Monday 29 October 2012

More Video of Sandy

Video of Sandy

1 hour before worst expected


I Didn't go to any of the campaign offices today. In fact politics is off the screens, at least for a few hours. Sandy is the big story of the day. Yesterday I went door-to-door canvassing. Just as I was getting into the car after finishing the sheet - the rain started. That was nearly 24 hours ago - and it hasn't stopped - the the intensity has increased. I was out a couple of hours ago and there are streams running along streets, and some very large standing puddles.

The wind is getting up now - we are about a couple of hours away from its expected height. It's nice to be indoors looking out! We expect to lose power at some point, so this is being hurriedly written before that happens.

Late last night emails went out from Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for the Senate for Virginia - asking supporters to take down their yard signs (the one's I'd been building in recent days) to avoid them becoming 'missiles' when the wind gets up. Overnight I did a live-to- air with BBC  Radio Northampton about the approaching hurricane.

Well, I'm going back to reading - for as long as I can. I hope that I'll be able to update this in a few hours. To all my friends in the NE USA - keep safe.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Video made for the election

This is not one of the TV ads which are bombarding Virginia voters at the moment - but an independently made video, endorsed by Lesley Gore - whose 1962 hit provides the soundtrack. This has, particularly after the comments made by Republican Senate Candidate, Richard Mourdock (Indiana), become a key issue for many women voters.

"You Don't Own Me" PSA from You Don't Own Me on Vimeo.

No Lack of Excitement...

A pleasant day in Alexandria, where I spent the morning, but before I left the TV was warning people not to get a false sense of security. Sandy is coming!

...and this afternoon, as I sat in the offices in Huntington, a car went up in flames in the parking lot. The fire engines are just clearing up now.

At the farmers market in Alexandria I had been round speaking to the various political stalls set out on the sidewalk (pavement -UK). I put a couple of interviews on video, so I will post those later. Lots of Obama stickers were being worn, but then Alexandria is strongly Democratic. In Stratford Landing - using yard signs as an indicator - things are a bit more balanced.

Currently I am dispatching canvassers with their maps and lists of voters to call on. The level of volunteering is impressive. Tonight I will be catching up on reading. Don't forget if you are in the UK that the clocks go back - so the time difference will drop to four hours.

Friday 26 October 2012

Friday in Huntington

I'm taking my lunch break at the campaign HQ just opposite the Huntington Metro. It's a busy office - and there's lots going on. I've been putting together yard signs - so if you see a newly put up sign outside someone's house - or along the roadside saying "Kaine - US Senate" it might be one I put together!

The approach of Hurricane Sandy has become THE topic of conversation. It might hit this area head on, though the latest projection puts it as hitting land in Delaware. The forecast though predicts 100% chance of rain on Sunday - with, at least, strong winds. Some coverage is of the variety, "Be afraid, be very afraid" - Fox being the worst. the local government office though has sent out hurricane warning notices - and lists of people to contact should an emergency develop.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Halloween in Stratford

Getting Around

My morning was quiet. Seated upstairs in a Capitol Hill coffee shop, I did some further writing on my thesis. Then it was off to Foggy Bottom on the Metro - and to meetings. At lunch we met with Dr Michael D Cohen, the man behind "Congress in Your Pocket", an 'app' I have on my iPad - which I find incredibly useful. With a few taps I can summon up lots of  information about individual members of Congress, committees, and what's going on in both Houses. Personally I use it when watching or reading about the current Congress. It also is a valuable source of information about the individual congressional races currently being fought. Worth checking out.

After lunch I headed out to Huntington, the final stop on the Yellow Metro line. (It's the station I use for getting in and out of the city from my base in Stratford Landing.) The combined Obama/Kaine (Senate)/ Moran (House - 8th Congressional district of Virginia) local campaign office is just across the street. My first sign was to 'construct' yard signs - placing the 'Kaine for Senate' signs over the metal frames.

It was great to meet "Scotland for Obama" - four Scottish lads who are over here to volunteer for the campaign. They have recently graduated, and it was great to see, both their enthusiasm and their eagerness to apply what they were learning about modern campaigning to the British scene. While there are some negative lessons - they recognise the potential for improving dramatically the way British politicians can communicate (yes, communicate - a two way dialogue) with citizens"

I too was amazed at how sophisticated campaigning had now become - and the tools which are available.

This evening was more relaxed - and I watched with my hosts some recent episodes of 'The Thick of It', wickedly funny!

The photo below comes from outside the offices in Alexandria, where 'early voting' is taking place. I was there on Monday (and will be there again this lunchtime), handing out 'sample ballots', to help voters identify the Democratic candidates. I was warned about the serious consequences of crossing the line. To do so would be a criminal offence!

