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Gadsden Times | Gadsden gets the British perspective

July 26, 2013
In The News


Gadsden gets British perspective

By Andy Powell | Gadsden Times | July 26, 2013

A group of business and governmental leaders got a civics lesson Friday — British style — from Stephen Metcalfe, a member of Parliament.

Metcalfe came to Gadsden with U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, who was hosting him as part of a State Department exchange program to give British MPs information about how the American political system and government works.

Metcalfe, a member of the Conservative Party that is in power in Great Britain, spent time in Washington earlier this week. He visited the Pentagon, met with officials from the Office of Management and Budget and the State Department and also spent time with Aderholt.

He was to spend the weekend with Aderholt in his congressional district, attend events in Cullman and visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.

While in Gadsden with Aderholt, Metcalfe visited the Carver Community Center, visited the Senior Nutrition Center and met with children at a summer camp before going to the meeting at The Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County.

He gave those at the meeting a quick overview on the British form of parliamentary government.

“I could have been doing this same thing today in my own constituency — visiting a holiday club and a senior lunch program, and then (holding) a roundtable with some community leaders and business leaders,” Metcalfe said afterward. “That part of the job is very similar. It's representing your constituents' interests, making sure you know what is happening in your particular area.”

He said his visit to Gadsden was the “most enlightening” part of his trip to the U.S., and that he was pleased to be able to see “the real America.”

Metcalfe will finish his time in the U.S. by spending several days in Boston to see how the federal government interacts with state government.

He said there are similarities between a member of Congress and a member of Parliament in that both represent their constituents in a federal or central government.

“I think the difference is scale,” Metcalfe said. “I represent about 100,000 people, and the Congressman represents about 750,000 people, so that's a big difference.”

Metcalfe said parties are even more important in England than in the U.S. — that while his name is on the ballot, most people vote based on party since the prime minister comes from Parliament.

He said voters will choose members of Parliament based on whether they want a change in direction in government, not necessarily on whether they are pleased with the member.

About 25 percent of the House of Commons, which is elected, are women, Metcalfe said. About 20 percent of the House of Lords, whose members are appointed or their position inherited, are women.

Metcalfe was elected to Parliament in 2010 from a district that had been represented by the Labor Party.

Aderholt's meeting was arranged by Etowah County Commissioner Carolyn Parker, who said she had been trying for about three years to schedule a district meeting with the congressman.

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