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David Porter » Entries tagged with "UK Parliament"

Political ‘Silly’ Season Could Herald the End of the Coalition

Will Tensions Split the Coalition, Autumn 2012? This article was first published on the old Suite 101 suite on 2 September 2012. Now, a year on, with the autumn season upon us it is timely to republish, bearing in mind that Parliament has been recalled and the rows about Syria and war, the internal squabbles of the Labour opposition and the strengthening economy render some of this out of date, the fact is that the Coalition is far from rock solid. British politics’ ‘silly season’ falls between July and party conferences in September/October. It’s when news famine leads to exaggeration to make a story. In July, as the summer recess begins, inhabitants of the Westminster village disperse to constituencies and sunny climes. The repairers move into the Palaces of Parliament and the media … Read entire article »

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British Election Circuses Set for Digital Revolution

Mayoral, Councillor, Police Commissioners, European and Parliamentary elections are entertaining shows, but will technology improve or ruin them? This article first published on Suite 101, 7 May 2012.   In some ways like the USA, yet in so many others, very different, the British electoral system is an amalgam of how it has been for two hundred years, how it has been done for most political activists’ lifetimes and the odd experiment/concession in modernity, like postal votes virtually on demand. People are interested/care passionately or are indifferent. But often it appears that the only people who get really excited about all the elections are the media. Yet, everybody who thinks about it appreciates how important democratic decisions are in the lives of every single citizen. City/district and council, parish elections occur every year in some … Read entire article »

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Ministerial Resignations Are Often Political Theatre At Its Best

This article was first published on Suite 101, 21 October 2011. Now, a year on, in the wake of the resignation of the Government Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, over an issue that raises all sorts of questions about integrity, the arrogance of office, police records, hidden police agendas and the judgement of senior politicians… it is timely to republish it. Shakespeare wrote: ‘Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it’. (Macbeth). If only the same could be said of many who leave ministerial life. The Ministerial Code is issued at the start of each administration by the new Prime Minister. It’s not formalised in the constitution, but has evolved through precedence and guidance. By convention, Ministers inform and explain, apologise, take remedial action and resign in ministerial responsibility. Each … Read entire article »

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Recall of Parliament Is Action Being Seen to be Done

Reflecting public fear about rampaging criminality, a one day recall of Parliament can only be a start in debating what action is needed next in Britain. Governments do not bring back holidaying Members from frequently far-flung corners of the world, lightly. Account has to be taken of maintenance work scheduled for the recesses across the Palace of Westminster. The recess working programmes of staff are disrupted at a cost, as are pre-booked tours. However, there are times when to do otherwise is to risk political scorn, and allow crises to deepen. People need to feel that their Parliamentary institution is taking matters seriously, and since 1948 it has been recalled 24 times. August 2011 is clearly another such occasion. By the way, ‘recall’ should not be confused with voters having the … Read entire article »

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Reading ‘The Riot Act’ May Not Be Enough to Quell the Flames

  The August 2011 riots in London and other cities, have led to calls for troops, curfews, banning social media and a new Riot Act. To ‘read someone The Riot Act’ has come to mean an authoritative scolding to overcome troublesome children, youths or adults. Three hundred years ago, as BBC Radio 4 pointed out only days before the Summer 2011 riots took hold in Britain, it meant a far more serious consequence. Hanging was the punishment for insurrection. The Riot Act was a law that came into force in August 1715 which permitted local authorities to declare a group of twelve or more persons ‘unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously assembled’ and order them to disperse or face punishment. The full title was: ‘An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and … Read entire article »

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Parliamentary e-Petitions: Another Gimmick Or Democratic Reform?

In touch with the web’s people power, Parliament is now offering voters a chance to petition their requests for laws directly online. A Petition to Parliament is a ‘prayer’ for or against action a policy. The ancient right stems possibly from Saxon times, allowing petition to the Monarch for redress of grievance. Since the Middle Ages, this has effectively meant a petition to Parliament, although the Queen today still gets requests from citizens. For hundreds of years, petitions have been presented to Parliament by Members placing them in The Petition Bag hanging behind the Speaker’s Chair in the Commons chamber. She/he can introduce with a short speech, or simply insert it. The bag is emptied periodically, and the demands are reported in the House proceedings and forwarded to appropriate departments. Historic … Read entire article »

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Westminster Hall, the Jewel in the Crown of Britain’s Parliament

For 900 years, the Hall has been a focal point in British democratic history, and today it’s a priceless, unique tourist, political and cultural attraction. Built in 1097 on orders of William (Rufus) II, son of William the Conqueror, to show his new subjects the majesty of his authority, it was, and still is, a magnificent architectural achievement. But even more significant has been its role in some pivotal historical moments in British history. Architectural Wonders It was Europe’s largest, 73 x 20 metres, so large that the royal household usually ate elsewhere. The outside stone walls were at least two metres (6 feet) thick, and slightly curved making it thicker in the centre. They were plastered, painted and hung with drapes. The roof was the most impressive. It was centrally unsupported, hammer-beams of … Read entire article »

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Lotteries, Raffles, Games of Chance: People Certainly Like a Bet

From football pools to local/national lotteries, horse racing to snow falling at Christmas, the gambling instinct is strong, despite psychological doubts. Life assurance, taking a financial risk on how long somebody will live, has been big business since the Romans inaugurated ‘burial clubs’. In the UK, betting on football pools has been around since 1923 (Littlewoods, with Vernons in 1925, Zetters in 1933 and Brittens in 1946). Catering for people to have a flutter or punt on horse or greyhound races, the Cambridge/Oxford Boat Race or other sporting events, on the weather, a bingo card or political fortunes creates a turnover in the UK alone of £95 billion a year at conservative estimates and employs 35,000 people directly and indirectly. In the USA people gamble on baseball games or other sporting events … Read entire article »

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