Friday, 28 November 2008

A Short Break

The UK Parliament was prorogued on Wednesday evening (and I was in the public gallery to watch this bizarre and interesting ceremony). You can watch too at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/VideoPlayer.aspx?meetingId=2827&st=20:18:24

Washminster will return on Wednesday 3rd December - when the new session of Parliament will be opened.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

A Temporary Vacancy

Representative Tom Davis announced that he would not contest the 11th District of Virginia in this month's elections. As a result, the Northern Virginia seat which he represented for almost 14 years, became an open seat, which was won by Gerry Connolly for the Democrats.

Last Friday he announced that he would leave Congress immediately, in order to start his new career at Deloitte Consulting in their federal government services division. Representative-Elect Connolly will not take his seat until the 11th Congress begins at noon on January 3rd. In the meantime the Clerk of the House will manage Davis’ former office .

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

How many judges?

Marcel Berlins wrote an interesting piece in yesterday's Guardian ('Writ Large' - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/24/lawlords-uk-supreme-court-chagos) which will be of interest to Law students and those interested in comparative legal institutions.

He points out that the US Supreme Court delivers decisions which usually involve all nine justices - wheras in the UK panels consisting of five out of the 12 Law Lords are the norm. He points out that this can lead to a lottery, the result depending upon whether one or another Lord Lord is part of the panel hearing a specific case. The argument he advances in his piece is worth considering.
Comments about the appropriate size of the top court in a country would be welcomed on this blog.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Virginia House of Delegates

The oldest legislature in the new world is considered to be the Virginia House of Delegates. It can be traced back to 1619 when the Virginia House of Burgesses first met in Jamestown. Chairman of the Minority Caucus, Brian Moran, explained the role of the House

Further details of the House and the Senate - which together make up the Virginia General Assembly - can be found at http://legis.state.va.us/

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Pre Budget Report

Once a year the Chancellor of the Exchequer presents his budget. This is normally done in March. In the United Kingdom the tax year runs from 6th April to the 5th April the following year. The Budget speech is delivered in the chamber of the House of Commons - and usually follows the structure of

1 a review of how the UK economy is performing
2 forecasts of how the UK economy will perform in the future
3 details of any changes to taxation.

During the latter part of the twentieth century, as governments struggled to control the economy, many years saw an additional "mini-budget". In 1997 the Labour Government began the practice of having an annual "pre-Budget Report". This allows the Chancellor to update the Commons on the performance and forecasts for the economy, as well as giving an opportunity to make mid year changes to taxation and to signal future changes.

Today Alistair Darling will give his Pre-Budget Report - which most commentators believe will be the most significant in a long time. Various tax changes are rumoured as a response to the current crisis. The speech can be viewed live at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Live.aspx. BBC News 24 will be providing a live feed plus commentary afterwards at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7459669.stm. The speech is due to begin soon after 3.30pm GMT.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Transition

It is still 58 days until Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. Since 4th November details of the administration and its likely policies have been emerging. One of the best sources of information is the official website http://www.change.gov/. This includes details of the presidential agenda as well as news updates. [It is also the site for applying for jobs in the new administration].

There is a major contrast between the British and American changes of government. In the UK a General Election is held between the hours of 7am and 10pm, in recent history - on a Thursday. Once the polls are closed the ballot papers are counted in each constituency and results announced. In most modern elections the "winning party" is known by the early hours of the day following the election. If the result involves a change of Government - the existing Prime Minister will resign that day and the Queen appoint the new PM on that day. The new administration starts work immediately.
In the USA there is a transition period. Originally the new President took office on 4th March - which could be over 4 months after the election, but this was changed by 20th Amendment to 20th January.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Week Ahead

The Lame Duck Session in Congress has ended - but speculation has been rising that a second such session will be called for December.

At Westminster it is expected to be the last week before the 2007-08 Session ends. Prorogation is expected on Thursday. The new session will be opened on December 3rd.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Pre Budget Report on Monday.

