Parliament and the public

Lord Norton

Over the past few decades, Parliament has become a much more open institution and has sought to enhance its links with citizens.  There is already a substantial flow of correspondence between constituents and MPs – and the volume has grown substantially in recent years – but there have been problems at the institutional level.  How does each House facilitate and encourage input from members of the public?  There have not been the mechanisms for achieving input on a regular basis. 

Both Houses have sought to address the issue.  The Information Committee in the House of Lords published its excellent report, Are the Lords Listening? Creating connections between people and the public, in July of last year.  The House of Commons has also variously addressed the issue.  Among its recent changes has been the creation of a Backbench Business Committee,  appointed to decide backbench business to be taken on 35 days each session, with at least 27 of them taken on the floor of the House.  It has already published a report indicating in broad terms how it intends to proceed.  On Wednesday, it organised a seminar with some academics and officials from other legislative bodies to consider how to develop its role, not least that of communicating with people inside and outside the House.  I was one of the participants. 

One way of developing the link with members of the public is through making greater use of petitions presented to the House.  Though many people may devote time to organising and submitting a petition, when it reaches the Commons it essentially enters a parliamentary black hole.  Enabling the Committee to consider petitions (paper and potentially electronic) and to put some forward for debate – decided not just on a quantitative basis (number of signatories) but also on various qualitative criteria (for example, does it address an issue of public policy, is it amenable to legislative resolution, is it a topic not previously or recently considered by Parliament?) – would to my mind be a considerable step forward.  It is not the only step and, as the Committee makes clear in its report, it welcomes suggestions.  The Committee is also committed to transparency and will be publishing its recommendations and reasons for them.

Recognition of the importance of developing the links between the legislature and citizens is not confined to Westminster.  On Thursday, I attended a workshop, organised by my colleague, Dr Cristina Leston-Bandeira, which brought together scholars from a number of countries to address this very issue.  The result will be a double special issue of The Journal of Legislative Studies.  Much of the literature on legislatures has focused on the relationship of the legislature to the executive.  There is now an awareness that more needs to be done to address the relationship between the legislature and the people.

38 comments for “Parliament and the public

  1. 10/09/2010 at 8:55 pm

    The relationship between the Legislature and the People is overall one of Denial, Distortion, Derogation and Demeanment.

    We can see this from Britain’s dishonest use of the BBC, other Media, and the various communities of the Expertise-Society consisting of Themselves, Academia, the Judiciary, the Civil Service, Qango-land, and of course The Establishment including The Monarchy.

    The Commons is currently even brazenly and aggressively attempting to turn the House of Lords into a collared puppet-house.
    I give some instantiation from recent personal and citizenship experience:

    1) Today BBCNews that the Deputy Prime Minister has warned that further and deeper Cuts are having to be made, because this government is acting in the interest of a better future.
    What “interest” ? what better “future” ? and “better” for whom ?

    2) The hustings were similarly packed with meaningless, vapid loose-ends; one of which was the prevaricational-politicking that “the Labour prime-minister was not elected, get rid of him” and as soon as the ConLibdems got in both the Conservative’s appointed PM Cameron and the LibDem’s appointed DeputyPM Clegg were acclaimed as being prime ministers actually elected to those jobs by The People. (The now Foreign Minister Hague was among those falsifiers none of whom have been self-corrective since; ‘Self-correction’ being the third and perhaps most strongly-essential of the three principles of clear-thinking, good argumentation, and honest communication.

    3. BBC One’s Election special from Plymouth had us public each contribute two questions, each relevant to an Issue, and each less than thirty words.
    We were gathered in the entrance-lobby and told how to behave, and the BBC front-man seemed wth perfect democratic inclusiveism to ask “Any questions ?” and of the three hands that went up out of about 100, he picked mine:
    “Those of our tabled written questions that do not get selected here this evening, will they be submitted on upwards for both the Public and the Parliamentarians to see through some other media ?”
    A few people murmured assent.
    But after a cursory little laughing, shifting from one foot to the other, and glancing quickly over his shoulder, the BBC Presenter very briefly “I don’t know about that” and “Right everyone. let’s move in now !”

    Both of my questions were rejected, one of which was:

    “What could Parliament do to ensure that between elections every serious question and submission from any citizen is both seriously considered and publicly and constructively answered ?”

    All-of-my-above, Stet please.


    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      11/09/2010 at 12:20 pm

      JSDM: Your last question is essentially the one that we are wrestling with.

      • 11/09/2010 at 3:01 pm

        So JSDM’s 26 words question encapsulates what Lord Norton’s community are “wrestling with” ?
        “What could Parliament do to ensure that between elections every serious question and submission from any citizen is both seriously considered and publicly and constructively answered ?”

