Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Citizenship - and the loss of Rights

Today many European Citizens - {that includes citizens of ALL current EU member states - including, for the next few days, citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland} will be sending a letter to key players within the institutions of the European Union. I am one of them - and the email I sent is reproduced below.


Dear EU colleagues and friends,

We write to you at our lowest point since the referendum of 2016. After over  three years of fighting to remain we unfortunately now know that we will be entering the transition period on 31st January 2020.
To be clear, this is not the will of the people. Indeed more votes were cast in favour of remain parties in the recent general election than were for the conservatives, especially so by our younger age groups of voters.
Only our voting system enabled a Johnson majority; this is something that we must work towards changing.
We do not want to leave the EU and we will continue to mount a sustained resistance to this for as long as it takes. Further, we will look to rejoin the EU at the earliest opportunity.
Having made those points, we write to you today to seek your patience, understanding and your guidance on the following points.
Please consider each in isolation, we are not asking for an either/or.
1) EU citizenship
Group members have asked if it would be possible to individually subscribe to an EU membership. Paying an annual fee much in the same way that the UK does now but with the individuals actually paying rather than the UK government paying. This subscription would be for ongoing freedom of movement and things like medical support etc.
We can see legally there may be some difficulties to overcome with this approach but we wanted to stimulate some thought and debate on this within the EU. Would the 27 be open to exploring this idea and possible scenarios with us?
2) EU Residency - does already exist but with time restrictions for the member country
We wanted to ask that for those UK nationals already working or living in the 27 countries that EU residency should be automatically applied to them in their country of residence on 1st February 2020. They are the people most immediately affected by the withdrawal and their loss would also impact negatively on many of the economies of our 27 EU friends were they to be forced to leave.
This second point does not unfortunately help those UK citizens in the UK that voted to remain but it will give certainty and relief to those genuinely at risk in the other 27 countries and remove the time restriction for applying for permanent residency for those already living in the 27 member states.
The application to UK nationals of the EU residency in such a dramatic and humanitarian way would also help apply pressure directly onto the Johnson government to reciprocate for EU citizens living in the UK.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill does NOT allow for this and the amendment that would have provided for it was defeated this very week in the House of Commons.
The Johnson government demonstrated their worst qualities during that vote and during the vote on unaccompanied child migrants.
We believe that the EU 27 granting a general residency as desribed would also very much help to refocus on the EU citizens residency topic within the UK itself.
Safeguarding the EU citizens’ rights in the UK is also of paramount importance to us, we are without doubt in this together and we will remain so.
We believe the UK government would find it difficult to ignore or argue against such a proposal if a unilateral gesture had been already made by the remaining 27.
Our groups would lobby strongly for this to be applied to EU citizens also.
This email comes from our fledgling BRB EU Group and from the 48% Group and others.
We ask that you read it, consider our requests in a positive way and provide us with constructive feedback on how to work with you to enable progress.
To enable a clear line of communication we respectfully request that when you reply to the please also copy to following group admin email address.
Kind regards and thanks


Similar letters are being sent to -

I would encourage you, if you feel the same way, to send a similar email. Normally individuals are only stripped of their citizenship for a serious crime. At the end of this month there will be an unprecedented "bonfire of rights" - it will take away citizenship of the EU from British citizens - and diminish the rights of those who have chosen to come to Britain and settle here. 

For more on the rights of European Citizenship see - Rights of EU Citizens

Monday, 13 January 2020

US Elections and Europe

Europeans have long been interested in US Elections, particularly the ones for the Presidency. I've been following them intensively since 1972 - and was involved in every one from 2004 to 2016. Many of the posts related to those campaigns (and my experiences and insights) can still be found on this blog.

I have no plans to travel to the US for this election - but others do. I am happy to share their experiences with you on Washminster.

Today I am profiling Marianne-Ségolène Gindrey, a young woman with a passion for politics - both in her native France and particularly in the US. I know of her through "twitter" (@MSGindrey). She was born in Bali and currently lives in Arras France, though travels widely. She is a journalist and political activist - as she explains in a post (French original, rough translation follows) - "Je suis journaliste , femme politique , chanteuse , auteure. Amie avec Ségolène Royal , et représentante francophone d’Hillary Clinton, je suis journaliste pour SFnewsfeed.us. 