The calendar of parliamentary business is available at http://services.parliament.uk/calendar/2008/11/24/week.html

Friday, 21 November 2008

Big Brother is Watching You!

How do you assure that investigatory and surveillance powers are only used for the purposes intended when the powers were granted - and not for other, including trivial, purposes? This issue was addressed at a meeting of the Lord's Constitution Committee this week.

Vernon Coaker (Minister of State for Policing, Crime & Security) both addressed the committee and answered questions.

Other issues raised were the extent of the UK's national DNA database; and the number of people arrested but not charged or convicted, but who are now on the database - who were subsequently linked to serious crimes.

It was agreed by the Minister that the UK had the largest database relative to the size of its population. 5% of UK citizens are on that database - compared to only 0.5% of US citizens on their database.

The meeting can be viewed at -

Thursday, 20 November 2008

How to be effective....

....in the House of Lords. Wearing a suit is not enough (see 19th November). To be really effective, a sense of humour is required. A Peer who uses gentle humour can go a long way to win the support of the House. For example on Oct 16th Lord Adonis deftly answered questions about cycling. It is an issue which can raise tensions - as supporters of cycling are countered by Peers who see cyclists as dangerous threats to public safety.

He was asked by Lordf Krebs - "What does the Minister intend to do about local authorities such as Oxfordshire County Council which are removing cycle lanes and footpaths to make more space for cars and buses? Does the noble Lord agree that this is contrary to government policy, and what does he intend to do about it?"

a politically charged questioned (implicedly criticising the Conservative administration; and a pro-cycling question) . Lord Adonis won the House by beginning his reply

"My Lords, I am at one with HG Wells, who said:
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race”.

Later in the questioning the following exchange took place

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, a lot has been said about cycling but not as much has been said about walking, although all the evidence shows that the amount of walking that people do is declining. I know what keeps me walking: it is my dog. Perhaps the Government should consider encouraging more people to keep dogs.

Lord Adonis: Perhaps or perhaps not, my Lords; there are pros and cons. Of course, it is absolutely vital that people feel safe when they are walking but Her Majesty’s Government have not seen it as a priority to teach people how to walk, so we give more emphasis to policy promoting cycling. If I were to publish a walking strategy document, it might be thought to be the ultimate example of the nanny state.
It's worth watching the House at work - to see how gentle humour is frequently employed. You can do this at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

What to wear....

...when visiting the House of Lords. In a written answer, the Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara) explained -

The dress code in the Prince’s Chamber is the same as in the main catering outlets for Members: men should wear a jacket and tie, and women should be suitably attired. This dress code applies equally to Members, guests, staff and officials. The code is enforced by the Doorkeepers, who rely on the co-operation of Members. I take this opportunity to remind Members that they should adhere to this dress code at all times and ensure that their guests and staff do likewise.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Following Gordon

Over last weekend I was able to follow Gordon Brown and his entourage as they arrived in New York, visited the UN, then moved onto Washington for the G20 summit. This was possible because I had signed up for "10 Downing Street" on twitter. You can do this at http://twitter.com/DowningStreet. I also find it useful to get updates on new documents published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) from http://twitter.com/opencrs

Monday, 17 November 2008


The three main sources of the British constitution are - Statutes; Caselaw and Conventions. The latter have been defined as “certain rules of constitutional behaviour which are considered to be binding by and upon those who operate the Constitution, but which are not enforced by the law courts (although the courts may recognise their existence), nor by the presiding officers in the Houses of Parliament.” [Marshall, G., and Moodie, G.C., Some Problems of the Constitution, 5th edn., London Hutchinson (1971), pp. 17–18.]

