- The attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the Second World War – but when did it officially end?
This isn’t one of those mystery stories about a Japanese soldier stumbling out of the jungle in the late 1940s to discover that the war had been over for several years, nor a rehashed version of the fact that Berwick-upon-Tweed was at war with Russia long after the Paris Treaty at the end of the Crimean War. However, it does start with the mild irritation of walking around The Mall in Washington DC.
History tells us that the war ended with the fall of Berlin with VE day on May 8th 1945 or more accurately with the end of the war with Japan on September 2nd 1945. But the actual end of the war with both of these countries came much later following a Presidential Proclamation, 2714, on this day 31st December 1946.
It is, in fact, the reason that US veterans from that war are defined up until that date.
Arguably the war technically ended in 1951, when Congress passed a resolution ending the declaration of war on Germany. This may seem odd, as we all generally accept that the war ended in 1945.But, because of the on-going occupation of Germany and Japan by US forces, as well as those of the victorious powers. It also allowed the Nuremberg Trials to go ahead as a military court rather than a civilian process.
So, should the memorial in the Washington Mall really say 1941-1951?
Posted by John Ault on December 31, 2011
In Chester the campaign to 'Axe MPs' Jobs for Life' took a turn for the worse
I’ve decided now that the referendum was almost last year that it was time to allow people into some of the more amusing aspects of the campaign. I should explain, that as the North West regional organiser of the Yes campaign it was my responsibility to deliver the ‘ground campaign’ in the region.
Although many of us argued strongly for a literature campaign, rather than the phonebanking that was adopted (hence the title of this section), eventually the campaign also focused increasingly on stunts. These ranged from banners, to dressing up as turkies (as they don’t vote for Christmas, like MPs) but this first installment involves an inflatable axe, though to be honest it more resembled a tomahawk rather than an axe.
As the campaign was heavily focused on the argument that Alternative Vote would end the ‘Jobs for Life’ culture of safe seats we were sent into the regions to hold up a banner with the words – “MPs Jobs for Life” and were expected to hold the said tomahawk over the banner, thus expressing the view that MPs jobs for life should be axed.
However, it is fair to say that people of Chester, where we held this banner, were utterly convnced that we were campaigning for “MPs Jobs for Life” and were just mildly bemused by ‘what’s that young man with the inflatable tomahawk doing?’
We didn’t do this stunt again, though we did find other used for the tomahawk/axe!
Office beheadings became a standby activity at times (Highvis jackets were important to maintain Health and Safety)
Posted by John Ault on December 30, 2011
Cornwall has a major chance to decide it's own future - will it take it?
With the prospect of Scottish devolution going at least one extra step towards Home Rule or even outright independence from the UK, Cornwall should decide, like Wales, whether it wants to see greater powers come from Westminster to decide more of its own future.
The Coalition government has evangelised the concept of localism, and although this has primarily focussed around the creation of new locally elected police commissioners and more elected mayors for major cities, Cornwall has a role to play in this new deal for local government.
When Cornwall became a unitary council in 2009 many Cornish people opposed the new council rather preferring the old district/county model, however, I supported the new council as it seemed to fit in much better with the aspiration of Cornwall to have its own Assembly, although the model created had far too many councillors to have this as a credible outcome at the time.
If the Coalition is serious about devolving more powers to local control perhaps Cornwall should begin negotiations with Westminster to see what powers could be devolved, such as transport.
Many studies have shown that both the electorate and Cornish politicians want to see greater powers devolved but the process would seem to have stagnated in recent years. With all Cornwall’s MPs now being supporters of the Coalition and with the Conservatives giving Cornwall special status before the 2010 election, by creating a Shadow Minister for Cornwall (though quite what happened to this in government no one knows) this should the best time to urge both parties to deliver on greater recognition for Cornwall.
The Planning Minister, Greg Clark, has indicated that he would welcome discussions on the subject, so let’s take the opportunity whilst it is there.
