Saturday 31 May 2008
Friday 30 May 2008
Thursday 29 May 2008
Tuesday 27 May 2008
Monday 26 May 2008
Saturday 24 May 2008
The Crewe and Nantwich by-election turned out to be the upset for the Government which was predicted. While the focus this coming week will be away from the legislatures - politics will continue to be lively.
Thursday 22 May 2008
But the psychological impact of defeat could be heavy, with Brown already on the back foot after a rout in local elections three weeks ago and a backbench revolt over the abolition of the 10p starting rate of tax."
Tamsin Dunwoody is the Labour candidate - and daughter of Gwyneth. Her website can be found at http://www.creweandnantwichlabour.org.uk/home
Wednesday 21 May 2008
"The post of Prime Minister's Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests was created in March 2006, and extended by the incoming Prime Minister in July 2007. Part of the new Independent Adviser's role is to investigate allegations that the Ministerial Code has been breached. We and our predecessor Committees have been calling for an investigator into alleged ministerial misconduct for some time. It does not seem fair that the media can claim to take the place of due process when ministers are accused of misconduct. It also seems disproportionate that the only effective sanction for non-compliance with the Code (however minor) is dismissal.
This Report considers the suitability of the new mechanism for investigating alleged breaches of the Code. We welcome the creation of an investigatory capacity as an important step. However, we have identified limitations on the Independent Adviser's powers which cast doubt over the effective ability of any holder of the post to secure public confidence. In particular, the Independent Adviser should be free to instigate investigations. As it is, he is dependent on being invited to do so by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should also undertake that findings of investigations into the conduct of ministers will routinely be published.
Constitutional watchdogs such as this new investigator need to be demonstrably independent of those they regulate—in this case, ministers, including the Prime Minister. The post of Independent Adviser meets none of the criteria we associate with independence. The holder of the post, Sir Philip Mawer, has been appointed by the Prime Minister on a non-specific term of office which can be terminated by the Prime Minister at any time and on any grounds. He has no staff of his own, no office and no budget, but relies on the Cabinet Office for all these things. There has been no open advertisement process and no parliamentary involvement in the appointment. Until these defects are remedied, we have difficulty accepting the suggestion that the new investigator can meaningfully be considered to be independent."
The full report is available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmpubadm/381/381.pdf
Tuesday 20 May 2008
"H.Res. __ - Commemoration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson on the occasion his
birthday centennial (Rep. Sheila Jackson–Lee – Judiciary)"
On August 27th this year, it will be 100 years since LBJ was born. His presidency was overshadowed, if not destroyed, by the Vietnam War. He will always be remembered as the Vice President who succeeded to office on the assassination of JFK. Yet he was a fascinating individual in his own right. The three volume (unfinished...) series of biographies by Robert A Caro are well worth a read (even if it takes a summer - as it did for me). He dominated Congress - serving in both Houses. As whip then Majority Leader of the Senate he was a master of parliamentary strategy. I hope his centenary will not be forgotten - and Washminster will explore this intriguing character and his life.
Monday 19 May 2008
House of Representatives: http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/16%20WeeklyLeader05_19_08_051608_172602.pdf
Westminster:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmwib/wb080517/17.05.2008.pdf[House of Commons p13-16][House of Lords p17-19]
Sunday 18 May 2008
Friday 16 May 2008
Thursday 15 May 2008
Wednesday 14 May 2008
Tuesday 13 May 2008
The Web address is http://www.cookpolitical.com/
You will find the following particularly useful
- House Summary: http://www.cookpolitical.com/races/house/summary.php
- Senate Ratings: http://www.cookpolitical.com/races/senate/ratings.php
- Presidential - Current Electoral College Outlook: http://www.cookpolitical.com/races/presidential/current.php
In the UK take a look at
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/polls
Monday 12 May 2008
Sunday 11 May 2008
In Congress and Parliament
House of Representatives:
Westminster:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmwib/wb080503/03.05.2008.pdf[House of Commons p11-14][House of Lords p15-18]
Saturday 10 May 2008
The Congress is served by its library. Known around the world for its massive collection - it has 138,313,427 items in the collections (which include not just books but manuscripts and audio recordings) - it was established in 1800 as a reference collection for the legislative branch containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress". The original collection was destroyed by the British when they burned the Capitol in 1814.