Stratford Landing

This is the neighbourhood I am staying in

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Washington DC

Tuesday saw me off the campaign trail. Instead I had meetings and work to do in Washington DC. During the night. I had done a live interview with BBC Northampton following the final presidential debate. When I got to DC that debate was still the main topic of conversation. People were taking the debate apart, discussing every line - it felt like the conversations you can hear in England immediately after a football game. The first time I came to this city I was chatting with a woman who told me that the thing she hated about Washington was that everyone talked politics 24 hours a day. I guess it's why I love being here!

This evening I went to Bob Carr's class at George Washington University (though the class is held at the Hall of States close to the Senate side of 'The Hill' and Union Station.) We were comparing and contrasting ethics rules in Congress and the British Parliament. What a great group he has - a really nice group of people, intelligent and engaged. I guess it counts as work, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

From there Bob and I made our way to the Newseum, where there was a session in the Annenberg Theater on Campaign coverage in 2012. Candy Crowley, Gwendoline Ifill and Judy Woodruff were talking about their experiences in covering this campaign, and in particular chairing the debates. It was a fascinating insight into political journalism. I learnt a lot.

After a long, very long, day - I was glad to get to bed - but now - fully rested, and drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea, I'm looking forward to another day in the Great city.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Walter Harrison

During the interviews that I have conducted for my whips study, one phrase kept recurring - "the legendary Walter Harrison". He was Labour's Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Commons during the time it had a small, then non-existent majority in the 1970s - and his hard work kept the government going, despite incredible challenges.

Of all the individuals I have researched, he is the most interesting. There are some great stories told about him. Only last week some colleagues at Westminster urged me to try to get an interview with him. Sadly that will not be possible, as he passed away on Friday. As yet, only one of the newspapers (The Daily Telegraph) has published an obituary. I will be looking out for others - they will be worth reading. There is a play currently on at the National Theatre called the House, which centres on his life. It has completely sold out - though there are rumours it may return in another theatre. It has been on my wish list since I first heard about it.

On my twitter (jdm_progressive) and Facebook (jdavidmorgan) morning, I have posted links to a couple of videos that tell something of Walter Harrison's time and activities as a whip. You are cordially invited to view them. You'll understand why, in my office, there is just one photograph on my wall of a whip - Walter Harrison. RIP.


A busy day in Alexandria. Most of the morning and lunchtime was spent ringing voters. Virginia law apparently does not permit the printing of party labels for candidates at the lower levels of government. Consequently, as well as finding out whether individuals are inclined to vote for a particular party, it is necessary to tell them who the 'party list' are. It makes for quite a long 'conversation' - except, with the volume of unsolicited phone calls, few people would answer the phone. I'd have been tearing my hair out if I got such a low response rate from telephone canvassing in Britain. But perhaps this is a taste of things to come.

I also had some very interesting conversations in which British and American campaigning was compared and contrasted. The sheer cost of a campaign in the US was worrying.

This afternoon I got to stand out in the sun, on a beautiful, cloudless 'fall' day. I was handing out "sample ballots" to voters who were voting early, or in the local jargon "absentee voters in person". Until 3rd November, people who might not be able to vote on election day, can cast their vote at special centres.  To remind them of the party candidates, lists are offered to people as they approach the polling place. While I was there both the main parties had people handing these out. Some were refused, and many only took the list for the party they generally supported.

Tonight I'm watching the final debate between the presidential candidates. Then it's off to bed as I'm doing a live interview on BBC Radio Northampton on their breakfast show. 7-25 UK time, but 2-25 here in Virginia. There's now an iPhone app called 'BBC iPlayer Radio' which allows you, in addition to the main BBC stations, to listen live to local stations. I have been able to use it here in the USA to listen to BBC Radio Northampton. You can too - even if you are out of the range of the BBC Northampton transmitter!

While waiting for my bus, I videoed this 'panorama' of the junction of King Street and Washington Street, the very centre of Alexandria.

Monday 22 October 2012

The week begins...

Sunday was a day for reading the papers - looking at campaign literature which had been received by my hosts (if ever I hear a complaint from an English voter about the amount of leaflets, letters and phone calls received in the run up to an election - I can tell them they don't know they're born - here it's a deluge!!!) and catching up with friends. We also went to Leesburg (took a lot longer than expected - with major traffic hold-ups), but worth it - it's a lovely historic town and a super lunch was had.

I'm about to get out of bed - it's just gone 5-00am - and I'm being driven to Huntington Metro Station - the far end of the yellow line. I'll get off at King Street in Alexandria & visit a few coffee shops before turning up at the Alexandria Democratic Committee's offices. It's the Campaign HQ for Jim Moran, the Congressman for Virginia's 8th (Congressional) District. The local elections - for Alexandria's City Council are also being run from there. On my way in I will have passed the office in Huntington where the three campaigns - for Obama; for Tim Kaine (running for US Senate) and Jim Moran are being run for the area. I'll be there later in the week.