        Then why did you fling-around over 450 words to say what was possible in less than 30 ?

        and why was the question not taken-up and seriously-processed by Other-Authorities when the BBC ‘got rid of it’ very shortly prior to the May 2010 Election ?

        and after as you claim several decades of Parliament becoming a “much more open institution” seeking to “enhance its links with citizens” why is the advertised Aim of your Lords of the Blog to inform the Public about Life and Work in the House of Lords; rather than to build and institute a falsehood-eliminating multi-way channel or network between Parliament and the Public and vice versa ?
        Surely your title and duty, and that of the Parliament, is to support and improve the Life and Work of all of The People, all of their Time ?
        So, Lord Norton (that is your British-Nation-State Calling and Duty) you ought to know better than to try to turn me (or any other serious British citizen) into a public Laggard and Strawman, whose questions and constructive-submissions are not-quite-correctly-worded, or have already been scrutinised and put through into Legislation and or into the Constitution ?
        Why should any British resident pore through your Governance’s millions-of-words, as yet by your own admission ineffective, when your tens-of-thousands of governmental-employees can not even process a thirty-word serious and constructive citizen’s question, communicated at the personal-expense of that poverty-level pay-grade citizen; and while the Media ‘leaders’ and £millions-per annum ‘Editors, Journalists, Presenters, Investigators and Interviewers fail to meet the Case head-on and ‘verbatim’ ?
        A fully working two-way, and multi-way, inter-communication System is needed, between People and Parliament ampersand vice versa.; and it needs majorly to be an open-filtering forum Place or Network, too.
        You, Lord Norton, are regarded as being something of a ‘leader’ within the Lords, and certainly that is plainly evident on the Lords of the Blog; so deal constructively with every point in a citizen’s submission such as the one of mine you have just been so demeaningly brief about; please.
        Then not only more Peers but more Commoners might ‘join’ this common-task of establishing serious democratic-communication, and thereby become enabled to join with other democratic tasks.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          11/09/2010 at 5:16 pm

          JSDM: “Then why did you fling-around over 450 words to say what was possible in less than 30 ?” Because readers may not have understood the context if I merely posted a question.

          I was writing about the issue of Parliament and the public. The issue of how the media deal with questions of engagement is distinct. The advantage of the new media is that it is increasingly possible for Parliament to engage directly rather than relying on the mediation (which may constitute rather partial interpretation or simply ignoring what is going on). You pose two questions which I do not see as mutually exclusive. We seek to engage in order to enhance our knowledge base.

  2. ladytizzy
    10/09/2010 at 10:07 pm

    With all due love and respect, when and why did Parliament become concerned with what I think? Is this a new initiative or something that requires a measure of humbleness from time to time?

    Within, let’s say, the last ten years there has been more effort in connecting with ‘ordinary people’ (as the riff raff in the Commons term the electorate) than in the previous century. What gives?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      11/09/2010 at 12:25 pm

      ladytizzy: There has always been a connection between members and the geographic territory that they were returned to represent (even in pre-democratic days) and in recent decades constituents have been more active in contacting their MPs. However, the problem has been at the institutional level. Parliament used to be very much a closed institution as far as public contact was concerned, even to the point of making it illegal to publish details of parliamentary proceedings. That changed, though some vestiges did linger. In recent decades, there has been a growing recognition that the institution of Parliament has not been held in high esteem and the constituency activity of MPs – though well regarded by constituents – was not rubbing off on the institution itself. There has thus been a conscious effort to try to correct this and engage more with members of the public. This has taken various forms, including disseminating information to the public. There is a recognition that more needs to be done on the input side, enabling the views of people outside Parliament to be heard more between elections.

      • ladytizzy
        15/09/2010 at 2:39 am

        Thank you for your reply. I didn’t know that publishing debates had been illegal – what was behind this line of thought?

        The enigma of the House of Lords engaging with the public remains. You know I think it is fab that you do but I would have expected a more concerted effort from those who actually need the public to vote for them.

        One of the unexpected results of this blog is the extraordinary amount of interaction between authors and commenters, not replicated on any MP’s site (though a couple are notably better than others). The joy and problem with the internet is that it has a scattergun approach, unable to precisely target an MP’s electorate. But if it did, an MP would be unlikely to cope with the traffic.

        The efforts you and your colleagues make are very welcome but at some point even you will be unable to cope. What happens then?