Thomas Jefferson offered his own collection of books for the reestablishment of the Library. Today the main building is named after him. At its centre is the reading room - which is magnificant. I had the privilege this week of going into the room whilst researching for a paper which I have been writing (and which is the reason Washminster has failed to appear for a couple of days - as I worked against the deadline for submission!). If you are in Washington the building is a must see.
The Library of Congress also contains the Congressional Research Service. I have the very highest regard for the quality and volume of material produced by CRS. There has been a long running debate in Congress about whether major publications should be available to the public - as they are from the House of Commons Library. The issue remains unresolved. However a website has been set up by campaigners, and many reports are available there. I find it an invaluable resource. The address is http://www.opencrs.com/
Wednesday 7 May 2008
7:27 Mr. Walsh (NY) moved that the House do now adjourn.
7:20 Mrs. Emerson moved to reconsider the vote.
7:12 Announcement: motion to table the motion to reconsider the vote Agreed to by recorded vote: 226 - 186 (Roll no. 288).
7:01 Mr. Hastings (FL) moved to table the motion to reconsider the vote
7:01 Mr. Simpson moved to reconsider the vote.
7:01 Announcement: motion to adjourn Failed by recorded vote: 143 - 272 (Roll no. 286).
6:33 Mr. Kingston moved that the House do now adjourn.
5:48 Mr. Price (GA) moved that the House do now adjourn.
Tuesday 6 May 2008
In Indiana polls open at 6am - and the last ones close at 7pm (Eastern Time). The latest opinion polls show the race could be very tight. North Carolina votes from 6.30am to 7.30pm. This race is much more likely to be won by Obama - but the margin will count. If Hillary can narrow the margin from the double-figures that Obama was getting in the polls, she may be able to claim "victory"
A key issue dividing the two candidates is whether, in face of rises in the cost of transport fuel, there should a temporary break from the federal "gas tax". Clinton has argued for such a tax holiday, but Obama disagrees. As a European the debate over prices is somewhat bemusing, as compared to prices back home, the US still have amazingly low prices for its fuel - but it's a hot issue over here.
There's lots of coverage across all forms of media. My favourite sites for following developments are
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Local news can be found at: http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage (IN)
Monday 5 May 2008
The Supreme Court stands just across the road from the Capitol Building (Between 1st Street NE; East Capitol Street; and Maryland Avenue). It was only established there in the twentieth century - previously the court met inside the Capitol Building itself.
Under the doctrine of 'Separation of Power', the one person cannot be in more than one of the three branches of government (legislative; executive; judiciary). The strict application of the doctrine requires separate personnel, but the branches must work together for government to function. The President nominates justices; the Senate confirms - but once appointed, members of the Supreme Court cannot be removed, save by the extraordinary process of impeachment.
There is a Chief Justice (John Roberts), who sits with eight Associate Justices. They are appointed for life, but may retire or resign (or be impeached!).
Sometimes the Supreme Court is referred to as SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States). Since the leading case of Marbury v. Madison, the Court has been able to strike down all acts of the other branches where these are judged to be unconstitutional - including legislation.
By contrast the Supreme Court in the UK, which will open in the Middlesex Guildhall next year (also across the street from the legislature (Parliament)), will not be able to strike down legislation.
Sunday 4 May 2008
[APOLOGIES FOR SOUND QUALITY - I'm working on solving the problem for future videos]
It's impossible to understand the USA - including the current political culture - without recognising the importance of the Civil War which both split the nation during 1861 and 1865; and built the country we now know. You'll find a very interesting article on the signifance of the war at http://www.lewrockwell.com/woods/woods31.html.
