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in the recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act in US v Windsor (Helen Knowles); though the thwarted Bork nomination to the Supreme Court (Joe Ryan-Hume, who is doing a Ph.D. at Glasgow University and who will soon be taking up a Library of Congress research fellowship)) and the idea of the "lost constitution" in the philosophy of the Tea Party in the USA and Britain's UKIP (Jamie Fletcher).
Kevin Baron presented a very good paper on Presidential vetoes - which has prompted me to think about the issue for my own research. Patrick Andelic also gave a paper on the Watergate Babies - and I look forward to attending the conference at the Rothermere American Institute which he is organising about Watergate. Tom Packer gave a fascinating presentation about Jesse Helms and his response to the Great Society measures.
...and there was so much more! A great way to start the year!!!!
I am close to the end of my studies of US and UK whips. One of the most interesting part of the research involved looking at the lives of the individuals who served as whips in either the US Congress and UK Parliament. I met many whips, and read about many more. There were some very interesting characters. The study covered 1974 to 2010, though I went further back for some whips of particular significance (Lyndon Johnson, Carl Albert, Tip O'Neill and, from the UK, Ted Short for example). As a result some of them have passed away - and time continues to take its toll.
Robert Boscawen passed away just after Christmas. He came from what was once the ideal background for a Tory whip, having served in a leadership role in the army. [He was awarded the Military Cross]. However, unlike many whips, he was associated with a particular wing of the party. He served in the whips office for the greater part of Mrs Thatcher's premiership.
His obituary was published in the Daily Telegraph and can be accessed here.
When I was younger - the only way to follow Parliament was through reports in newspapers or by buying Hansard. Radio, then TV broadcasting from the chambers, only arrived later. Live coverage from inside Congress came earlier - and the Watergate hearings were televised - but it remained difficult even in the early part of the 21st century to follow Congress.
However thanks to the internet, it's now easy to follow events in Congress; the British Parliament; the European Parliament; and the French Assemblee nationale.
C-SPAN came first, then we had the Parliamentary Channel. Now the websites offer not just live coverage from the chambers, but other programming about history and current affairs.
C-SPAN covers the House of Representatives when it is in session. C-SPAN 2 does the same for the Senate. When the Chambers are not sitting (which can be for the major part even of a sitting day, there are other programmes. C-SPAN 3 also covers external events. If you haven't already, it is worth exploring the C-SPAN website. You may never need to watch TV again. (This is my wife's worry with me). There is also C-SPAN Radio. I often listen to this during the night, or when cooking/washing up via the C-SPAN app on my iPad.
BBC Parliament is available online as well as via Freeview in the UK. There is a wider "Democracy Live" website which includes live feeds form the House of Lords; Committees; and the legislatures in Scotland; Wales & Northern Ireland. There is also a section for the EU.
Europarl TV covers the European Parliament - and gives access to live debates as well as producing a number of excellent videos on specific issues.
If the latter part of 2013 was dominated by the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of JFK - This year marks the half century of an extraordinary year in US Politics. LBJ put his mark on American history - with an incredible period of (successful) legislative action - and a landslide victory in the Presidential Election.
I am currently reading, and prepping for a conference which has at its heart the 50th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson's `Great Society' speech.
Over the next few weeks I'll be posting about some of the events, and the issues which will be addressed at the conference. But it's worth looking at the speech itself, which was delivered on 22nd May 1964 in Ann Arbor Michigan. He was at the University of Michigan to receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address at the Spring graduation ceremony.
He looks forward to "50 years from now" - that time has come. It is worth reflecting on the vision he set out - and what has been achieved.
President Hatcher, Governor Romney, Senators McNamara and Hart, Congressmen Meader and Staebler, and other members of the fine Michigan delegation, members of the graduating class, my fellow Americans:
It is a great pleasure to be here today. This university has been coeducational since 1870, but I do not believe it was on the basis of your accomplishments that a Detroit high school girl said (and I quote), "In choosing a college, you first have to decide whether you want a coeducational school or an educational school." Well, we can find both here at Michigan, although perhaps at different hours. I came out here today very anxious to meet the Michigan student whose father told a friend of mine that his son's education had been a real value. It stopped his mother from bragging about him.
I have come today from the turmoil of your capital to the tranquility of your campus to speak about the future of your country. The purpose of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a Nation.
For a century we labored to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all of our people. The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.
Your imagination and your initiative and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.
The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.
The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what is adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.
But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.
So I want to talk to you today about three places where we begin to build the Great Society -- in our cities, in our countryside, and in our classrooms.
Many of you will live to see the day, perhaps 50 years from now, when there will be 400 million Americans -- four-fifths of them in urban areas. In the remainder of this century urban population will double, city land will double, and we will have to build homes and highways and facilities equal to all those built since this country was first settled. So in the next 40 years we must re-build the entire urban United States.
Aristotle said: "Men come together in cities in order to live, but they remain together in order to live the good life." It is harder and harder to live the good life in American cities today. The catalog of ills is long: there is the decay of the centers and the despoiling of the suburbs. There is not enough housing for our people or transportation for our traffic. Open land is vanishing and old landmarks are violated. Worst of all expansion is eroding these precious and time honored values of community with neighbors and communion with nature. The loss of these values breeds loneliness and boredom and indifference.
And our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities and not beyond their borders. New experiments are already going on. It will be the task of your generation to make the American city a place where future generations will come, not only to live, but to live the good life. And I understand that if I stayed here tonight I would see that Michigan students are really doing their best to live the good life.
