The Race for a New Speaker

“There are more hooligans in the House of Commons than at a football match.”

Brian Clough

The words of Brian Clough could not be more true, having studied politics and spent so much time watching BBC Parliament that I know the channel number on freeview without a second thought, I have to agree with him entirely. The responsibility to police these hooligans better known as MPs is currently John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, although not for much longer. He has announced he will step down from the chair at the next election or on October 31st whichever comes first. In doing so kicks off a very rare kind of election, the Race for a New Speaker.

The Speaker of the House of Commons is responsible for keeping order within the house and ensure that proceedings and rules are followed. The Speaker is a neutral MP in the house and is meant to ensure that all MPs whatever side of the house they sit on are heard equally. The Speaker also decides upon which amendments to bills will be put forward to MPs to vote on (this has caused controversey with the current Speaker).

The power of the Speaker is considerable should they need to use it and it is at their discretion as to when or when not to act. Other than the Government and Shadow Government, they are the most important MP in the house. And while they once came from a party on being dragged to the chair as is customary they must resign from that party and from that point on must remain forever neutral.

Traditionally there are a few perks to being the Speaker, you are given official robes to wear, an official office within the Houses of Parliament, a peerage (given a seat in the House of Lords) upon resignation and while you remain as Speaker by convention none of the main parties will stand a candidate against you. In theory one could remain in the chair for as long as they wanted (unless the House voted to remove you from the chair.)

What will happen to current Speaker John Bercow upon his resignation is unknown, as it is upon the government to appoint peers and they have made it clear they will not grant him one as in their view he was not neutral and merely disruptive to their efforts to secure the UK’s departure from the European Union. Whether or not John Bercow was a good and neutral speaker is up for individuals to decide.

Like all elections people put themselves forward as candidates and this is no different, any MP can put themselves forward for the election of the next Speaker and it will be up to their fellow MPs to decide whether or not they want them in the chair. As of writing there are a few MPs who have put their names forward for consideration to be the new Speaker, the current Mother of the House (longest serving female MP) Harriet Harman (Labour), Chris Bryant the Labour MP for Rhondda, Pete Wishart of the SNP and Sir Edward Leigh of the Conservatives.

In just over a month’s time there will be a new Speaker sitting in the chair, each of them leave a legacy. What will their’s be?

Explaining the United States

“I was reading your first post and found it very interesting, but I don’t know much about the US Government, could you do a post about it please?”

Anonymous

“It matters enormously to a successful democratic society like ours that we have three branches of government, each with some independence and some control over the other two. That’s set out in the Constitution.”

Sandra Day O’Connor

Today’s post comes from someone who contacted me asking me to explain the United States government in more detail after they had read my post examining the current case at the UK Supreme Court. This post won’t be an extremely in depth post, it will be an overview. If there is a wish for a more in depth look at the three branches I will write follow up posts on the three.

The United States is ultimately governed by their supreme law, the constitution, there it sets out how the federal government of the United States works and the powers they shall have. The framers of the constitution decided to spilt the power between three co-equal branches of government the President (Executive), Congress (Legislature) and Supreme Court (Judiciary). Each branch designed to fiercely guard the power it had while equally keeping the other two in line, it is important to understand the framers feared tyranny so did all that they could to prevent a single person holding it all.

Established in article 1 of the constitution, Congress’ role is to make laws. Representatives from the states to meet and to approve or deny new laws for the whole country. Congress can be broken down into two, first the House of Representatives and second the Senate. The House of Representatives is made of 435 members (+3 shadow members from Washington DC) and each state has its number of representatives determined by its population, the smallest state only having 1 and the largest California having 53. The House has the ultimate responsibility for the budget among other powers. The Senate is the upper house with each state being given two Senators making 100 Senators in total, the Senate has the responsibility for ratifying all treaties and executive appointments.

Established in article 2 is the executive, better known as the President is charged with the responsibility of enacting all laws passed by Congress. In addition to this the President is the Commander in Chief of all the United States’ military. This means that the President’s powers are considerable when it comes to foreign policy but limited by Congress with domestic powers. After the passing of the 22nd amendment the President is limited to a maximum of two terms in office. (There are some exceptions but that requires in depth discussion of the 22nd amendment.)

The final branch of government established in article 3 is the Supreme Court. Ultimately a body established to be the highest court in the land, it was the weakest branch of government (some believe it still is), until it in Marbury vs Madison (1803) it granted itself the power of judicial review, better known as the power to declare something unconstitutional. Whenever the executive and the legislature end up in conflict, it will fall upon the Supreme Court to sort it out, a classic example of a case being United States vs Richard Nixon (1974).