        • 15/09/2010 at 2:11 pm

          ladytizzy, a snippet of unfinished-modern-political-history, especially for you, if may:

          “engaging with the public…it is fab that you do”(Lord Norton vel the Peers-of-the-Blog)

          but we would expect a more concerted effort from those who Need the public to vote for them (namely the Commons MPs)… /

          Note: British Democratic Governance Voting may well be no better than often Trade Union voting is, namely carried by a minority who nevertheless have enough numbers to ‘stack’ an election or a poll, simply because a large number of worker-members are too deeply disaffected or exhausted at the end of the week to turn up to Union meetings.

          Noting that the turn-up of British Electoral eligible voters in UK is only 60%, and at the May 2010 election the Parliament and Civil-Service managed to exclude thousands of that few number on the excuse that “their queue was too long for us to cope”, one rationally-infers that the voting was ‘stacked’, for instgance in the earlier hours of the day by the “all or nothing”, (dog-and-horse-racing “first-past-the-post”) ‘zealots’ and expert-one-track-minded specialists, who see only one party and therein therefore only one name to quickly mark one cross against (like up-to-speed-democratic-citizens all should).
          My current critique of the Peers in this blog and in the neighboring Weekly-Quiz, both represented by LN, might well support a view that the Peers are not intent upon communicating with the People and Citizen-ry, but rather clumsily softly-dictating at ‘the public’.
          (this was a rushed one-off comment by an apology-capable JSDM14114W15Sep10)

  3. 10/09/2010 at 10:22 pm

    Lord Norton,
    This may seem to simplistic to be taken seriously but I think that basic to transparency and real acceess to public sentiment and opinion is a cutlure of trying to be transparent aand open. I think the onus falls heavier on a person like yourself who favors the unelected second chamber and serves in it to keep an above average level of open information by world standards. In my opinion Lords is well above average right now as are you yourself when it comes to promoting open flow of information.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      11/09/2010 at 12:30 pm

      Frank Wynerth Summers III: I don’t think it is a simplistic point at all. Quite the reverse. I think you touch upon a fundamental point. I agree that the essential condition for effective engagement is to generate a culture of transparency. Without that, it will be a case of going through the motions, but not really engaging with those outside. I also agree with you about the Lords. To some extent, the House has been at the forefront in generating means of engagement, facilitated by a desire on the part of members to generate such engagement.

      • 11/09/2010 at 2:34 pm

        Lord Norton,
        Indeed, we must always remember people in and outside any topic…

  4. 11/09/2010 at 8:41 am

    One key service, that could surely be very quickly designed, constructed, and put into a period of live-testing between The Parliaments and The Peoples of Britain, would be Graphic representation and very frequent up-dating of the whole ‘gamut’, ‘pie’, ‘range’, contextuality-priority of, both Big and Small Issues and Ideas/Bills/Plans-In-Progress.
    It should surely fill that huge and vacuum-like ‘black-hole’ long been under-mining British Democracy, where we each and all need to be up-to-date with the “state of planet”, “the United Kingdom this week”, “the parliaments and local governments of the United Kingdom Q3 2010”, “your county, town, and electoral-constituency this month”, as the Big-Pictures, and we (one) could then check with this service whenever necessary or wished-for; one could even print-out such a graphic to carry in one’s lunch-bag, or to keep on pinning up on one’s bedroom wall as a dynamic-series.
    Would such a responsibly new democratic-institution be inappropriately ‘costly’ or ‘irrelevant’ to our mutual democratic Needs ?
    Surely even Primary school-children would delight in joining in somehow; and we could even watch and make suggestions to such big new overarches as the Youth Parliament ?
    But could the BBC, and other Media be persuaded (rather than “bought”) to disinterestedly run such a ‘People-to-Parliament-and-Back-Again, Democratic Information-and-Discussion’ institution ?

    and how much new legislation, or even Constitutional-adjustment would be necessary short-, medium-, and long- term ?
    To my mind there is plenty-enough existing legislation, infrastructure, logistics and good Will to get such a Service up and running in ‘no time at all (even within a week some website or other could have effectively started it two-way) ?
    The consequent future potential for strata of non-legislative ‘sub-parliaments’ to be ‘grown’ (especially throughout England where there is not yet an English legislative parliament) or “People’s Non-Legislative parliaments/democratic-centres” (previously suggested but not yet answered culminating in a “British Non-Legislative ‘House’ or ‘Network’ of Knowledge, Life-experience, and Ideas”, which would surely majorly help to fill such ‘black-holes’ or ‘impenerable barriers’ between the individual-person’s serious needs and constructivities and that (one Need) of the lucky few-thousand of the Petition-population, a System which at present is rather like a big Slug blocking the spout of the democratic ‘watering-can’ ?

    (No disrespect to the sub-lifesupportive and life-participant real Slug species intended).