Examples include the convention that a Monarch will always sign a bill passed by both Houses of Parliament; and that Ministers will sit in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

A Joint Committee of Both Houses published a report on conventions of the UK Parliament. It is well worth reading - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200506/jtselect/jtconv/265/265.pdf. Of particular use to students will be the evidence given by the academics - Lord Norton of Louth, Professor of Government, Hull University, Professor Anthony Bradley, Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law, University of Edinburgh, and Dr Meg Russell, Senior Research Fellow, Constitution Unit, University College London. This is available on pages 119 onwards at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200506/jtselect/jtconv/265/265ii.pdf

An interesting academic article on the subject can be found at http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FCLJ%2FCLJ64_01%2FS0008197305006823a.pdf&code=3bfe8a864930e9690e528452fc6608c7

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Election Expenditure

The final figures are not yet available - but it is estimated that almost $2 billion (that's a B!) was spent by candidates in the 2008 Presidential election. A blog on the New York Times website recently stated "the debate over how future campaigns will be financed is set to begin in earnest. The outcome promises to have a profound impact on future presidential runs, either upping the fund-raising ante irrevocably or forcing sweeping changes to prevent such large amounts of cash from coursing through campaigns again. But just as it has in this election cycle, it is quite likely that politics, as much as principle, will shape the jockeying."

Campaign Finance reform has had a chequered history in the USA - the main stumbling bloc has been the constitutionally guaranteed Free Speech Rights (First Amendment)

A Congressional Research Service paper on the issue is available at http://italy.usembassy.gov/pdf/other/RL33580.pdf

The Brookings Institute has a webpage on the issue - http://www.brookings.edu/topics/campaign-finance.aspx and a campaign site (one amongst many) can be accessed at http://www.publicampaign.org/

In the UK, the amounts of money are much smaller - but the issue is still of great concern. There are now legal limits on how much individual candidates can spend; and on the national expenditure of parties. A paper prepared by the House of Commons Library can be read at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/notes/snpc-03413.pdf.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Week Ahead

Congress MAY return for a lame duck session this week for consideration of Economic Recovery Legislation. The House of Representatives notice from the Leader of the House is available at http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/26WeeklyLeader11_14_08.pdf?CFID=13924048&CFTOKEN=38577085. The House is due to meet at 1pm (6pm GMT) on Wednesday; and the Senate on Monday.

At Westminster Parliament continues to move towards the conclusion of the session by debating the final stages of a number of bills. On Tuesday the Lords will debate the Constitution Committee's report and follow-up on Relations between the executive, the judiciary and Parliament. Thursday will see a Commons debate on organ donation.

The week's calendar is available at http://services.parliament.uk/calendar/2008/11/17/week.html

Information on the Inauguration Day is available at http://inaugural.senate.gov/

Friday, 14 November 2008

Congress to Campus

Yesterday I attended a meeting at Leicester University which was addressed by two former Congressmen, George Hochbrueckner (NY, 1987-95, Democratic Party) and Dick Schulze (PA, 1975-93, Republican Party). It was a very interesting session - and the congressmen spoke about the work of Congress and the political situation in the US after last week's elections. Students and Staff had an opportunity to put questions - and a lively debate ensued about healthcare.

The "Congress to Campus" programme was by created by the Association of Former Members of Congress. Former members visit universities in pairs - one Democrat and one Republican, to explain and discuss Congress with students. The programme began in the USA, but has been extended overseas. In the United Kingdom the programme has been supported by the British Library.

More details of the programme can be found at http://www.stennis.gov/congress2campus.htm

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The House of Lords and the Intelligence and Security Committee

The House of Lords is due to consider the Third Report from the Procedure Committee, which deals with proposed new arrangements for nominating members of; and debating reports from the Intelligence and Security Committee. Unlike other select committees this one is appointed by, and reports to the Prime Minister.

The main recommendations are -

that in future the Usual Channels should agree on a member or members to nominate, and that the Leader of the House would then seek the approval of the House by tabling a motion in the following terms:

"The Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) to move that this House approves the nomination of Lord/Baroness [name] as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee."

The final appointment would then formally be made by the Prime Minister, in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, in accordance with the Intelligence Services Act 1994.


that there should in future be a presumption that ISC reports will be debated, subject to a decision of the Usual Channels in each case; and that the presumption should be that annual reports should be debated in Grand Committee and that special reports should be debated either in Grand Committee or in the Chamber.