J’ai dirigée une grande association dans ma vie et j’ai été bénévole pour un président africain. Je soutien Joe Biden pour 2020. Et je vais être coordinatrice fédérale en Californie pour mon ami candidat au poste de gouverneur.

J’arrête de fumer dès ce soir et travaillerai pour une clinique à Harlem à New York pour fin 2021. Clinique spécialisée dans l’addiction. 

J’ai écrit des livres, dans ma vie, j’ai chanté des tubes et j’ai adressé en 2012 un courrier à Nelson Mandela."

I am a journalist, politician, singer, author. Friends with Ségolène Royal, and French-speaking representative of Hillary Clinton, (le comité Onward Together France) I am a journalist for SFnewsfeed.us.

I have led a large association in my life and I have volunteered for an African president. I'm supporting Joe Biden for 2020. And I'm going to be the federal coordinator in California for my friend who is running for governor.

I'm quitting smoking tonight and will be working for an addiction clinic in Harlem, New York by the end of 2021.

I have written books in my life, I sang hits and in 2012 I wrote to Nelson Mandela.

[Ségolêne Royale is a French politician, former Parti-Socialiste candidate for the French presidency, a former member of the Assemblée nationale, Minister, President of the  and leading light within the PS. She was in the same class at the prestigious ENA [École nationale d'administration] as her former partner of 30 years, François Hollande (French President 2012-17), as well as Dominique de Villepin (prime minister (2005-07) under Jacques Chirac).  This week she launched back into political activity ahead of this years French local elections.]

Marianne explained her support for Joe Biden - "Je soutien Biden car il a le plus d’expérience parmi tous les candidats. Ensuite il me rappelle l’ère d’Obama, et il est le plus fort contre Trump;

Je n’aime pas Bernie Sanders et donc j’opte pour un candidat qui a de meilleures idées. 

Biden est courageux car comme moi il a perdu sa femme et un bébé dans sa vie. Je le comprend."

"I support Biden because he has the most experience of all the candidates. Then he reminds me of the Obama era, and he's the strongest against Trump;

I don't like Bernie Sanders and so I opt for a candidate who has better ideas.

Biden is courageous because like me he lost his wife and a baby in his life. I understand it."

I very much hope that Marianne will continue to share with us her thoughts and observations as the election. Do send me any questions you would like me to put to her about her work and the US elections.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Explaining Parliamentary Procedure

I have been a member of, and a big fan of, the Hansard Society for many years. Under Dr Ruth Fox (who became a star of BBC Parliament with her joint coverage with Mark D'Arcy of the various Brexit votes over recent months), it has gone from strength to strength - producing some superb literature and promoting understanding of the Westminster system across the country and across the generations. If you don't yet subscribe - you can do so at https://www.hansardsociety.org.uk.

Each year the Society (named after, but not part of Hansard, the official report of proceedings in Parliament) produces an Audit of Political Engagement. It's always a fascinating report - and the latest edition is available here.

Their website includes a number of very useful procedural guides which can be accessed here. They have just produced a guide to the actions at the start of the 58th Parliament of the United Kingdom, which can be accessed from the home page of the Society.

For anyone interested in the workings of Parliament - this is a really useful society and website.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Troy - The Exhibition in "New Troy"

There is an old British myth, repeated (or invented) by Geoffrey Of Monmouth for his book "History of the Kings of Britain" that London was founded by Brutus (the grandson of Aeneas - who escaped from Troy, and founded Rome) and was first called "Troy Novant" (New Troy). [While archaeological evidence suggests that London was first built as a "new city" by the Romans, it was close to the area inhabited by the Trinovantes tribe]

Earlier this week I made my first trip to London since before the election was called, to finally visit the exhibition currently on at the British Museum. It was well worth visiting - and if you can make it to the British Museum before it closes on 8th March - I would thoroughly encourage you to go. It tells the stories of the "myths", the archaeology and the impact of the story in later literature and art. I intend to make at least another visit before it closes. For further information and to book tickets click here.