    I could word all of this better I daresay; but since one sorely-neglected people-intercommunication element needing strengthening, all over the World and out into future Space, is surely “trust” and “confidence”, could you kindly let this be a sort of “pass the parcel” opening round “baby”:
    “Over to You”.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      11/09/2010 at 12:32 pm

      JSDM: We are moving in this direction, both in terms of Parliament through the website – including making it easier to follow legislation as it goes through both Houses – and also through the BBC and the Parliament Channel. There is certainly much more that can be done (though expanding such provision is not cheap) but we are moving in the right direction.

  5. Gareth Howell
    11/09/2010 at 8:57 am

    Petitioning is certainly not my kind of politics, or even lobbying, but the website has recently, in the last couple of years, even been offering petitioning facilities to those with grievances/ideas/axes to grind/weapons to wield, and it seemed to be effective, getting useful publicity for a variety of causes.

    The Civil Service at 10 never fails to respond publicly to correspondence, a clear statement of their own competence. The chain of command is unfailing, even if the government is!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      11/09/2010 at 12:35 pm

      Gareth Howell: There are problems associated with petitioning and, as indicated in my post, there are dangers in simply assessing them on the basis of the number of signatures (though how many have signed should not be discounted). However, they can be useful tools for raising issues, especially issues neglected previously by the media or Parliament. I have variously made the point that if either House is to give greater weight to – and encourage – petitions, it is important that resources are in place to let people know what has actually happened to their petition.

      • Gareth Howell
        12/09/2010 at 5:07 pm

        Thanks to LN for his noble reply.

        On an entirely different tack,

        ” much more open institution and has sought to enhance its links with citizens”

        The greater number of the populace still thinks that the place is highly policed and thoroughly exclusive and that if they want to be heard they have to appear on the BBC,if at all.

        Many are persuaded that the only way they may attend is to ask their MP, who has “only two tickets a month” or words to that effect, issued by the Member’s constituency office.

        The exclusivity but non constituent base for the noble house/second chamber offers alternative discouraging possibilities, but as a former ‘attender’, who resolved the attendance procedures of parliament effectively for some years, I am one to acknowledge that real effort is being made, to facilitate the attendance, of those who have political concerns, or wish to involve themselves in the decision making of parliament, either on single issues, or giving further advice to members than they already have.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          17/09/2010 at 11:12 am

          Gareth Howell: There is a real challenge in trying to balance the need for security – the Palace of Westminster is possibly the most iconic terrorist target in the country – with the fact that Parliament should be open to citizens. Something like one-million visitors a year pass through the Palace. The authories have really made great progress in recent years in trying to make the Palace more welcoming to visitors. There is more to be done, but the improvements achieved so far have been substantial.

          • 18/09/2010 at 6:28 pm

            Lord Norton,

            The British clearly view their Parliament differently than most. Capital buildings have been attacked around the world and I know of nothing like Guy Fawkes day. Even allowing for the fact that he was Roman Catholic and this was Britain on some week other than this it is distinctive that it is so mremebered. By way of example, the US Capitol was burned by the Brits in the War of 1812, was (though this is debated) in Confederate artillery geometric ranging sights in Jubal Early’s raid, was shot up by Puerto Rican Independence Activists in the twentieth century and may well have been the target of the captured airliner that crashed in Shanksville on September 11, 2001. I think most Americans and people of other countries simply think less of attacks on the comparable buildings –both in prevention and comemoration.

      • 19/09/2010 at 6:28 pm

        Gareth Howell and Lord Norton et al. regarding Petitioning: website on petitions says:

        Who petitions Parliament?
        Anyone can petition Parliament. All that’s needed is that the petition is properly set out and has the signature and address of at least one person.

        What happens when the MP gets the petition?
        Generally, MPs will present all petitions they receive from their constituents. However, MPs aren’t compelled to present petitions and doing so does not imply that they support the action the petition is calling for.

        Petitioning the House of Lords
        A Member of the Lords may present petitions to the House of Lords – reading out whom the petition is from and what their main point is. However, the procedure is rarely used, and leads to no action. “.
        It also points out:

        Lobbying and petitioning – what’s the difference?
        On a very simple level, the public lobby their MP or a Lord directly but petition either the House of Commons or House of Lords as a whole.

        Lobbying is an attempt to influence the opinions of MPs and Lords on specific subjects.

        Petitioning is making a request to the House of Commons to take action on a specific issue, which is presented to the House by an MP, often on behalf of their constituents. There is a procedure for petitions in the Lords but it is very rarely used.

        Related internet links
        Watch BBC Parliament’s short film on petitions:

        BBC Parliament: Petitions.
        I could not find a UK-constutionally-supported site impartially and verbatimly accepting an individual’s petition-submission and publicising it for (a) signature as is (b) public discussion (c)proposed amendment (d) and so on and so forth, upwards or OUT.