The Royal Prerogative

Actions by the Executive (Ministers) derive their authority from either Parliament - [Statute or delegated legislation] or from the Royal Prerogative. Dicey once described the latter as "the remaining portion of the Crown's original authority, and is therefore...the name for the residue of discretionary power left at any moment in the hands of the Crown, whether such power be in fact execised by the Queen herself or by her Ministers"

In practice most powers are exercised by Ministers - even those personally exercised by the Monarch are done on advice of Ministers, or according to established conventions. The Public Administration Committee in the House of Commons produced a report on the Royal Prerogative http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmpubadm/422/422.pdf.
Reform of the Royal Prerogative forms a major plank of the Government's proposals for constitutional renewal. Relevant documents can be accessed at http://governance.justice.gov.uk/
In the GCHQ case (Council of Civil Service Unions v. Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374) the House of Lords held that the Courts could review the use of the Royal Prerogative.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

American Football - and the lessons for Politics

During the last few days of the US election campaign, Brian Moran, the Minority Caucus Chairman in the Virginia House of Delegates - and the son of a football coach - drew out lessons from American Football for those involved in political campaigning.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Use of EU Funds in the UK

Baroness Cohen is due to ask in the House of Lords today - "what responses the [British Government has] received to their distribution of the Consolidated Statement of the Use of EU funds in the UK to European Union finance ministers."

This document - available at -

is the first annual statement covering EU funds in the UK and is designed to enhance scrutiny and accountability.

Monday, 10 November 2008

The Lord Mayor's Banquet

Each year the Prime Minister is invited to the Lord Mayor's Banquet, held the Monday after the Lord Mayor's Show (second Saturday in November, the day after the new Lord Mayor of the City of London - not to be confused with the Mayor of London - who covers a much larger area of Britain's capital, and is currently Boris Johnson - takes office). Traditionally this is the opportunity for the Prime Minister to make a major speech on Foreign Policy.

Details of tonight's banquet can be found at

The speech will get extensive coverage and will be published on the Number 10 website - http://www.number10.gov.uk/

Further information on British Foreign Policy can be found on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's website - http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

Sunday, 9 November 2008

House Committee on Energy and Commerce

One of the most interesting battles on 'The Hill' is for the chairmanship of the House of Representative's Committee on Energy and Commerce. The current chairman, John Dingell, is being challenged by Henry Waxman, currently Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

John Dingell is a House veteran, being the longest serving current Member of the House and second longest serving Member in our US history. He is now 82 years old - and served in World War II. He has represented Michigan (the boundaries of his district have changed many times) since 1955. He retook the chairmanship of Energy & Commerce in 2007, when the Democrats gained a majority in the House, having previously served as Chairman from 1981-1995.

Roll Call reports that "House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) on Friday sought to put more weight behind his bid to hang on to his gavel, releasing the names of 26 lawmakers making up the “first round” of his whip team." Representative Dingell's House website can be found at http://www.house.gov/dingell/

Henry Waxman is regarded as one of the most influential liberal members of the House. He represents California's 30th district and has been a congressman since 1975. He previously served as a subcommittee chair of Energy & Commerce. A Time magazine article about him in 2006 was titled "The Scariest Guy in Washington". - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1562974,00.html. His website is http://www.house.gov/waxman/
This battle of the Titans is attracting much interest on the Hill. The committee is one of the most important in the House. Its website is http://energycommerce.house.gov/. It has a very wide remit and has been in continuing existence (albeit with name changes) for 213 years.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Week Ahead

Congress is due to return for its "lame duck session" on 17th November (though it won't happen if there is no agreement with the Bush administration over a stimulus package - see http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/11/07/dems-wont-hold-lame-duck-session-without-bush-stimulus-deal/). In the meantime there will be much jockeying for positions in the 111th Congress. There will be major changes in the Republican Conference (the term used for the Republican group within the House) in the House of Representatives. Roy Blunt has already announced he is standing down as whip. In the Democratic Party a major battle is developing over the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. John Dingell is being challenged by Henry Waxman.