This is a quick run down of the three branches of government and an overview of their powers. If you wish for me to go into any further detail on anything I have covered in this post please get in touch.

The War for the Planet

“Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.”

The Dalai Lama

Many people have expressed to me over recent weeks how annoyed they’ve become seeing all the news stories over the environment and the effect of Climate Change on the world. Some claiming it is a great leftist conspiracy. Those views I can understand to a certain extent, but seeking to place political paranoia on something because it dominates the news headlines is foolish. It cannot be denied or ignored any longer, there is a War for the Planet. It is one we are losing.

Extinction Rebellion made people sit up and listen when they brought London to a standstill in an effort to make their point heard. It is a message that is slowly making its way through into the hearts and minds of the British public, something must be done. The question is what and by when?

Extinction Rebellion have set a target of 2025 for net zero carbon emissions, unfortunately while I would like to see that target reached I do not believe it possible. Yet the government’s current target of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions I believe is rather lax and slow. Ideally the UK should reach net zero as soon as it can but at the latest in my view by 2035, this will allow for time for new technology to be developed and prepare the infrastructure that will be required in order to do so. Unfortunately this won’t be without nuclear power, however moving towards being on complete renewable energy can be a long term goal.

The argument against this is largely economic, what would happen to all the current energy industries that rely on fossil fuels? The simple truth is that they’d go out of business if they didn’t adapt. Keeping these industries afloat would go against one of the founding principals of liberal economics, the market guides. Yet doing this will grow the green technology sector creating new revenue, new jobs and stimulating grwoth. The same would apply for installing and upgrading the power grid, it would create growth.

Granted it would require heavy investment. However as any parent would know the greatest investment you make is your children. Wouldn’t you like to have investment now so your descendants can benefit from the rewards? What would you like your legacy to be the generation that saved the planet or the one that doomed it?

Today we decide. It will take hard work and serious international cooperation, but where there is a will, there is a way.

And on a more positive note to end what has been a rather dire post, the Nature Journal of Science report that there has been a 14% increase in green vegetation since 1986.

Not all environmental news is doom and gloom.

Young People and the Conservative Party

“If we are genuinely concerned about engaging young people, particularly those that are vulnerable or at risk, we must listen to them properly.”

Libby Brooks

For anyone who hasn’t read my introduction piece I am a support of the Conservative Party, I was raised in an environment surrounded by many of the ideals of the party. Not spending beyond your means, work for everything you have and most importantly that you are your own greatest asset. However within the party I would be considered an odd case, I am young and I am socially liberal, not something which is too common. As a matter of fact I would likely be what would be described as a ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat if I lived within the United States.

Studying elections and voting patterns at university presented a rather alarming case for the Conservative Party which so far has been ignored. The age at which you were equally likely to vote Labour as you were Conservative in the 2017 election was 49 years old and it was a trend that was meaning the meeting age was increasing.

A lot of this will have to do with the aging population that came as a result of the Baby Boomer generation, but if the age is increasing what does that mean for the generations that came after them? Quite simply the Conservative Party is not appealing to younger people, specfically my generation what is being dubbed the ‘post milleanials’.

Why is that? It is likely a great many reasons, more than I can go into. The main reason however is social media, it is the realm of young people today and a realm that was lost to the Left and will take a long time to recover. My generation are being exposed to left leaning views more often than they are the right, the argument goes the more you are exposed and surrounded by something the more likely you are to agree with it.

Young people cannot identify with the values of the Conservative Party, they often have little money and do not truly understand the value of it therefore fiscal policy is going to be largely lost on them unless there is a direct policy aimed towards them, something around student debt or something to assisting with establishing themselves independent from their parents.

This then means you must look at social policy, young people are socially liberal and are at the heart of many radicial and new ideas. The Conservative Party quite naturally with the clue being in the name are not, they prefer the status quo not wanting to risk upsetting it on a whim and a prayer. While the party should remain there to prevent racial change and be the bulwark of the status quo, they must equally embrace change and be seen to do so.

When viewing the House of Commons on television and viewing MPs in their benches, it is very clear which is more diverse and unfortunately it is not the Conservative Party which allows the argument to be made that it is a party that doesn’t look like modern day Britain. Whether or not the argument is a valid one, it is one that cannot be ignored as diversity is something of great importance to the younger generations.

This does not mean that candidates must fit criteria to be allowed to stand as a Conservative, as it is important that local associations choose who they believe is best to stand. All BAME and all women shortlists, while I understand the reasoning behind introducing them, is only creating discrimination. Discrimination of any kind is wrong.

I do not hold the answers to the problems the Conservative Party is facing, I have purposely left out Brexit as that would require a whole post on its own, but what I have pointed out are important issues that the Conservative Party faces and must address if they wish to secure more voters of my generation.

