Caption competition – the Lord is guiding

This month’s caption competition derives from the Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians (see previous post).  At each Workshop, I provide a guided your of the venue – Wroxton Abbey, which is actually a Jacobean mansion (built on the site of an abbey), the ancestral home of Lord North.  The picture shows me in the Reading Room.  As ever, the winning entry will be the one that in my view constitutes the wittiest and most appropriate caption.  The winner will receive a copy of Reform of the House of Lords.


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Discussing legislatures

The Thirteenth Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians took place at the weekend at Wroxton College, Near Banbury – the venue for the every Workshop since the second in 1996.  (The first Workshop was held in Berlin.)  The Workshops are held on a biennial basis.  They are co-sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Centre for Legislative Studies at the University of Hull. They bring together scholars and parliamentarians from usually twenty or more nations, the former providing research findings likely to be of interest to the latter.  This Workshop drew a capacity attendance.  The top picture shows about one third of participants – those who attended the final plenary session on the Sunday afternoon.

Those attending the Workshop included parliamentarians and parliamentary officials from nations as diverse as Cambodia, Benin, Mongolia, Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia,  Greece, Madagascar, Bahrain, Nigeria, Argentina, Portugal and Turkey.

The second picture shows me welcoming participants to the Workshop.  I addressed the importance of studying legislatures.  They are core to political stability and typically fulfil a range of functions beyond the core defining function of giving assent to measures of public policy that are to be binding.  The functions encompass not only those in relation to the executive, but also to the people.  Legislatures are an essential link between the government and the people.  A good number of the papers addressed relations between legislatures and the public and how parliamentarians communicate with the people.  The final session provided a preview of the forthcoming UNDP/IPU report on a key function in relation to the executive, that of oversight.

The panel sessions proved extremely worthwhile.  A total of thirty papers were delivered during the Workshop, with extensive discussion in each panel and more informal dialogue taking place in between panel sessions.  There were also presentations on the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Now that the Thirteenth Workshop has concluded, preparations for the Fourteenth, in July 2019, are already underway.

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The value of committees in the Lords

The House of Lords, like the House of Commons, has become a more specialised body, working through investigative committees.  Its sessional committees, re-appointed each session, have grown in number over the past twenty years – most recently with the creation of an International Relations Committee – but these have been complemented by the appointment of ad hoc committees, appointed usually for the lifetime of a session to report on particular issues.  The House now appoints four such committees each session, including one to undertake post-legislative scrutiny – a development I particularly welcome.  Post-legislative scrutiny is an important, but previously much neglected, dimension of the legislative process.

I have just contributed a post on ‘Lords of the Blog’ on the four committees appointed for the new session.  The House has not wasted time in appointing sessional and ad hoc committees and already three of the ad hoc committees have published calls for evidence.  As I have pointed out on ‘Lords of the Blog’ the committees cover important contemporary issues, including those relevant to the health of the political system, notably citizenship and civic engagement, and political polling and digital media.  The committees enable the House to draw on the experience and expertise of its members and to generate informed analyses and recommendations.   After publication, the House has the opportunity to debate the committee reports and the Government’s response to them.  I shall look forward especially to the reports of this session’s committees and the opportunity to contribute to those debates.

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Hull’s finest – class of ’17

It was the degree ceremony yesterday for Politics at Hull.  The picture shows me with some of the British Politics and Legislative Studies (BPLS) graduates.  It was a particularly good year in terms of results.  No fewer than four of those in the picture achieved Firsts, two of them being prize winners.

The fact that it was the degree ceremony meant that teaching and exams finished some weeks ago.  Some people think that therefore this is a holiday period.  If only.  The period between semesters often tends to be the busiest time of year.  This is reflected in light blogging.  I am busy dealing with several commitments.  I appreciate that British politics is not exactly in a state of quiescence.  I plan to blog shortly on the Salisbury convention – where a lot of time is consumed by focusing on form rather than the principle – and on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

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And the winner of the Brexit contest…

imagesSF9B1IEKI thought the latest caption competition was challenging, but readers have proved how inventive they can be.  The entries were notable for their quantity and quality.  As a result, I faced the usual problem of choosing a winner.  One reader – Dean B – almost won a prize for his comment on one of the entries!  D F Rostron was very keen and submitted multiple entries.  Who’s stolen the comfy chair also put in a couple of entries.  One – ‘Mr Stuart to the Secretary of State: “Will Susie Dent accept Brexit yet… the word I mean?!’ – struck a chord.  I fear it was a word that grated when I heard it delivered in the Queen’s Speech.

I managed to produce a short list of four.  I was tickled by Pendragon’s ‘Maybe we could get Theresa May to make up a fourth for our version of Mount Rushmore’ and Jonathan’s  ‘£350 million would pay for proper lighting in all university conference rooms.  Or have we allocated that money already?’  However, after much deliberation, I decided the runner-up was hullwarstudies with ‘Stuart: Ah, finally the UK’s leading constitutional expert and a Cabinet minister; can you tell me what the long term impact of Brexit will be?’  The winner, because it made me  laugh most, was John Stephens with: ‘So I said to Boris, “Don’t bother reading the Queen’s Speech..’.

If John Stephens would like to get in touch, a copy of Reform of the House of Lords will be on its way.

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Brexit caption competition


Given all the dreadful things that have been happening – and I may comment on them in a later post – I thought it may be appropriate for a bit of light relief and, by popular demand, offer another caption competition.  The picture shows Mark Stuart, Brexit Secretary David Davis and me in conversation.  The picture was taken some time ago at a conference in Hull.  I think it is a challenging picture for a caption competition, but whenever I think that I am usually proved wrong.  As usual, the reader providing what in my view is the most witty and appropriate caption will be the winner.  The prize will be a copy of Reform of the House of Lords.  What greater  incentive could one wish for?

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Now available….

I have now received copies of my Reform of the House of Lords, published by Manchester University Press.  As explained in earlier posts, it is a short guide – the first in MUP’s series of Pocket Guides – to the different approaches to reform of the Lords.  Those familiar with my Constitution in Flux may recall the four R’s – retain, reform, replace, and remove altogether – and these provide the framework for the volume.

I have just realised that at 86 pages it is the same length as my Voice of the Backbenchers – illustrated in my previous post – providing an analysis of the 1922 Committee.  As a short, pocket guide, it is priced at £9.99.

Having just checked, it is doing well in the Amazon bestselling ranking – even better than when I last wrote about it – though perhaps I should not mention that.  When I last wrote about it, it then plummeted in the rankings.  All being well, its appearance will put it on a roll…

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