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David Porter » Entries tagged with "House of Commons"

A Life in the Day of a British Member of Parliament

As maligned as tax collectors, traffic wardens, estate agents and the media, British MPs’ work and lifestyles are often misunderstood and underestimated. Fuelled by media reports and frequent lapses of common sense, MPs are perceived by many as self-serving, egotistical riders of the gravy train/scrapers of the pork barrel, anxious only to secure re-election and submit expense claims. As many lost their seats in the 2010 general election and seek to build new livesoutside Westminster, there is little public sympathy for their plight. Even some who were re-elected may have had their hopes and ambitions of office dashed by the resulting hung parliament and a coalition government. Again, most people faced with economic and other difficulties of their own are less bothered about MPs’ situations. Local Issues and Work An MP’s life is divided … Read entire article »

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The Unintended, Unforeseen Consequences of Legislation

Good intentions in law-making to solve a problem are not always enough. Sometimes new laws can actually make things worse. From battling oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, to the British government considering further gun bans after the latest outrage in Carlisle, to the dilemma of raising taxes/cutting expenditure by itself threatening further recession, rarely has the question of legislating out of a problem been so sharply in focus. Every legislature churns out regulations, prohibitions, procedures and restrictions; most people assume a perceived injustice, error or outdated rule will be put right. US president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’. People expect laws to right the wrongs. However, Cass R Sunstein writing in Columbia … Read entire article »

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Ex-MPs: Life After (Parliamentary) Death

With a new UK Parliament, a record number of former MPs are in the jobs market. Some stood down; others were pushed by the voters. Most must find new work. Before the 2010 election, 97 Labour and 35 Conservatives declared they’d not stand again. Some faced near-certain defeat after recent expenses scandals, some retired naturally, others just fancied the resettlement grant, worth up to £65,000 for longest-serving members. The election created 232 new MPs: 148 Conservatives, 66 Labour, 10 Liberal Democrat, 8 others. This scale is consistent with a big swing from one party to another. In 1997’s Labour landslide, 160 Conservative MPs lost their seats. As many gain new jobs, others lose theirs. Thrown on the Scrapheap Few people are sacked in … Read entire article »

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Making Laws, Branding Criminals in Britain

People in the UK Can So Easily Pick Up a Criminal Record. The Westminster and European Parliaments churn out thousands of laws annually often with little debate, most of which can now lead to a huge fine, a jail term or both. The UK operates a large bureaucratic machine called the Independent Safeguarding Authority complemented by an unaccountable system of Criminal Record Bureau checks affecting everybody who works with or has contact with vulnerable members of society. These are defined as children in educational or social environments, all ages in care and those unable to be responsible themselves. It all comes out of increased global terrorism fears of the past few years and it sounds fair enough: people should be checked. However, it’s now applied to … Read entire article »

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Fixed Term Parliament: Panacea or Straitjacket?

UK Prime Ministers Call General Elections at Best-Chance Times At any time, the Prime Minister of the day can ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament for an election, unless a government’s five years are up. Then there’s no choice left. All Parliaments end on the fifth year, unless a Prime Minister decides he/she wants to go to the country earlier, because the chances of winning are higher. This might be because of some perceived success (eg. war or conflict, massive reduction in taxes and cost of living), or some bad news is coming (eg, economic wipe-out and fiscal collapse). Vote of Confidence in the House of Commons An election would come ahead of time and very speedily if a Government lost a vote of confidence in … Read entire article »

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Mind Your (Parliamentary) Language

Everyday Expressions in English that Originated in Parliament Not many people know that some commonplace expressions we use frequently began in the House of Commons and their origins make fascinating pub-quiz answers material. The United Kingdom’s Parliament is the oldest in the world, and over the years it has given the English language many expressions and phrases that often take on other meanings. The result of the forthcoming General Election will focus attention on the building, the traditions and customs. Here are some phrases that have become part of the fabric of the institution. It’s in the Bag Behind the Speaker’s Chair – and out of sight of the cameras – hangs a large bag, into which Members of Parliament place petitions from constituents that are required to be considered by the House of … Read entire article »

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Public Speaking

Do you need a speaker at your event? Do you need some help with your own public speaking? Are you filled with terror at the idea of speaking out in public? Is it holding you back in your work? your social life? I can help on either or both counts. From the House of Commons to the Royal Albert Hall, from a congressional breakfast in Washington DC to campaign meetings, protests, public meetings in school and village halls, on the streets, Christian and business meetings and dinners and breakfasts, Rotary lunches/dinners, weddings and funerals: my public speaking experience is wide. Whatever the occasion, I aim to strike the right note with appropriate humour, anecdotes and experiences from my richly varied life, or research thoroughly to speak on new ground. I can speak at many … Read entire article »

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