Both Houses in Westminster are sitting. Monday will see opposition debates initiated by the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons. There will be a Commons debate on Heathrow Airport on Tuesday. Both Houses will be completing the final stages of legislation as the end of the session approaches. Full details can be found at - http://services.parliament.uk/calendar/2008/11/10/week.html

Details of current Commons committee inquiries are available at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/Current%20Inquiries.pdf.
Details of Lords committees are available at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/LordsWeeklyBulletin.pdf

Friday, 7 November 2008

Back in the UK

After a short break - during which I flew home via Amsterdam and Birmingham - Washminster returns. Yesterday was the much anticipated by-election (special election) in Glenrothes. Much to everyone's surprise Labour held the seat comfortably.

This morning's Independent points out that Rahm Emanuel, Obama's Chief of Staff, was the inspiration for 'Josh Lyman' in West Wing. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/obama-chooses-rahmbo-as-chief-of-staff-998194.html

I also found this blog entry (The Park Bench) about Emanuel - http://theparkbencher.blogspot.com/2007/05/artistry-of-rahm-emanuel.html
My favourite quote of the day came from an Independent story about the tensions between McCain's aides and Sarah Palin - "They badly need scapegoats for everything that went wrong and Ms Palin comes to their minds faster than a moth to light."

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Washminster - onwards into the future

I return to the United Kingdom this evening.

Thank you for visiting this blog during the US elections. I've very much enjoyed writing the brief pieces on key races - and particularly interviewing people for the videos of the last few days. My visit to Virginia has been a fantastic experience for me - and I hope you have enjoyed my English perspective on what has been happening.

This blog will continue to describe and explain the ways of Washington and Westminster. I very much hope that you will keep coming back to Washminster - interesting times lie ahead. Do send me your comments - or just get in touch (jdavidmorgan@googlemail.com)

President-Elect Obama

The result is now clear - this has indeed been an historic election. Congratulations to President-Elect Obama, and all those who helped elect him. It has been a real privilege to spend the last few days with people who worked so hard to achieve this victory - I will forever treasure the memories - and look forward to continuing the friendships formed and deepened over the last week.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Results - by the Precinct

Television coverage of the results will focus on the State level - who will win the electoral votes for the Presidency; Senate and District (House of Representatives) races and so on. But if you want the detailed figures - at the precinct (uk equivalent - "ward" or "parish") level the results will be posted by the appropriate election board.

Fairfax County, VA: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/eb/returns.htm

Alameda County, CA: http://www.acgov.org/rov/current_election/index.htm

Multnomah County, OR: http://mcelections.org/2008-11/results.shtml

Travis County, TX: http://www.co.travis.tx.us/county_clerk/election/20081104/results.asp

The Manassas Rally

I had the great privilege of attending the rally in Virginia on election eve. These are the videos taken during the evening

The first question expected in the Lords today will be put by Lord Bradshaw. His question to the Government is "what steps they are taking to ensure there is sufficient rolling stock available to the railways to meet demand". It's an interesting question - and as a frequent user of the train services to London from Rugby, I'll be watching the answer with interest.

Lord Bradshaw is a frequent questioner on rail matters. he worked for British Rail (the then nationalised company providing the rail infrastructure and services in the UK) from 1959 to 1985, starting as a management trainee in the Western Region and rising to the post of Director Policy Unit in 1980, and General manager of British Rail's Western Region 1983. His interest in railways may be in his genes - my understanding is that he is a descendant of George Bradshaw, the publisher of the famous 'Bradshaw Railway Timetables'.

Currently he is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Transport in the House of Lords.