        Many points put forward on the Lords of the Blog e-site are worthy to be put into Petition-wording; but that appears to be another wet-blanketted “No Go”.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          19/09/2010 at 6:45 pm

          JSDM: I know. The problem is that petitions enter a parliamentary black hole. In the Commons, they either get presented formally or popped in the bag at the back of the Speaker’s Chair. Though they are referred to the relevant departmental select committee, for all intents and purposes that is the end of the matter. (The committees don’t have time to consider them.) In the Lords, as I found out through a Parliamentary Question, it is some years since a petition was presented.

  6. 12/09/2010 at 12:03 pm

    Britain’s whole Existence is in such a fallacious-mess that JSDM intends to contribute to “saving Britain” by utilising certain knowledge, know-how, principles and rules:

    (1)* The first principle, of good-communication, sound-argumentation,and the removal-of-falsehoods, is “Clarity”.

    JSDM will in future seek to
    (i)* identify the internal and external contexts of any posting, including sub-topics and overarching-topics;
    (ii) identify and separate-out falsehood and fallaciousness;
    (iii) (optionally) re-state or fairly-paraphrase anything valid, srongly-constructive or generally-‘good’ in any posting.

    (2)* The second principle being “Charity”, JSDM intends to summarise the posting-author’s intention and main-argument disinterestedly.

    (3)* The third principle being “Self-Correction”, JSDM intends to make some brief note as to how he himself/she herself should or could make self-correction, and to add as far as possible some note as to what or how the posting-author should or could make self-correction.
    * (parenthised numbering) = not necessarily to be tackled in this strict numerical order.
    As an hopefully appetising example, Lord Norton’s primary-posting “Parliament and The People”:

    (1) Clarity. The title “Parliament and the public” slyly subjugates The People. (Elsewhere also, LN and other Peers show this type of flaw which, consequent upon the essential of clear-communication and honest-argumentation qualifies immediately to be labelled and dealt-with as “falsehood”, “fallaciousness”. “dishonesty”, even arguably as “treason” (because a mere loosely-sprawling “the public” could include any sort of human, British or otherwise, criminal or saintly, honestly-individual or collectively-disruptional)… thus the post-er Lord Norton starts off ‘no confidence’, sort of ‘one foot already in the Tumbril-Cart’.

    Skimming on through for similar bias, we find plenty;
    and (further)in the lord’s closing sentence we find an extension to that bias and loose-ended foggy generalisationism in
    “There is now “an awareness” that more needs to be done to “address” the “relationship” between the legislature and the people”.
    But this posting is only intended as a ‘snapshot-sample’ about bits needing scrutiny and the removal-of-fallaciousness;
    so we move-on:
    (2) Charity. On the positive side, Lord Norton appears to be including both the Lords’ information Committee and the Commons’ Backbenchers B-Comm, in his main internal context (but common-sense might also see that those two committees ‘externally’ have greater ‘remits or terms-of-refernce’ than simply (“) improving or establishing clear communication between the Parliaments and The British Peoples and vice versa(“) – (“)JSDM’s ‘wishful-interpretation’, of the Intention of Lord Norton’s Posted, but not succinctly-spelled-out, topic(“).

    (3) Self-Correction. JSDM needs to refrain from “correcting” the post-er’s own chosen title-wording; in this instance should not have misrepresented Lord Norton’s primafy-posting as “Parliament and The People”.
    JSDM now apologises to one and all and acknowledges Lord Norton’s title as “Parliament and the public”.
    (((Hee, hee, hee ! any-body spot a possibly ‘deliberate’ Ambiguity there, as an Amphiboly or an Equivocation ? )))

    JSDM also setiously intends to make his submissions ever shorter and ever more concise and to the (whatever) Point or Points.
    JSDMrespectfully suggests to Lord Norton that he (Lord Norton) could make the respective relationships between Internal topics ampersand contexts, and External contexts, clear at the outset.

    (End of sample run-through the good-communication three principles (1) Clarity (2) Charity (3) Self-Correction).

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/09/2010 at 6:58 pm

      JSDM: we look forward to the clarity.

      • 15/09/2010 at 9:01 pm

        My only source-guide at present for the Clarity, Charity. and Self-Correction principles is “Inductive and Practical Reasoning” ISBN 0 9596196 0 7, pages 1-2 and 174-175;

        but perhaps that will be more appropriate to our “people” general-level, and also quicker to communicate from under ever-present time-effectiveness constraints.
        JSDM2101 W15

  7. 13/09/2010 at 4:29 am

    I wish to post more briefly my similar but more orderly and clear three-principles analysis, of the main elements of argument submitted to this blog on “Parliament and the public”, within a week or so.