Posted by John Ault on December 30, 2011
- Truro and St Austell’s MP from 1974-1986 remembered today
People often ask whether you can remember where you were when JFK died. I don’t I was too young. But, for those of us who can remember David Penhaligon the feeling, I suspect, is similar to those people felt when John Kennedy was shot. A feeling of deep loss having very little personal knowledge of the man personally.
As an MP from a peripheral party at the time he was possibly a surprising national political figure who had garnered a great deal of national publicity and was almost certainly the shoo in as the next leader of the party, ahead of the eventual winner – Paddy Ashdown.
I was sitting in my front room with several school friends when I heard the news, being only 16 he had had a surprisingly big impression on me. Although I joined the SDP I had briefly met David Penhaligon once and also seen him speak once. The former was on polling day in the Knowsley North By-election, caused by the resignation of Robert Kilroy-Silk as a Labour MP. I, and fellow campaigners, had been out delivering leaflets in the pouring Merseyside weather and returned to the Alliance HQ, where we discovered David Penhaligon and other party luminaries with their sleeves rolled up delving into the inner workings of a printing machine. It was a surprising if apparently usual event.
This was an image I will never forget, and it has rather shaped my view of what MPs and party figures should be like since. He was deep down an activist and keen to helping in a by-election, however unlikely the party’s chances of winning. The other time I saw him was when he spoke at Methodist Central Hall at a pre-election rally in December 1986. His was an inspiring speech which set the tone for an exciting day at a party rally.
However, as any Liberal Democrat in Cornwall will tell you, his influence remains an important aspect of the party’s resonance and influence in Cornwall. I can remember campaigning in several general elections in Cornwall and still getting support for the party, twenty years on, because of the work he did for Cornwall, especially in Truro and St. Austell.
Liberal Democrats, especially in Cornwall, owe an awful lot to David Penhaligon and today we remember all that he did for us, the party and for Cornwall.
Posted by John Ault on December 22, 2011
Most electoral reformers were looking the other way when Scotland elected its first majority government in the devolved age and many haven’t taken on board the importance of this shift. We were busy trying to change the electoral system on the same day. But this change could actually be one of the main catalysts for the parties south of the border to revisit the way we do business at Westminster.
The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Greens and UKIP are committed to electoral reform but the Labour Party, whether before or during the AV referendum, has been almost equally split on the issue. But, with the possibility of the electoral mathematics being different in post-independence Britain could the combination of principle and self-interest move the Labour Party into a position where they see the benefits of electoral reform more clearly.
Although Labour has dominated Scottish politics since the mid-1960s (the last time the party did not win in terms of seats in Scotland was 1955) it has regularly failed to turn this pre-eminence north of the border into government at Westminster. However, with the Conservatives now so weak in Scotland the Labour Party have returned between 40 and 50 seats since the mid-1980s and the Liberal Democrats have also returned about 10 MPs from Scotland. Although the boundary changes at present being discussed makes the mathematics against an overall UK Labour majority worse they slightly improve if Scotland leaves the union but nonetheless this is a slightly marginal impact.
Losing 40 Labour MPs would have delivered a Conservative majority in Parliament in 2010
Do the mathematics of possible Scottish Independence make electoral reform more likely for Westminster
and the results would have looked like: Con 306 (307), Lab 217 (258), LD 46 (57) – with a Parliament of 591 seats – a Conservative overall majority of 21. So the decision Scotland makes on independence is important to England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland, as we would now have a different government if Scotland was independent.
So this major shift away from the Labour Party makes the prospect of Conservative government more of the time more likely. Does this sort of major shift in the nature of the country make it more likely that Labour sees the importance of its future policy on electoral reform? Well maybe, but the question is have our political class quite worked out that there is a genuine chance of Scotland being independent within the next five years? And this is where I believe there is a genuine level of self-denial amongst Westminster, and for that matter Holyrood, politicians. Scotland could well be on the verge of it’s the most significant constitutional change since 1707. With Alec Salmond running a popular, anti-Westminster government in Edinburgh there is a chance, without credible arguments and strong campaigning against independence, for it happen.
With this change will English and Welsh politicians come together to deliver a better way of electing Westminster as well as what Scotland decides for its own future?
Posted by John Ault on December 21, 2011