This is the place where the Peace Corps was started.
It is inspiring to see how all of you, while you are in this country, are trying so hard to live at the level of the people.
A second place where we begin to build the Great Society is in our countryside. We have always prided ourselves on being not only America the strong and America the free, but America the beautiful. Today that beauty is in danger. The water we drink, the food we eat, the very air that we breathe, are threatened with pollution. Our parks are overcrowded, our seashores overburdened. Green fields and dense forests are disappearing.
A few years ago we were greatly concerned about the "Ugly American." Today we must act to prevent an ugly America. For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.
A third place to build the Great Society is in the classrooms of America. There your children's lives will be shaped. Our society will not be great until every young mind is set free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination. We are still far from that goal. Today, 8 million adult Americans, more than the entire population of Michigan, have not finished 5 years of school. Nearly 20 million have not finished 8 years of school. Nearly 54 million -- more than one quarter of all America -- have not even finished high school.
Each year more than 100,000 high school graduates, with proved ability, do not enter college because they cannot afford it. And if we cannot educate today's youth, what will we do in 1970 when elementary school enrollment will be 5 million greater than 1960? And high school enrollment will rise by 5 million. And college enrollment will increase by more than 3 million.
In many places, classrooms are overcrowded and curricula are outdated. Most of our qualified teachers are underpaid and many of our paid teachers are unqualified. So we must give every child a place to sit and a teacher to learn from. Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty.
But more classrooms and more teachers are not enough. We must seek an educational system which grows in excellence as it grows in size. This means better training for our teachers. It means preparing youth to enjoy their hours of leisure as well as their hours of labor. It means exploring new techniques of teaching, to find new ways to stimulate the love of learning and the capacity for creation.
These are three of the central issues of the Great Society. While our Government has many programs directed at those issues, I do not pretend that we have the full answer to those problems. But I do promise this: We are going to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.
I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of White House conferences and meetings -- on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.
The solution to these problems does not rest on a massive program in Washington, nor can it rely solely on the strained resources of local authority. They require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism, between the National Capital and the leaders of local communities.
Woodrow Wilson once wrote: "Every man sent out from his university should be a man of his Nation as well as a man of his time."
Within your lifetime powerful forces, already loosed, will take us toward a way of life beyond the realm of our experience, almost beyond the bounds of our imagination.
For better or for worse, your generation has been appointed by history to deal with those problems and to lead America toward a new age. You have the chance never before afforded to any people in any age. You can help build a society where the demands of morality, and the needs of the spirit, can be realized in the life of the Nation.
So, will you join in the battle to give every citizen the full equality which God enjoins and the law requires, whatever his belief, or race, or the color of his skin?
Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty?
Will you join in the battle to make it possible for all nations to live in enduring peace -- as neighbors and not as mortal enemies?
Will you join in the battle to build the Great Society, to prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit?
There are those timid souls that say this battle cannot be won; that we are condemned to a soulless wealth. I do not agree. We have the power to shape the civilization that we want. But we need your will and your labor and your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.
Those who came to this land sought to build more than just a new country. They sought a new world. So I have come here today to your campus to say that you can make their vision our reality. So let us from this moment begin our work so that in the future men will look back and say: It was then, after a long and weary way, that man turned the exploits of his genius to the full enrichment of his life.
It's no longer necessary to travel great distances to read the Congressional Record. [The US equivalent of 'Hansard'].
The British Library holds a large collection (for full details of the British Library's holding of US documents download the PDF from http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/offpubs/guides/usgov/unitedstates.pdf. ) - and it is available in many libraries in the USA. However the costs of talking a train to London have just gone up again - and flying to Washington DC - is a little expensive (however much I would love to do that on a more frequent basis!)
A very special New Year greeting from Washminster.
Due to various computing problems and other demands on my time - 2013 saw the absence of this blog for long periods of time. The last included five week lack of access to the internet from my office at home - so no C-SPAN; streaming BBC Parliament & the downloading of CRS & House of Commons Library Research papers - :(
But the good news that we have a new internet provider (BT), and an exciting year ahead - next week I am giving the first of what I hope will be a series of academic papers on the 94th Congress; there will be mid-term elections for the US Congress; European Parliament elections; and the run-up to the much awaited General Election in 2015.
After eight years as a blog (do use the search box - or look at the archive), I'm planning a new look for Washminster. The original idea of daily posts may well disappear - but I hope to incorporate shorter pieces with audio pieces and videos. For my law students I will be giving new insights into the working of English law - and comparing with different legal solutions in use in other jurisdictions.
For followers of British; American and French politics - I'll be analysing and commenting upon developments. I'm planning an ambitious survey of key districts for the congressional elections in November. I'll also be putting a greater emphasis on history. This won't just be about Washington DC and Westminster, but the events which led to - and provide lessons - for contemporary politics.
French politics will also be covered - and my French language skills have been improving thanks to both an excellent conversation class in Milton Keynes - and a full set of Rosetta Stone courses (and other material).
I hope that you will enjoy the goodies to come from Washminster - and have a happy and prosperous New Year.
An experienced lecturer, tutor & researcher with practical experience of working in the UK and European Parliaments.
I have a keen academic and practical interest in the workings of both the UK Parliament and the US Congress.
Over the years I have broadcast on both UK & US Politics for BBC local radio stations.