    My task is to make such communication Clear, Charitable, and Self-Correctional, in accordance with good-communication and honest-reasoning.

  8. 14/09/2010 at 1:10 am

    Addendum, for Lords of the Blog in general please:

    When a further factor comes into play after a posting, it should be quickly posted as an “addendum” (or “corrigendum”).

    This week’s Civil Service and other Unions’ opposition to the conlib-government’s Cuts policy and programme contains further perspective, evaluative and reasoning material that could, and very probably should, be ‘Stop Press’ essentuial information for The People.
    An instance is an evaluative and reasoning perspective worded something like this on BBCNews early morning M13 Sep 2010:

    (1)(“)For so many hundreds of above-the-law legislative government parliamentarians, who have been and still are living luxuriously on high-remuneration from our Tax-monies, in a private-lifestyle wealth-bubble quite removed from the real hands-on difficulties and dangers of Britain’s essential production, protection, and support-services, to be so cruelly and repeatedly cutting big-money from the already meagre incomes of the lowest-paid and most-disadvantaged of the British citizenry and workforce, is an unacceptable disgrace(“).

    (2) (“)For a long period not many years ago when Britain had a Deficit equal to our total GDP, great advances were made and institutionally-entrenched, such as the creation of the NHS, and that was made possible by focusing upon Growing our Economy rather than Cutting-it-back further and further.
    The Conservative-Libdems government is today faced with only a 50% deficit against our total GDP; and yet it is hell-bent on diminishing Britain’s Economy further-and-further into lasting Recession and a quite possible Depression hitting and damaging the most disadvantaged and the most vulnerable and needy tens-of-millions of innocent and hard-working British People, whilst at the same time increasing the obscenely-gross overpaying of the so-called Leader, Banking, and Governing classes who criminally and malfeasantly caused, and failed to remediate, Britain’s current burdensome Debt and Recession(“).
    Such addenda should be quickly made available as new contextual-material to every relevant Post and comment-train.

    JSDM intends to include such from today in his deliberations and subsequent contributions or submissions.
    Tommorrow: JSDM will begin working through postings by ladytizzy, FrankWynerthSummersIII, and Gareth Howell sequentially, trying to focus upon Clarity, Charity, and Self-Correction, and including Lord Norton’s replies thereto.

  9. 14/09/2010 at 12:17 pm

    When will the ‘double special issue of The Journal of Legislative Studies’ be published? I would be interested in reading it.

    • 14/09/2010 at 1:11 pm

      David Morris;
      and all of us,
      need to be-ware of the terms the imminent double special issue of The Journal of Legislative Studies, as couched by Lord Norton:

      “the importance of developing THE i.e. ‘existing’ links”;

      No mention of exploring for more democratic, better-communicative, and legislatively more effective channels.

      “Links” ? that is inescapably a “Chain”;
      whereas democratically we need People-to-Parliament “highways” capable of handling any volume of serious letters and communications (i) one-way (ii) two-way (iii) committee-numbers-way (say between 3 and 7 people at a time) (iv) multi-way and ‘nation-wide’ participatory forum-like way

      e.g. in the case of preparatory ‘white-‘, ‘black-‘, red-, green-, yellow-, and blue-, hats Thinking; of Needs & Hows recognition and MethodIII problem-solving; and of widely-democratic cooperational Discussion: i.e. before ever competitive or pre-emptive political and public “debating” and “voting” can begin.


    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/09/2010 at 6:57 pm

      David Morris: The double special edition will form the June and September 2012 issues of the journal. The fact that it will not be appearing sooner is partly due to the scale of the exercise and partly due to the fact that we another special issue scheduled for 2011.

      JSDM: The contributors to the issue will be looking at new and innovative ways in which some legislatures are seeking to communicate with the people. Some legislatures’ ‘new’ methods are other legislatures’ established measures.

      • 15/09/2010 at 8:45 pm

        Thank you. LN : ‘something understood’.

        And your word “with” (the people) brings a sigh of relief (renewed hope) that we could perhaps be close to ‘singing from the same page’.

        (( memo: must remember to check if we’re using the same book, as well as the same page-number, and line, (and “bar” !) ))


      • 15/09/2010 at 9:37 pm

        There is a major ‘Need & How’ for the many ‘disparate’ ‘levels’ of The People.

        As I visualise it, this need is for the true essence of any citizen’s expressed-concern, serious-question, reasoned-argument, and constructive-suggestion to be ‘verbatimly’ filtered-through to the appropriate level of governance possibly (hopefully) as far as The Commons and The Lords;

        but most importantly the submissor and The People should be given serious and (hopefully) constructive answer to at least the ‘bit’ that is ‘good’ in the submission.