Sample Ballots

So what does the ballot look like? Below are sample ballots from a number of places in the USA (I selected these because of my own connections)

Alexandria, VA: http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/elections/info/2008NovFullUnofficialSample(1).pdf

Fairfax County, VA ( VA 11 district): http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/eb/OS_Sample%20Ballot%20Style3.pdf

Northampton, MA: http://www.northamptonma.gov/cityclerk/uploads/listWidget/6771/Specimen%20Ballot-November%204,%202008.pdf

Rugby, ND: http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/xml/abtus/ourorg/aud/Elections/Archives/gen08/vpweb.pdf (pages 13-16)

Monday, 3 November 2008

Precinct Captains

Key players across the USA tomorrow will be the precinct captains. Tania Blagrove, the Alexandria Democratic precinct captain for the 108-George Washington precinct explained their role

The Final Hours

Monday will be a frantic day - for all the volunteers across the USA - and for the candidates themselves. Obama will hold major rallies in Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Manassas, Virginia (yes, I should be there!!!!); and finally in Chicago.

John McCain starts in Florida and makes his way to Arizona - via Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada.

Saturday Night Live has a two hour special (many thanks to the team for all the laughs I've had over the last few weeks!!!) at 9pm ET - http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/. The big Monday night football game is the Washington Redskins against the Pittsburgh Steelers http://www.redskins.com/gen/index.jsp (with fans concentrated in two key states - Virginia and Pennsylvania). It's ironic that, as a strong Redskins fan, the only time I've been in Washington when the Redskins play, is the day I'm otherwise engaged - next time perhaps?

Glenrothes by-election

Lest we forget, with so much attention being directed towards the United States, there is an important by-election taking place in the UK on Thursday. Labour is defending a normally rock solid Labour seat. In an editorial in today's Independent, the following comments were made - The by-election...
"will be important in a British context as a test of the Government's standing and of the strength of the "Brown bounce".

Weeks ago, many were predicting a reprise to the Glasgow East by-election, in which the SNP overturned a thumping Labour majority. A similar defeat in Glenrothes was being described as a possible trigger for a Cabinet revolt against Gordon Brown – the long-awaited denouement to a calamitous year for the Prime Minister.

How long ago that seems. While all bets are still off concerning the results of Thursday's vote, the tide is flowing Labour's way for now. Mr Brown must believe Labour has a good chance of winning, or he would not have risked a second visit to the seat last Friday, hammering home his message that an independent government in Edinburgh would have lacked the resources to shield Scotland from the world financial crisis.

Like the Tories, Alex Salmond's SNP has had a bad few weeks in "narrative" terms. Talk of an arc of prosperity running through Iceland has been held up to ridicule. It did not help Mr Salmond that a government minister in Oslo has asked the SNP to stop dragging Norway into arguments over Scottish independence.

But voters are unpredictable, and Glenrothes electors may yet revolt against the idea that the London establishment is patronising the Scots. If so, the SNP will be encouraged and all the old familiar question marks hanging over Mr Brown's leadership will return. After all, if Labour holds on, it will hardly rank as a political miracle. Labour held the seat in 2005 with a majority of more than 10,000, while the SNP needs a swing of 14 per cent to win. But in these febrile times, any victory achieved by Labour now – even in such a rock-sold Scottish seat – is bound to be hailed as proof of Mr Brown's political resurrection.

British newspapers and broadcasters will be covering the last days of this campaign - and the results in the early hours of Friday morning - but for the next few days, these will be eclipsed by the US elections.

Sunday, 2 November 2008


I took the video camera with me as we drove through Stratford Landing - the area I'm staying in, which is about a mile from Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington

Today I've been out in Alexandria - trying (successfully each time!) to persuade supporters to let us replace their yard signs (16 inches by 26 inches) by bigger ones - eight foot by four foot! Later we went along the medians (central reservation) of one of the main streets putting up ordinary size yard signs. A deposit is required for the licence to put signs there (which is forfeited if any of the rules - and they are quite precise and complex in terms of size of sign and how many feet from official signs). I helped make Eisenhower Avenue very decorative.

