‘Philosopher-Kings?’ Parliament Week event: Jenny Jones and Richard Bacon

The role of Parliament and its relevance in British life will be explored at the University of East Anglia (UEA) this month as part of a new national democracy initiative.

Parliament Week 2013, which takes place from November 15-21, aims to get people involved with parliamentary democracy in the UK and brings together organisations, schools and individuals in a week-long programme of events to engage, inform and inspire.

Two events are being held at UEA, organised by the Schools of Law, Political, Social and International Studies, and Philosophy. On Friday November 15, a debate and discussion will ask Is Parliament Fit for Purpose? Richard Bacon, MP and Member of the Public Accounts Committee, and Baroness Jenny Jones, the first Green member of the House of the Lords, will join lawyers, political scientists and philosophers from UEA to explore the state of Parliament today.

Organiser Dr Rupert Read, from the School of Philosophy, said: “We will be asking a variety of questions, such as does Parliament successfully hold power to account? Does it represent all the varied interests in the country? And what reforms might best sustain Parliamentary politics in the 21st century? This will also be an opportunity for people to voice their views, to make their point, to ask questions and to participate in the search for answers.”

A discussion on Friday November 21 will look at Parliament as a workplace, hearing about the experiences of people who worked in different roles – from the Commons clerk, backbencher, and special adviser, to the Cabinet Minister and journalist – and asking what Parliament means to them and the audience. Participants include Douglas Millar, former clerk assistant, Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North from 1997-2009, Jess Asato, special adviser to Tessa Jowell, former Home and Education Secretary Charles Clarke, and Philip Webster, former Lobby correspondent and political editor for The Times.

A new blog called Eastminster will also be launched to coincide with the start of Parliament Week. Hosted by the School of Political, Social and International Studies it will feature posts on whether and how Parliament needs to be reformed, with contributors including Rupert Read, Charles Clarke, a visiting professor at UEA, MP Douglas Carswell and Alexandra Runswick, director or Unlock Democracy, the UK’s leading campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms, as well as UEA academics. Members of the public will be able to comment on posts ranging from how parliamentary democracy needs to be reformed so that future generations are formally represented, to select committee reforms and civic education.  The blog, which will provide regular expert political analysis from UEA academics, will be available at www.ueapolitics.org from November 15.

The events on November 15 and 21 are free to attend and run from 6-8pm at the Thomas Paine Lecture Theatre, Thomas Paine Study Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ. www.uea.ac.uk

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