When I first became interested in the British Parliament, it wasn't easy to follow proceedings. Yes, there was better coverage in the serious newspapers - but it consisted of written excerpts from the previous days speeches. Hansard was available for a modest price - but not living close to an H.M.S.O office meant they were hard to come by; and Today in Parliament meant both staying up VERY late, to listen to what was in effect the equivalent of the reading of a newspaper report. Apart from Hansard, the reports left control of what was covered in the hands of editors.
Worst of all - access to materials which explained what was happening; and why things were done a certain way - was not easy.
Thankfully that has changed.
Live and recorded video of proceedings are available at Parliament Live. This covers not just the chambers, but committees (which in my view are much more interesting). The BBC also has a number of live feeds on BBC Democracy Live.
There are many sources of information to better understand what is happening. The Parliamentary website is worth exploring. Not only does it give background information on how parliament works, but you can learn more about the MPs and Peers that you are watching, the committees, AND get up on screen the documents that are being used (Commons):(Lords).
The best introduction to Parliament at the moment is, in my view - "How Parliament Works"
It is also available in 'Kindle' format. (you can use the search box for Kindle on the left hand side of the blog. Commission received from Amazon helps me to keep these blogs going).
For a while this blog has been "resting" - but today marks its relaunch.
The new "Washminster" has the same purpose - to inform and entertain about the workings of democracy - particularly in the British Parliament and US Congress. But whether you are a long subscriber to this blog - or have flicked through the 2226 posts from 2007 to 2015, you'll know that this blog goes much further than those two legislatures.
If you are new to the blog, may I take this opportunity to introduce myself - and my plans for "Washminster".
My interest in politics began when I was very young. My family was never heavily involved in political activity, my parents particularly so. But they did encourage me to take an interest in the world - and both believed passionately in the value of education and the joy of learning. We happened to be on holiday in London the week that the 1970 General Election was called. On the day Parliament was dissolved - we were at the gates of the Palace of Westminster - watching the famous (and less famous) politicians drive (or being driven) out of the Palace to set off on the campaign trail. My father got his first parking ticket that day. We were parked in the street that is now blocked off, but runs between Portcullis House and St Stephen's Pub and the back of 1 Parliament Street. Also there was Cannon Row police station (now Derby Gate entrance to the Parliamentary estate). We stayed too long watching the politicians (including the then little known, Margaret Thatcher) - and earned our ticket. Sitting ducks!!
My father took me to election meetings during that campaign - held by both parties. I met and got the autographs of some of the leading politicians of the day. Only George Brown refused - and a few days later he lost his seat!
It was 1974 that sent my growing interest into overdrive - two elections; and an exciting political year that saw the "three day week"; a minority government; and a second election which gave only the barest of majorities to the Labour Government. By the end of the year I was well and truly hooked.
During my adult life I have been an academic - teaching both Law (my two specialities being UK Constitutional Law and EU Law) and politics. I've researched the workings of Congress and Parliament - and am currently the Vice-Chair of the UK's "American Politics Group".
But theory and academic observation were never enough for me. I ran twice for the House of Commons; once for the European Parliament. I've worked for Members of Parliament and peers in the House of Lords, and for an MEP (Member of the European Parliament). I've been involved in numerous election campaigns - and "just happened to be" in Washington during the election campaigns of 2004, 2008 and 2012. (my 'eye-witness accounts' can be found on this blog).
Life is less hectic now - but I maintain my interest. I'm a newsaholic - often starting the day with R4's news briefing at 05h30 - and subscribing to the Guardian; Le Monde; the Washington Post and the New York Times. When I'm not reading those I also catch up on other sources of news ranging from the Hill; Politico & RollCall (USA); to Today in Parliament and news from France. I still go down to Westminster - and am looking forward to being in Washington when the race for the presidency is down to just two major candidates.
So what will I be writing about in Washminster? Certainly I'll be commenting upon and explaining some of the practices at Westminster, on Capitol Hill, in the French Parlement and the European Parliament. I love to dig up - and share - obscure facts, or amusing anecdotes. I have loved taking tours around the Palace of Westminster (and the Capitol Building - to give an alternative to the narrative normally given by guides, who delight in telling their version of the burning of the Capitol by the British) - and intend to provide some background about these great buildings and institutions.
I'm happy to respond to questions - or suggestions - so do let me have them. Drop me an email to email@example.com - and return soon, for I will be posting again this week.
Since it began in March 2007, the blog has given a close up view of two US presidential campaigns; changes of Prime Ministers in the UK - and described, explained and commented upon practice, procedure, events - and so much more. There have been videos - and the blog has advised students on learning and revision.
It has been silent of late - but is due to return shortly.
Mark the date of Monday 25th April in your diary. On that date I will be setting out the plans - and the purposes for the revived Washminster.
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.