        This would no doubt be a greatly-increased new ‘network’ of Transparency, requiring of course a quite large number of reasonably-educated critical-readers-cum-‘filterers’;
        and such could, I would argue ‘should’, be instituted as a tiered community-service-pyramid, whereby the first-level huge bulk of input from the people could be sorted and initially graded by selected volunteers from the Public.

        This new body of public volungteers should majorly include university-students, A-level, and possibly some capable GCSE-level, students; majorly on an ‘work-experience, expenses-only-plus-free-meals’ sort of basis.
        ((Lord ! the ads we see every day on TV trying to recruit Driving-Instructors from the general public “all you need is a driver’s-license and we’ll put you into a new career !”: such could surely be betterd in this much more serious and necessary long-term Vocation & Mission, to be Developing-Democracy’ ? ))

  10. Senex
    14/09/2010 at 9:44 pm

    This is not funny; it’s the Finnish for me:

    Professor Osmo A. Wiio formulated “Wiio’s laws” when he was a Liberal Peoples Party Member of the Finnish Parliament (1975-79).

    Ref: History; 1907 Women
    Organisational Communication

  11. Carl.H
    16/09/2010 at 11:11 am

    Events in recent days show that Parliament and the public is a complete sham. Parliamentarians really do not want to know how the public feels or indeed care about democracy.

    This has always been the way with MP`s, they are right no matter the evidence or what the public says. We can see this clearly in recent days with the emerging news about the Badger cull, the public don`t want it and the science says it will do more harm than good. We have to accept from this that MP`s, indeed Government, is being leaned on by an industry. To ignore the majorities wishes and all the scientific evidence means there must be a powerful force at work, one that can manipulate Government to commit suicide and that is what it will be. I really don`t expect the same Government in power next summer. The seeds of discontent are sown, cuts were bad enough but ignoring the electorate and the evidence is just damning.

    You think a Badger cull is not enough to bring down a Government ? Perhaps not on it`s own but it expressly goes against the mindset of the British people who will revolt the first time when they see on TV barbaric cruelty against a poor creature.

    We`ve seen on here that the Lords, now filled with the dregs on the Commons, act in a similar way. Total disregard for the publics view. Lord Soley not liking my views taking to insulting me publicly, I don`t mind really it shows him for what he is, undignified and unable to address his position in an intellectual way. It shows that people have got into the position who really shouldn`t be there. The problem with this is that whether through planned sabotage by the other place or by accident it is another nail in the coffin of The House of Lords.

    Is Parliament listening or going to ? Obviously not or only when we agree with them. Whichever colour you choose at election time at present the Government ends up bought either by the Unions or the rich owners/industries and neither is right or wants to listen. Greed is a selfish master.

    The rise in VAT and the cuts which will affect the poor worst of all will see the demise of this Government and it`s complete contempt for the will of the people in such things as Badger culling.

    VAT rises hurt those who HAVE to spend all their income to survive, it doesn`t hurt the bankers bonuses or the Footballer on £30k a week, the ones who withdrew the most money in the good days. The debt should be paid proportionately via direct taxation not by taxing the poor. If you took the most out you pay the most back.

    Parliament NO you`re not listening, nor it appears do you want to hear.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      17/09/2010 at 11:24 am

      Carl.H: There is a difference between not listening and not agreeing with what is said.

      You have ten people come to a meeting. You have to choose between policy A and policy B. You listen intently to all of them. Five people make a good case for policy A and five make a good case for policy B. Weighing up what you have heard, you opt for policy B. The five proponents of policy A then accuse you of not listening. It may even be that nine people make the case for policy A and only one for policy B, but you find the case for policy B persuasive. One has to make a judgment as to what weight to give to the evidence and what weight to the balance of numbers. Whatever decision you reach does not mean you are not listening. You cannot please everyone. It is important to recognise that there is a difference between not being listened to and not being agreed with.

      From a parliamentary perspective, the important consideration is that both (or the several) sides of an argument are heard. It is then for the members to weight up the arguments. I also think it important that the process is transparent so that people can see that all sides are being considered. It also helps people at times to recognise that there are two sides to an argument.

  12. Carl.H
    16/09/2010 at 11:29 pm

    Let`s look a little closer at reasons why the House of Lords will fail in it`s dealings with the public and why ex MP`s are the main reason.

    The House has become stuffed full of ex MP`s, people who were against the House when they were in the other House. These people as MP`s were said to be accountable to the public but when they failed as part of a Government they were elevated to the Lords. This not only makes a mockery of accountability but puts some of Britains most democratically hated political figures in positions of responsibility and persuasion. These people if you ask still firmly believe in the policies that the electorate said “no” to and supposedly held them accountable.