As one recent writer put it - "The Civil War has never receded into the remote past in American life. The most momentous conflict in American history, it had a revolutionary social and political impact that continues to be felt today. The political firestorms of the 1980s and 1990s over the appropriateness of the Confederate battle flag flying over statehouses in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, for instance, demonstrate how deeply meaningful Civil War symbols remain in American politics, especially racial politics. "
Useful resources on the civil war include
Saturday 3 May 2008
Westminster:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmwib/wb080503/03.05.2008.pdf[House of Commons p11-14][House of Lords p15-18]
Friday 2 May 2008
Gordon Brown is reported to have admitted that the results have been 'bad' and disappointing'. But what is the real significance?
National feelings do influence local election results - much more so than in a larger, and federal, country like the United States. Some excellent councillors were blown away - not because voters disapproved of their work, but as I heard so many times on the doorstep - "it's nothing personal - but I want to make it clear to Gordon Brown that I'm not happy..."
Is the result terminal? No - just look at election results in the 1980s and early 1990s for the Tories - they were decimated in local elections - only to come back and win at a General Election.
The significance of the elections are that they show voters are unhappy at the moment - how Gordon Brown and the Labour Party respond is the question to ask.
Thursday 1 May 2008
Polls opened at 0700 BST and close at 2200 BST. There has been a mix of sunshine and showers in most areas. Results are expected overnight for more than 100 councils, but voters in Wales, some parts of England and in London must wait until later on Friday."
Once the results have come in, I'll write something on the blog [and it helps being five hours behind - results that appear in the middle of the night in the UK, come out at a more decent hour in Washington DC.
As well as conducting research on whips in Congress, the reason for my visit, I have done some relaxing reading. I picked up from the Senate giftshop a copy of Anthony S Pitch's "The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814." - an interesting read, but I was a little surprised at his comment in the preface "Perhaps the story is not well known because it is a painful reminder of a humiliating episode." - it should be well known, every time I have toured the Capitol I am reminded by guides how the wicked British burned down Congress on 24th August 1814!
May promises to be an interesting month. Today voters are going to the polls in England and Wales. Ken Livingstone faces the first credible challenge as Mayor of London - and the polls suggest there may be a major upset. Boris Johnson, MP for Henley (in Oxfordshire); former Editor of the Spectator; and a frequent guest and host of "Have I Got News For You" [http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/haveigotnewsforyou/] - is tipped by some to win - an outcome regarded as unthinkable just a few months ago.
Voting also takes place for some district councils across England and local (as opposed to National Assembly)elections are being held in Wales.
I have a particular interest in elections in Rugby [http://www.rugby.gov.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?categoryID=524&documentID=1049] where I live. As a prospective candidate in the East Midlands, I'll be watching the results in Derby City [http://www.derby.gov.uk/CouncilGovernmentDemocracy/Elections/Notice+of+Election.htm], Amber Valley [http://www.ambervalley.gov.uk/services/governmentpoliticsandpublicadministration/democracyandelections/], Bassetlaw [http://www.bassetlaw.gov.uk/], Lincoln City [http://www.lincoln.gov.uk/menu_map_level_3.asp?sec_id=4160], and Daventry [http://www.daventrydc.gov.uk/news/daventry-district-prepares-for-the-polls/].
The UK, despite some devolution, remains a centralised state - and many voters will cast their ballots, not on local issues, but to reflect their current attitudes toward the national government.
What message will the voters send to Gordon Brown? - and what will the repercussions be?
In the United States the closely fought battle for the Democratic Party nomination continues. The next primaries will be held on Tuesday in Indiana and North Carolina.
The next few days will be interested (if not uncomfortable for some!).
Welcome back to Washminster - and follow the events as they unfold.