Addressing constitutional issues…

Lord Norton MSP_7912After the result of the referendum in Scotland, there is much discussion as to what steps to take now to address constitutional issues.  I have variously made the case for a constitutional convention to make sense of where we are constitutionally.  Otherwise, we are in danger of going off half-cock with proposals, the consequences of which – not least for other parts of the constitution – are not thought through.

Mark D’Arcy of BBC Parliament has come up with rather a novel – some may think alarming – idea.  You can read his blog post hereThe salient passage is:

“Already wise heads are shaking in Westminster. To some, the way to change the constitution is by slow, deliberative change. Essentially the ideal process is to clone the constitutional scholar Lord Norton of Louth, sit a dozen of him down in a committee room somewhere, take detailed evidence from the wise and the experienced and ruminate upon it for months – if not years – before producing a careful, nuanced set of proposals with a ready-made consensus behind them.”

The approach finds favour with me, but whether the world is ready for another one of me – never mind a dozen – is another matter.  Perhaps we could settle for some like-minded individuals.

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The constitution in more flux?

IMG_0272Just over thirty years ago I published a book on the constitution entitled The Constitution in Flux.  It was on the reading lists of many law as well as politics courses for years.  One reviewer described the work as prophetic.   I have been pursued by publishers who have been keen for a second edition.  I have not had time to get round to penning one, largely because I have been so busy with other commitments.  There is one other problem.  If I was to do a new work, other than calling it The Constitution in Flux, 2nd edition, what could it be called?   No one has yet come up with a better name than the original.  Some students have spent ages ruminating, but not yet come up with a better title.  The Constitution in Even More Flux was one suggestion.  Others have been a variation on that theme.

Any suggestions?

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A split personality?

47573No sooner had I written a post about the mail I receive with unusual renderings of my name than I get a letter addressed to ‘Lord Norton, Professor Philip Norton MP’.

It is possible for someone who has been in one House to then serve in the other, but not to serve in both simultaneously.  Perhaps it is a case of trying to cover all the bases, but the fact that the name, or rather names, is followed by ‘Member of the Lords, House of Lords’ is rather a giveaway as to which House in which I sit.

The names I have shown in previous posts have usually been on letters received from charities.  This letter is from a professional body.  Hmmm.

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Who do they think I am?

Lord Norton MSP_0918 copyI have previously drawn attention to the variety of names by which I am addressed in mail (Prof L N O Louth, Lord Norton O Louth and the like).  I had a new one this week.  I received a letter addressed to His Excellency Lord Norton of Louth.  I thought  that was rather sweet.  In the same post, I received one addressed to Prof Lo NORT Louth.  Imagine my bemusement when I realised both came from the same organisation.  Some organisations have me on their databases under different designations, usually Professor P Norton and Lord Norton of Louth, but the scale of the difference on this occasion was rather stark.

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August is the month for writing….

052It used to be the case that the summer vacation provided two or three months for serious writing.  Nowadays, because the House of Lords tends to sit until late July and the academic year starts in September (with plenty of work needed to prepare for it), it tends only to be August that is available.  Even then, there’s a fair amount of administration, supervision of PhDs and still some marking to be done.  Anyway, as soon as the Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars was over – see my earlier post – and the House rose, I was able to get on with some serious writing.  Rather to my pleasant surprise, I managed to get ahead of schedule.  I finished a conference paper and in the past 24 hours have submitted three manuscripts – one journal article (on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act) and two book chapters (one on the Coalition and the Conservatives, the other on Parliament for a volume on the UK constitution).  All being well, they will be appearing in 2015. 

Now that August is over, I will have to work round other commitments in order to get on with an article on prime ministerial succession and a number of chapters I have agreed to write – on Parliament during a period of coalition, the legislative process in the House of Lords, and the training of MPs.  I think that is all I am presently committed to writing, though I do have an upcoming keynote speech on sub-national legislatures. 

One reason I mention all this is by way of explanation for light blogging over the past month.  One might think that with my diary being fairly empty for the month, I would have more time to contribute posts, as well as being more active on Twitter.  The reality has been that I have been so absorbed by writing that I haven’t had much time to pen anything for the Blog.  Fortunately, the caption competition has kept readers engaged, rather splendidly so.  As for Twitter, I am not sure tweets to the effect of ‘writing’, ‘still writing’, ‘another few thousand words completed’, would be that exciting. 

At least completing the various projects means I will have something to write about as each one is published.  I now have five publications in the pipeline.  However, as yet, no new book.    Hmm, must think about remedying that.

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The August winner is…

PNTeaching2It’s now September, so I had better announce the winner of the August caption competition.  The entries were notable for their number and their quality.  There were some highly inventive as well as extremely witty contributions, so much so that it has been difficult selecting a winner.  The entries got off to a splendid start with MrJontyF’s offering.  barry winetrobe also offered an entry based on the books in the picture, apparently believing an element of flattery would make the entry an obvious contender.  (He was right.)   Others were based more on the people in the picture.  I loved seanjm72’s ‘so that’s 6 with sugar and 5 without..’.  Two were especially inventive.  ken wilkinson: ‘student: so this is your entry for the Turner Prize or can’t you be bothered to put the books back?’  AndrejNKv: ‘If Lord Norton stood very still, perhaps nobody would notice that the book pile had become structurally unsound’.  This evoked a nervous laugh, given that (as AndrejNKv may have noticed from observation) it is a little too close to the truth!  Any one of these, but not confined to them, could have emerged as the winner.  However, I have chosen the winner based on what I think fits most neatly with the picture. 

The winner is Alex M with: ‘All eyes begin to turn on the unfortunate soul who forgot to bring cake’.  Read it while looking at the picture and you can see why it pipped the other entries at the post.  If Alex M would like to get in touch, I can arrange to send a copy of one of my books, at least one he does already possess.

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August caption competition

PNTeaching2A combination of parliamentary duties and marking have kept me occupied.  Now I’m just embarking on my summer writing – see my earlier post – which will keep me busy this month.  Realising we are already well into August, I thought I had better introduce the latest caption competition.  Here’s a picture of me teaching – it’s taken from a seminar a couple of years ago.  As usual, the reader to provide what in my opinion is the most apt and entertaining caption will be the winner.  The prize will be one of my recent publications.  Good luck…

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