Election Meeting - Comments by VA House of Delegates member, Brian Moran

At the election meeting at Cora Kelly Recreational Center, the audience heard remarks from Brian Moran - the brother of Congressman Jim Moran, and a member of Virginia's House of Delegates. More information on Brian Moran can be found at http://dela.state.va.us/dela/MemBios.nsf/b9d1ff441cd43fbc85256c23006d3f87/6be92fbb48bbe5db852570d2005e9e8c?OpenDocument

Congressman Jim Moran

The Eighth District of Virginia includes Alexandria; Arlington and extends westward to include Reston. It has been represented by Congressman Jim Moran since 1991. His House website can be visited at http://moran.house.gov/. During an election meeting in Alexandria he explained the historic significance of this election -

Election Meeting

On Saturday afternoon I attended an election meeting in the Cora Kelly Recreation Center, Alexandria. I recorded this video of one of the speeches made there.

What the US Election is about

When I visited the morning market in Alexandria - I met a number of campaigners who were part of this last weekend's push to get out the vote. There were a number of stalls at different parts of the market. I asked two campaigners why they were out at an early hour on a - refreshingly cool - Saturday morning.



Saturday, 1 November 2008

Early Voting

Many states now allow voters to "vote absentee in person", sometimes referred to as "early voting". In Virginia this is permitted if there is a valid reason why a person might not be able to turn up to vote on election day. More details of the Virginia rules can be found at http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms/Absentee_Voting/Index.html. Other states do not require a reason - and as in the United Kingdom - absentee voting is a right (In Britain this can only be achieved by voting by post or by voting by proxy).

This morning I went to the farmers market in the old town of Alexandria. I recorded this video at 8.30 am.

The Week Ahead

It's election week - yes the Glenrothes by-election is on Thursday (for more information on the constitutency; candidates and the recent history see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenrothes_by-election,_2008). Can the Labour Party hold this once safe seat?

Of course it's also - finally - Election Day in the USA. The final push is now on - so it will be a busy weekend for political activists around the country.

In Parliament, both Houses work on as normal. The calendar is available at http://services.parliament.uk/calendar/2008/11/03/week.html. On Tuesday the order which will bring the local and European elections together on the same day will be considered by the Lords.

06.00 Mount Vernon Virginia

A friend drew my attention to the following quote which appeared in the current edition of the local library newsletter - "Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?" ~ Henry Ward Beecher. As I was in the Borders store in Pentagon City yesterday afternoon I can confirm the truth of this. I bought a copy "Change We Can Believe In" - Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise. There were so many books about the election and the various candidates (I already have every book written by both Obama and McCain).

On my way back to the home of my friends - I stopped at the table set up by the Democrats at Huntington Metro. In fact there were tables set up at every Metro station I went to! This morning we are off to the Farmers' Market in Alexandria - and I'm told a heavy political presence is expected.

Yesterday I spent time ringing up undecided or infrequent voters - still a success rate (that is - actually talking to the person rather than their answering service) of one in six. When I did get through responses were very positive for Obama - I even signed up volunteers - which in years of 'telephone canvassing' in the UK has only happened once - it happened 3 times yesterday!


One of the most important changes made to the structure of Government in Gordon Brown's recent reshuffle was the establishment of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It was created out of BERR (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) - which had its Energy Group and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) - where the Climate Change Group was established.

The new Secretary of State is Ed Miliband (brother of the Foreign Secretary) - http://www.decc.gov.uk/about-decc/who-are-we/ministers/miliband/biography.htm. He is supported by two Ministers of State - Mike O'Brien MP http://www.decc.gov.uk/about-decc/who-are-we/ministers/obrien/biography.htm and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (who also has responsibilities within the remaining parts of DEFRA) http://www.decc.gov.uk/about-decc/who-are-we/ministers/hunt/biography.htm. Joan Ruddock is the fourth Minister in the new department, being the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. http://www.decc.gov.uk/about-decc/who-are-we/ministers/ruddock/biography.htm

The Department's new website is still in the early stages of development, but can be accessed at