Sunday, 19 October 2014

Westminster Hall

In typical British fashion - changes to our political institutions come slowly. Yet in recent years there have been a number of very positive improvements to the working of Parliament. One has been the introduction of "Westminster Hall Debates". These allow for debates outside the main chamber. There is usually more light than the heat associated with Chamber debates.

Further small reforms have been proposed - and the House of Commons Procedure Committee sets out the history of the committee and the rationale for the reforms it proposes. It's a short report - and well worth reading.

The report is available here.

Despite the name - the debates are not held in the magnificent Westminster Hall itself (one of the finest and largest medieval halls in Europe), but in a committee room off the Hall.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The 1964 Elections

It will shortly be fifty years since the election of 1964. This trailer for an hour long documentary explains the significance of that election. It has also reminded me to put Theodore White's "The Making of the President, 1964" on my reading list for the next few days (I have just physically popped up to the library annex (otherwise known as the 2nd bedroom in our home) to get my copy.

Friday, 17 October 2014

A Select Committee in action

This week I attended a hearing by the Education Select Committee. The Secretary of State (the senior minister in a Government Department - and usually a member of the Cabinet) for Education, Nicky Morgan (no relation!) answered questions about the "Trojan Horse Affair" - an attempt to take over some schools in Birmingham.

The Chair is a Conservative MP, but he presses the Conservative Minister at particular points and is quite critical. There are two other Conservative MPs present; one Liberal Democrat and Four Labour MPs.

Further information about the committee can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/

The recording can be viewed here - http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=16059
(warning - you can see my arrival as the public are admitted, just after the DfE officials have entered - wearing my red tie!)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Oversight in Congress

The Congressional Research Service is part of the Library of Congress. It is a fantastically useful resource for members of both Houses, enabling them to have quality; well researched materials to aid them in their work. As long-term readers of this blog will be aware, I am a huge fan of CRS - and much appreciative of the quality of their staff and their output.

One of their most useful documents is the Congressional Oversight Manual. It both explains the tools of oversight, and is a practical manual. It can be downloaded from -


It is also a useful document to reflect upon - how can legislatures (or for that matter any body which exists to ensure that government services are accountable to the people they should be serving - and that includes local councils as well as national legislatures) be effective in their work. What are the issues and the tools?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Confessions of an addict

I have to confess - I love elections. The first one, that excited my interest, was the 1970 General Election. I was ten years old! My father took me to a number of election meetings. I met & got the autograph of Roy Jenkins (Chancellor of the Exchequer & former Home Secretary). I also met George Brown (Deputy Leader of the Labour Party & former Foreign Secretary), who refused to sign my autograph book - he lost his seat days later!!!

In 1974 I became actively involved - handing out leaflets for Geoff Edge; and cutting up a copy of the electoral register to glue onto cards for use on election day. (How I appreciate computer printouts now!). At the Walsall North by-election I did my first door-to-door canvassing. Subsequently I ran for the Westminster Parliament, twice - and the European Parliament - as well as running for council (even being elected to Northamptonshire County Council).

US elections have fascinated me since 1972. I have flown over to Virginia for the 2004; 2008 and 2010 Elections. As an academic I have presented papers on the 1974 congressional elections. I have quite a library on US and UK elections - as well as practical and academic books on political marketing and elections. I also have Le Monde's results for French elections going back a number of years!!!

Thanks to reprints, the "The Making of the President" series  is once again available.