Britain should be proud of its constitutional history, and its Parliament which has developed over the centuries. Yet we make limited efforts to enable citizens to understand how our political system - and Parliament itself - actually works.
In many countries school pupils are required to learn about the institutions and practices of all levels of government. Here, it can rely on an enthusiastic teacher - or on citizen's finding out for themselves. I acknowledge the fantastic work that is done by some teachers, by organisations promoting greater knowledge - such as the Hansard Society and by Parliament itself. But the fact is, it is not easy for citizens to get the full picture of how our democracy operates - and how we can play our part.
If we are to empower citizens - we need to make access to information about our system more readily available. Who do they go to if they have a problem - or want to have their opinion heard? How can they make sense of the procedures which seem so strange?
Since Washminster Blog began in 2007, I have sought on the blog to explain the workings of Westminster (and other systems) to students and interested citizens. In the months ahead I will be posting about all areas of the British system of Government - from Parish Councils to the influence of international bodies. I will be linking to websites and other resources that explain how things work - and how citizens can use the power they have. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments - please post a comment. (The link is at the end of every post - where it states how many comments have been made).
This is a good week to watch Parliament in action. Many MPs are already at Westminster, and tomorrow (Tuesday 13th June), the Speaker of the new Parliament will be elected - do see the link in yesterday's post to the FAQs about the Election of a Speaker.
The Parliamentary Website is a fantastic resource. It has background information - as well as the tools to follow what will be happening. You can read details of forthcoming business at http://calendar.parliament.uk. The Business papers for each House are also available - so when a Member rises to "ask the question standing in my name on the order paper" or says "Question four, Mr Speaker"- you can read what the question is.
Please do subscribe to Washminster - and share with your friends.