There are a number of excellent books on sale in the shop attached to the exhibition hall. One that caught my eye was  "Enraged" by Emily Katz Anhalt. It seeks to argue 'Why violent times need Ancient Greek myths'. It was published in 2017 - and makes some very modern points - "History shows that the transition from tribalism to civil society and the maintenance of civil society both require individuals to restrain their own rage and to stop admiring rage in others. Ancient Greek myths encourage us to reject the primitive, tribal view of rage as a marker of the correctness of our cause."...."From the eighth through the fifth century BCE, Greek myths accompanied and promoted the Greeks' historically unprecedented movement away from autocracy toward broader forms of political participation"..."Performed publicly as epic songs or tragic plays, ancient Greek myths exposed tyranny and violence as universal toxins capable of destroying perpetrator and victim alike."..."Ancient Greek myths emphasise the self-destructiveness of rage and undermine the traditional equation of vengeance with justice" (these are just a few comments now underlined in pencil in my own copy of the book). Anhalt chapters explain and apply the Iliad books 6, 9, 10-24 Sophocles' 'Ajax', and Euripides' 'Hecuba'. I'm finding the book to be useful in developing my own thinking. The book is published by Yale University Press.

Do let me (and 'Washminster Blog') what you think of the book.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The Return of Parliament(s)

Parliament is due to return from its Christmas break today. Even in wartime, I'm not aware of any period during which Parliament has sat so infrequently over a six month period - with a long summer break, an illegal prorogation, a further break to end one session to start another, a general election...

But is is back - and the Brexit Bill - [European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill] - is being rushed through - it will have finished its stages in the House of Commons by Thursday evening. Not an encouraging start if one cares about scrutiny. The other bad news is that there is no rush to set up the Departmental Select Committees.

Washminster will be following the work of Parliament - and where it might be helpful, explaining what is going on. My aim is to enable as many people as possible to be aware of what Parliament does, and how it works. Sometimes this will be in my own words - but I will also provide links to information and guides.

The most useful website is www.parliament.uk - all you could ever want to know is probably to be found on this site.

These are my favourite shortcuts

What's on in Parliamenthttps://calendar.parliament.uk (Allows you to look ahead - I often use the weekly calendar for highlighting interesting forthcoming business on my Platform:MK programme on Secklow 105.5FM.)

Bills before Parliamenthttps://services.parliament.uk/bills/ (This gives you all the tools to read and follow the progress of current bills - as they seek to progress towards becoming Acts of Parliament)

Committeeshttps://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/ (This gives details of membership, inquiries, hearings and reports of the various committees)

House of Commons business Papershttps://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/business-papers/commons/ (The Order Paper is available by clicking on "Summary Agenda and Order of Business)

Live and Recorded Video of Parliamentary Proceedingshttps://parliamentlive.tv/

Research Papershttps://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/ (I find Research Briefings useful on specific issues - and click on the highlighted link for briefings about business coming up in the Commons and Lords

Other Legislatures also return today - The Second Session of the 116th Congress is due to begin. For more detail see the website of the House Majority Leader and France's Assemblée national also meets - http://www2.assemblee-nationale.fr/agendas/les-agendas/2020-01-07.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

My Personal News Sources

I use a number of news websites (or subscriptions) to keep up to date with the news. These are my personal favourites.

Le Monde - France (Newspaper, French)
France 24 - France (24 hr news, available in a number of languages)
RFI - France (Radio, French - website in 16 languages)
Washington Post - USA (Newspaper, English)
The Guardian - UK (Newspaper, English)
Politico (European)
China Daily- China (Newspaper, English)
CGTN - China (News Channel, English, French, Chinese, Russian & Spanish)

For coverage of US Politics

The Hill

Sadly, I've not been able to include the BBC. I still have a great affection for the Corporation - but in recent years it has succumbed to political pressure - the Government sets the Licence Fee, and Conservatives have used that power to intimidate the BBC - and as a result the BBC has lost his reputation for fairness and balance. In the Last General Election it was little more than a mouthpiece for the (ruling) Conservative Party - and I was distressed by the way it decided to run some stories and ignore others (which were widely reported elsewhere). The BBC still produces some great non-News programmes (and one should never forget the value of BBC local radio) - but again it is not as good as it used to be. I find now that I watch more BBC produced programmes on PBS America - than I do current output.