The party must come to understand that not all change is bad and that it must adapt and change or ultimately die out. Perhaps if they party wishes to win the support of younger people they should take Libby Brook’s quote to heart.

The UK Marbury vs Madison?

“As I understand, the role of the federal judiciary, the role of our court system, is to provide justice.”

— Ted Deutch.

UKSC 2019/0193 is the case number for the current case going through the Supreme Court in effort to determine whether or not the advice given by Boris Johnson to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was illegal. This post won’t be offering a view on whether or not the advice was legal. Instead it will look at something far more important for the British constitution, does the Supreme Court assert itself as its own branch of government?

The Supreme Court as an institution is an extremely young one, with its tenth anniversary of its founding being next month. Prior to the Constitutional Reform Act (2005) the highest court in the United Kingdom was the House of Lords which created an interesting situation where the judiciary was also a part of the legislature. In 2009 this changed when finally the Supreme Court was moved into Parliament Square.

Due to its infancy the Supreme Court is not entrenched in the minds of the British public as opposed to the Supreme Court for those within the United States and while it has ruled on a great many cases it has only truly had one case of note that sticks in the minds of those who study both politics and law: Miller vs Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (2016). For those unfamiliar, this case determined that the Government could not enact article 50 without the approval of Parliament.

While Miller in 2016 was an important case for the Supreme Court to start to assert itself, the case that is currently before it is more so. Regardless of the decision that will be decided by the judges this is setting a precedent, which given the unwritten nature of the British constitution is important. First that decisions that contradict in two different parts of the country will be decided upon by the Supreme Court. Second that the Supreme Court will decide whether or not the advice given by a Prime Minister to the Monarch can be challenged.

The question therefore is how is this related to Marbury vs Madison at all? The power to rule if something is constitutional or not, the power of judicial review, the most powerful tool in the United States Supreme Court’s arsenal was not given to them within the constitution or by any amendments to it. Instead they gave it to themselves in the case of Marbury vs Madison (1803).

William Marbury had been appointed to a position by President John Adams just before he left office, the new President Thomas Jefferson refused to grant him this therefore he petitioned the Supreme Court to force the Secretary of States James Madison into granting it. The Chief Justice John Marshall knew full well that Jefferson would never honour a decision that went against himself as a result Marshall positioned the decision so that Jefferson could not disagree and would firm up the Supreme Court as a true branch of government.

The decision can be broken down as the following:

  1. Does Marbury hold a right to his appointment?  Yes
  2. Was Marbury entitled to a remedy under U.S. law?  Yes
  3. Was Marbury entitled to a writ of mandamus under Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789?  No, as the Judiciary Act (1789) is unconstitutional.

Marshall’s masterstroke to Jefferson was this: If you want the decision to go your way, you have to recognise it all including the new power of judicial review.

So why do I believe that the current case in the Supreme Court could potentially be the UK’s Marbury vs Madison. If the Supreme Court decide that it can rule on advice given by the Prime Minister to the Queen (regardless if the advice is lawful or not) it grants itself the power to decide to rule on any and all advice given to the Monarch in the future. A power it didn’t have before, not a power given to it by any statute and a power that has the potential to be the greatest impact on the British Constitution in centuries.

An introduction to A New Conservative

The very first question I was asked when I decided I would create this blog is why? It is a good question with an answer which honestly doesn’t have a thrilling answer to it. Because why not?

I had first been introduced to the idea of writing a blog at university, it was an assignment to write a blog based on a single topic. However it wasn’t until I left university that I decided to do it when I was (and still am) job hunting, so I could do something productive with my time while I awaited word to see if perhaps I had been successful on being granted an interview or perhaps even the job offer itself.

Then came the thought of what to actually write about? I studied politics at university and I have a keen interest in current affairs so why not write about them? That was the easy bit, it was then working out what to call this blog and trying to find a domain name that worked. The idea of the name I have to give credit to someone I went to university with who kept referring to me as “The Nice Tory” or “A New Type of Conservative”. It was through this that the name was born.

While I will endeavour to write in a politically neutral way, there will of course be an element of bias and I would be lying to say there wasn’t. I am socially liberal but fiscally conservative (a very odd mix I grant you), so before there can be any accusations of bias I have declared them openly before my first true post is even published.

I hope to offer my readers a different perspective to those that are pre-existing and offer food for thought. I don’t expect you to agree with me, it is far more interesting when you don’t and I am more than happy to discuss and debate with you. While I will be covering the UK and US as that is the subject area I am most familiar with I will happily research and write a post about other topics if asked.

All I can say now is thank you for reading so far, welcome to A New Conservative and I hope you stay reading for what is to come.

A New Conservative