Saturday, 15 August 2015

Labour Party Leadership

I'm not going to use this blog to declare my support for any candidate - or, if you are eligible to vote in that contest - try to persuade you to support one or other of the candidates. Of course, I have my own views - and have been telephone canvassing for one of the candidates - and my facebook friends also know who I am backing - but this is not the place for me to campaign!

It has turned out to be a very interesting election. It's the first that is truly 'one person, one vote'. In previous elections the decision has been made through an electoral college - and it was possible to vote many times - within the different electoral college. So in 1994, I had a vote as a Labour Party Member; and votes as a member of the then TGWU (now Unite) and GMB Unions; and votes as a member of various Socialist Socities including the Co-operative Party; the Fabian Society; the Society of Labour Lawyers and the Christian Socialist Movement.

But for most of its history, the Labour Party selected its leader, purely through the Parliamentary Labour Party. Labour MPs got to vote - but no one else. I'm glad those days are over - and I campaigned for the change - but it had certain merits. That electorate knew the potential leaders up close - saw them regularly in action - and could rate their performance. (Of course those days preceded complete and live TV broadcasting from the chamber and committee rooms).

So - without revealing who I will be voting for - what sort of things should the electorate for the 2015 Leadership (and Deputy Leadership) consider when casting their votes? [Voting is by ordered preference - 1 for your preferred candidate; 2 for your second choice and so on].

What I did to come to my decision was to rate each candidate on a grid. Some were subjective; other's objective - such as how many MPs had supported their nomination. The square for "Who is backing had two entries - one for the total number - and another for MPs who I have a particularly high respect for (so that list, being personal - is also not going to be published.) I gave 4 for the best candidate 3 for the second best and so on. I added the figures for each candidate - by this time the decision was clear for me.

Do you have any other factors that you would propose? Please send me your suggestions and comments - to Washminster

Saturday, 1 August 2015

JDM's History Explorer

When not researching Parliament or Congress, I enjoy reading about - or visiting places associated with - history. Recently I started another blog dedicated to that passion.


The photograph today was taken in Milton Keynes Shopping Centre - it is a mosaic found in the Roman villa discovered in (what is now) Bancroft within the city. I have lots of information about the history of Britain's "New City". A friend from America told me that she was pleased that I loved the place to which I had moved - but "unlike many of ancient towns in England, Milton Keynes has no history". That was like a red rag to a bull - and I've been researching the great history of Milton Keynes ever since.

Do take a look at the new blog - which covers not just Milton Keynes - but wherever I indulge my passion for history.

Friday, 31 July 2015


The paper I presented at Wroxton was called, ""Battles on Many Fronts: Education Scrutiny and Debate in the Twenty-First Century House of Commons". It was presented during a panel on "Westminster in Context" which also discussed papers by Meg Russell & Ruxandra Serban; Mark Shephard;  and Louise Thompson & Cristina Leston-Bandeira.

The paper describes the various opportunities open for parliamentary scrutiny of Education - and includes a table listing and giving examples of these. It looked in more detail at the scrutiny in the Education Select Committee and at the Public Bill Committee which undertook the committee stage of the Education and Adoption Bill. A further table was produced showing who had participated in Education Questions (which are held at 2.30pm on the Monday of every 5th Parliamentary week.

I'm happy to supply a copy of the paper, just email me.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Wroxton Conference

Last weekend I attended the Twelfth Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians. These are biennial conferences which have been held since the 1990s, and have settled in the Oxfordshire home of the North family. Lord North was the Prime Minister at the time of the American Declaration & War of Independence. Even the British Government website describe him as  "the man who lost Britain’s American colonies". It is now the home to an American University, Fairleigh Dickinson.

The workshop brought together parliamentarians from across the world, mainly from the countries who use the "Westminster Model" of legislatures, (Professor Meg Russell and Ruxandra Serban of the Constitution Unit put forward an excellent argument in a paper arguing that that term was in fact not useful, and should be retired.) and "parliamentary scholars". The workshops are organised by Lord Norton, whose textbooks and other writings have informed students of the British Parliament and UK politics for, dare I say it, generations.

I've attended a number of these conferences - and each time have returned home invigorated and inspired. There is some really good research going on, which is being put to practical use. The conference concluded with a discussion based with the IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union) report on "Common Principles for Support to Parliaments". The Parliaments of Bahrain, Bangladesh, Flanders (Belgium), Greece, Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, The Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and of course the United Kingdom were all represented. Academics and practitioners of  Parliamentary development were also there in number.

I enjoyed reading some of the papers and attending the presentations and discussions. I have an extended reading list now to fill up the summer!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Westminster has closed for the hols!

... but Washminster will continue through the summer. I've spent the last weekend at the Wroxton Workshop for Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Scholars - then headed off to Bristol.

I will return to blogging very shortly!