Friday, 3 January 2020


Nearly half a century ago we started "classical studies" as I began secondary school. It was a prelude to a (not very successful) attempt to teach us Latin. I enjoyed some of the stories, but gave them little thought during the following decades.

My interest in Greek history and mythology was sparked again when we decided to take a holiday in Crete. Since that decision two years ago - I've been getting deeper and deeper into the subject. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading (and listening to) Stephen Fry's books "Mythos" and "Heroes" - and spent a lot of time in the British Museum in the Greek galleries.

Ahead of the current exhibition at the British Museum - "Troy: Myth and Reality" I bought the book written for the exhibition - well worth a read, and I have found it fascinating. I had intended to visit the exhibition soon after it opened in November - but the General Election, in which I stood as a candidate - put an end to that hope. I am intending to go to the British Museum very shortly. Over the recent holidays I've been reading the book and other background material. I'm hooked - I've even started on (an English translation) of Homer's "Iliad"

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

2020 has arrived - and Washminster has returned!

It takes a long time for a New Year to arrive - It first arrived in Samoa & Christmas Island at 10h00 GMT - Tuesday 31st December. New Zealand saw the New Year in at 11h00. China saw 2020 in at 16h00, and a large part of the European Union at 23h00.

London - which includes Greenwich - where the "Prime Meridian" runs through, welcomed the New Year in, five minutes before this was posted.

However it still has a long journey to go. It will reach the USA at 05h00 but the final welcoming of 2020 will be in parts of the US Minor outlying Islands at Noon on Wednesday (GMT).

Wherever you are reading this - and whether the New Year arrived many hours ago - or is still some time off, may I wish you a Happy New Year.

Washminster is back!

At first the posts may be separated by a few days - as I get back into the rhythm. It's been a long time since I was blogging on a regular basis. You can still look back at some of the earlier posts. The first was made on Wednesday 7th March 2007, and began as an exercise to get me writing on a regular basis, ahead of starting to study for a Ph.D. at the University of Hull. I was working at Westminster at the time , and was able to witness some of the key events of that decade. On the 27th June 2007 I posted a number of times from the Palace of Westminster - as Tony Blair stepped down and power passed to Gordon Brown.

I've posted about the various US Presidential Elections - and reported from Washington at the height of each one.

(Warning - this is me! But I'm pictured with a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton - taken in a Democrat campaign office in Fairfax County, Virginia)

Many of my posts were written with my students in mind. But time moves on - and some of the law may no longer be applicable. Certainly the British Constitution has seen many changes in recent months.

So what will the new Washminster look like? It will of course continue to bring news and insights about the British Parliament and the US Congress - but won't stop there. While I continue to follow both - I am also interested in what is happening elsewhere - do expect to read more about the French Parliament; the European Parliament; and politics across Europe (especially France, Greece and The EU), the United States and China.

Much of my time will be spent exploring History - so expect lots of posts about areas that I will have been researching. These will include the ancient history of the very modern city that I live in (Milton Keynes); British History from the re-population of Britain after the last Ice Age to the death on the Battlefield of Bosworth of Richard III; Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome - and China (plus anything else that attracts my interest). I'm looking forward to going to the Troy exhibition at the British Museum - I had intended to go a lot earlier - but was otherwise engaged as a candidate in the Parliamentary constituency of Buckingham. The British Museum is a great place to visit - and is now one of the most places that I visit most frequently in London.

As the year progresses, I also hope to visit a number of interesting places around the UK (and beyond?) - Ill be posting about those too.

Do subscribe to this blog - and send me your comments. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to invite some guests to post for a one-off or even a regular basis.

Just keeping watching this space.