    Holding those same policies sacred means they don`t want to listen to the electorate as they didn`t when they were in the Commons.

    These people still hold the Party line, the Lords has become more party orientated as years have gone on. The ability of a failed Government in it`s accountability to alter the pattern of voting in the Lords is absurd and often rectified by an incoming Government till it is as it is now bloated beyond reason.

    The Lords won`t listen to the public they`re still following the Party in a majority of cases. Yes,yes Lord Norton may point out there is a degree of revolt occassionally but playing let`s swap seats today won`t do.

    We`re not going to see much listening to the public whilst the ears are firmly in the Commons with the Party. They`ve often spent years in the party brainwashed by it I suspect into believing they know the answer.

    The Lords is beyond redemption, deliberately sabotaged, unable to listen to the public or reason at times. It is doomed by the greatest way to change anything…Become part of it.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      17/09/2010 at 11:31 am

      Carl.H: The remarkabe thing is not the extent to which peers who are ex-MPs influence the House of Lords, but rather the extent to which the House of Lords influences members who are ex-MPs. Those who make the transition down the corridor – and most don’t (as we saw in last week’s quiz, not all ex-Cabinet ministers make it) – are very quickly socialised into the ways of the House and the need to debate issues substantively.

      Peers do tend to vote on party lines (as my own research has shown) but I have not seen any evidence that they House has become more party oriented as the years have gone on and, in numerical terms, the cross-benchers have become more significant in recent years.

  13. Carl.H
    17/09/2010 at 11:38 pm

    “Part 1: Cohesion
    Author: Philip Norton

    The British House of Lords constitutes an ideal chamber for the purposes of studying party cohesion. It is a chamber in which the political parties lack the constraints and incentives that in other legislative chambers normally constitute the means available to ensure party unity. Analysis of voting behaviour in the House of Lords demonstrates a high level of cohesion. There is no evidence to sustain institutional explanations of cohesion. The most plausible explanations are sociological, socialisation to party norms occurring prior to arrival in parliament.”

    Born a Tory or a Labourite always one ? Whichever way one looks at it, it certainly does NOT appear that Lords socialisation changes them. I would certainly value Baroness Murphy`s view on why this cohesion is occurring, I feel that is more her field.

    Regardless of why it is apparent it is evident that Party members vote the way of the Party, in a vast majority of the cases, because they are Party Members.

    Would you agree that if the public has essentially sacked a Government, held them accontable, they then shouldn`t be put in such a high position ? This hardly seems to be holding them to account.

    If we accept the last Labour Government created so much debt that we are all going to suffer, is it right that parts of that Government should still be making decisions in the House of Lords ? We the electorate sacked them but they themselves were able to promote themselves to positions of Authority. How can this be correct ?

  14. Carl.H
    18/09/2010 at 12:34 am

    If one states that Party cohesion is evident in the House and we know that the “Usual Channels” have much control of the House we then have to consider the impact. If this is a Party Politically made up House as it is appearing, then surely it is the right of electorate to decide on it`s form ?

    If we state that ex MP`s are tainted before entry to Parliament into a Political ideology that doesn`t change on Entry to the Lords then they cannot judge or scrutinise without tainting the evidence. If we accept that the make-up of the House should NOT better one party than the other then thereisnocausefor them to be there as the Cross Benchers will sway the vote one way or the other without the need for them.

    IF the House of Lords is to continue in the fashion it is, along Party divided lines, with subsequent Governments able to alter the voting patterns by bloating the House with it`s members then it has to reformed and replaced with an elected chamber. This goes against my own judgement but if it cannot be wholly trusted to be independent, to vote on evidence alone it is the only way.

    It is a fact that Governments are controlling by altering membership to the House. It cannot be allowed to continue in this way, the electorate are the only ones who should rightly say how Parties make up a form of Authority.

    Most people would agree that any scrutinising Authority such as IPSA etc., should be independent. The Lords is a scrutinising Authority if it cannot be independent then the only way forward is to let the electorate decide it`s make-up and that should in no way be for 15 years. It then should be accountable to the public as much as Government is.

    If Party Politics through cohesion because of whatever factor is dominant in the House of Lords, which Lord Norton admits, then it is time to reform. Any referee, scrutineer, judge, jury has to be independent none of us would expect any less.

  15. Dave H
    19/09/2010 at 10:27 pm

    Of course, the way to get a petition noticed is if you can get many simultaneous ones presented at the same time. Look at the petition presentation in the Commons for 8th December 2009. It took a bit longer than usual, and there was almost a party atmosphere if you watch the video coverage.

    However, I guess if everyone did this, the effect would be much diminished.

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