So - I shall get ready, and will post again later. If you have any questions, either put them as a comment or email me on jdavidmorgan@googlemail.com

Sunday 21 October 2012

Relaxing in Alexandria

After arriving late on Friday night (having travelled from Birmingham to Amsterdam to Detroit to Washington)  - I spent a relaxing day on Saturday. Just befor lunch I went to the market in Alexandria. You'd think that there's an election on! Both the Democrats and Republicans had street stalls. Petitions are being signed; stickers handed out; and questions answered. Other candidates - for the city council, have their stalls and the whole city is covered with street signs.

Early voting started this week in Virginia - and I popped round to the Central Election for Alexandria - where short queues had formed. One was to povide the required identication documents, the other was to vote. Details of all the candidates and offices were posted on notices. Outside the local Democrats handed me a "sample ballot paper", which highlighted who the party candidates were - and there are a lot of offices to be filled - from the President; to the Senate; the House of Representatives; and the city council. While candidates for the latter have party affiliations, this isn't stated on the ballot paper.

In the afternoon I went for a walk around the local neighbourhood (Stratford Landing), Lots of yard signs are already up. My hosts received a few phonecalls from the political parties and their supporters. Tonight I've been flicking through the TV channels - it's going to be impossible to ignore the fact that there is an election on!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

The language of statutes needs to be very precise. In the UK the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is responsible for drafting Government Bills. A copy of the latest drafting guidance (a PDF of 84 pages) is available via the link below - and makes fascinating reading.

Monday 15 October 2012

My Research

I am currently researching, and now writing up my thesis, on whips in the UK Parliament and US Congress. This weekend, I was reviewing the challenges faced by whips in the 1974-79 Parliament. This excellent video tells the story of the events leading to the Government's fall.

Sunday 14 October 2012


On July 28th 1897 a number of Conservative MPs were at celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and absent from the House of Commons. The Government lost a vote on the Second Reading of the Isle of Man (Church Building Acts) Bill, by 58-64. The Prime Minister rising immediately, said: “It is evident that the attempt to carry on business during the Jubilee celebration is not wholly unattended with difficulties. In these circumstances, I beg to move "That this House do now adjourn." [Ministerial cheers, laughter, and Opposition cries of "No!"]” (HC Deb 28 June 1897 vol 50 cc672-3), that motion to was lost. A number of matters were deferred, but the third defeat, again on much reduced numbers, was suffered on the motion “That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again” relating to the Education Endowments (Ireland) Act 1885 Amendment Bill. (Hansard HC Deb 28 June 1897 vol 50.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Labour Party Conference

Sadly it was not possible to “blog” from Labour Party Conference as I had hoped – a mixture of computer problems (a ‘dodgy’ netbook) and very poor wifi signal in my hotel. In addition I was extremely busy during conference – and since my return have been wholly ‘absorbed’ in writing up my Ph.D.
I did, as promised, make some videos while I was there – and I will be uploading them to this blog as soon as I get a chance.

So here is the start of my “Conference Diary” (albeit a fortnight late – though as I’ve been typing up comments from Dick Crossman’s diaries – that’s relatively recent!) 

I arrived on Saturday 29th September. The Women’s Conference was on – but I’m not eligible to attend that. However the first events for delegates to the main conference began in the early evening. I attended two receptions – the first at the Town Hall, to welcome people to Manchester. The second was in the conference centre. Below is a video of the remarks made by the Party Leader, Ed Miliband 

Friday 12 October 2012

EU wins Nobel Prize

The European Movement has issued this statement -

"The decision by the Nobel Committee to award the 2012 Nobel Peace prize to the EU is of symbolic significance. It is a recognition of the role the EU has paid in the preservation and spread of peace, democracy and the rule of law across Europe over the past 60 years", said Petros Fassoulas, Chairman of the European Movement UK.

The EU has been an agent of stability across the Continent, the ambition to join this club of economic and political co-operation contributed to the fight in South as well as Central and Eastern Europe against dictatorship and Communism respectively and eventual membership of the EU cemented democracy in all these countries.

What started as a Community of 6 nations has become a Union of 27 that has united a continent that only a few decades ago was ravaged by 2 world wars and was facing the prospect of nuclear conflict.

The EU today is facing challenges of institutional and economic nature. But, as efforts by Member State governments and public sentiment across the EU has shown, there is still strong support for the process of integration and commitment to make the EU work even better for its members and their citizens.

The award of the Nobel Prize is a reminder of the EU's achievements over the past 60 years and an inspiration to preserve this unique project of international and supranational co-operation and build on its successes. The European Movement calls for the UK to remain at the core of the process of European integration and co-co-operate closely with our EU partners in the efforts to promote our common interests in the globalised world we are part of."

Saturday 6 October 2012

Congressional Ethics

I found this clip while searching for information on the Obey Commission.