Parliament Matters – Election alert and the year ahead in Parliament: Why are so many election rules being changed? (Episode 14)

5 Jan 2024
Women entering a polling station in the UK during the European Parliament elections. (©European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

What should be on your radar when Parliament returns on 8 January 2024? Exploring the year ahead in Parliament, we discuss how the uncertainty about the date of the general election may affect scrutiny of the new laws proposed by the Government.

Once the Prime Minister has decided on the date and asks the King to dissolve Parliament, some of these new laws may get pushed through Parliament in super-quick time during what is known as the ‘legislative wash-up’. But is this a good way to make new laws? And what influence do MPs and Peers have if time for scrutiny is squeezed?

When the election is called, it is vital that the rules and processes underpinning the general election campaign are free and fair to all sides. But the Chair of the Electoral Commission recently issued a warning about the risk of election failure. So, we explore what is happening with our election infrastructure, what changes are currently going through Parliament, and what the political parties think about them.

Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.

Parliament Matters podcast episode 14

Please note, this transcript is automatically generated. There are consequently minor errors and the text is not formatted according to our style guide. If you wish to reference or cite the transcript copy below, please first check against the audio version above. Timestamps are provided above each paragraph.

00:00:00:00 - 00:00:16:19

You are listening to Parliament Matters, a Hansard Society Production supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn More at

00:00:16:21 - 00:00:45:10

Welcome to this special New Year's edition of Parliament Matters on Mark D’Arcy, and I’m Ruth Fox. In this episode, Ruth and I will be looking at the year ahead in Parliament before a tumultuous general election campaign unfolds. We'll be looking at the state of play for the Government's program of new laws and the things that should be on your radar when Parliament returns on the 8th of January and we'll be analysing the timetable for the election, including what Parliament needs to do to ensure that all our elections remain fair and free from improper influence.

00:00:45:12 - 00:01:07:24

It's also a record breaking year for elections around the world. More than 2 billion people in 50 countries are set to go to the polls. So we'll be looking at some of those elections and the possible ramifications for parliament here in the UK.

00:01:08:01 - 00:01:33:16

Well, Parliament's going to be returning to Westminster for what promises to be a kind of fag and session of lawmaking, but we don't know quite how much legislative tobacco is going to be left to MPs and peers because it all depends on when Rishi Sunak finds the starting gun for the next general election. If there's a lot of time left, if we don't have a spring election, then quite a few new laws might actually get through to the point where they can be signed into the statute book by the sovereign.

00:01:33:18 - 00:01:53:10

If it's a spring election, then very few will go through except in a very kind of abbreviated form. So first of all, update us on the progress. How far is the government goal? Well, the 17 bills that were in The King's Speech, 15 have had second reading. Nine have got through to Committee stage. And of those four have completed report stage.

00:01:53:10 - 00:02:14:11

So they're almost ready to be heading off into the Lords. We've had a few bills, of course, that have come through that were not mentioned in The King's Speech clause. The Rwanda bill, of course, was the key one. We also had a bill which has got royal assent, the National Insurance Contributions Reduction and Rights Bill. So a little getting changes in National Insurance coming into force this month.

00:02:14:13 - 00:02:37:06

Of course, that was headlined in the chancellor's Autumn Statement in November. There's a bill that's coming through the Post Office Horizon Systems Compensation Scheme. So there's a number of additional bills that were not in the Queen's Speech, not in the King's Speech. In fact, still a year on making that a lifetime habit, but a mistake state obviously, you know, you're looking at where the problem's going to be for some of these bills.

00:02:37:06 - 00:03:09:07

I mean, quite a lot of them are quite anodyne. They're not particularly controversial. We know Rwanda's obviously going to be problematic. The state protection and Digital Information bill, we expecting that to come across some problems in the Lords because that's got the questions about surveillance of bank accounts and so on, possibly leasehold and freehold reform. That bill started its proceedings, but we're expecting some quite significant amendments to ban leaseholds on that basis, and that's one that could be a bit of an election issue because there are an awful lot of leaseholders out there who aren't happy with ever increasing charges to their freeholders.

00:03:09:09 - 00:03:28:14

And for for reasons I don't quite understand in the policy development process, those proposals were not in the bill at the start, but they've been promised that they'll make their way in sort of midway through the scrutiny process. So we'll have to see what what happens with them. And then the same issues around the digital markets, competition and consumers, Bill, which again, the sort of the House of Lords will no doubt be getting their teeth into.

00:03:28:14 - 00:03:52:21

So there's a lot there still to go, but they are making good progress. And in the scenario where you get an early election called, governments don't like to just kill lots of bills because they haven't got the time to get them through. So there's this magical process called the wash up, which is a kind of fast track where they try and get their programme of laws through or as much of it as possible, but that involves the opposition cooperating.

00:03:52:21 - 00:04:07:11

It's a moment where quite rarely in Westminster the opposition parties have what amounts to a veto power over what's in a bill. We won't let you fast track a bill if this bit that we really don't like is still in it. So you've got to be prepared to ditch that bet to get the rest of the thing through.

00:04:07:14 - 00:04:30:07

Yeah, I mean, you know, in the days between the calling of the election, the dissolution of Parliament was basically a negotiation between the government and the minor party, the opposition to basically decide what they're willing to go through. And as you say, the opposition effectively got a veto. Now, how you view this process because it basically expedites the laws through the scrutiny process in a matter of hours.

00:04:30:09 - 00:04:52:08

How you view it depends upon your perspective. For some, it's a squalid stitch up. Obviously, it excludes the minor parties. They're not really part of the discussion. The backbenchers really not don't get a look in. It's very much a negotiation between the business managers on the front benches. The House of Lords is less relevant in this process. The crossbenchers, in particular in the House of Lords, because again, it's a sort of a stitch up agreement.

00:04:52:12 - 00:05:12:24

One way of looking at it, it's a pragmatic solution. A lot of time and effort and resource will have been spent on these bills and the Government wants to try and get as much of it onto the statute book as it can and not waste that time and effort. And the Opposition has the opportunity to say, well, we're willing to let those aspects of the bill go forward for royal assent, but we're not willing to let these particular clauses.

00:05:13:05 - 00:05:29:16

So it's a pragmatic solution that both sides are happy with. And I do think that the opposition parties actually quite enjoy having that rare moment of actual leverage. I mean, obviously in the House of Lords with no government majority, the Opposition sometimes has a little bit more leverage, but what they do is often overturned in the House of Commons.

00:05:29:16 - 00:05:53:21

So this is a moment where they actually stop the stuff they don't like getting into law. And that's that's a rare sort of adrenalin rush, I think, for opposition business managers. But the criticism is also that sometimes the government is perceived to manipulate the timetabling of the legislation in the scrutiny process because it knows when it thinks which on election is going to be and has last in mind in terms of what it brings forward.

00:05:53:21 - 00:06:17:02

When 2010 of course was there was a huge round about which bills were being put through this this legislative process. You know, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, a major piece of constitutional legislation is often considered in in a previous session carried over. But it hadn't yet completed all its stages. The Digital Economy bill second reading in the House of Commons the day before the wash up process began.

00:06:17:04 - 00:06:37:24

So that basically got no scrutiny at all. It was time and of course, financial matters. It depends on the taxes through depending on where you are with the finance bill estimates. So you're sort of your both your tax and your spend. So you can see hundreds of billions of pounds being approved with next to no scrutiny as opposed to the detailed scrutiny I get at the moment, he said sarcastically.

00:06:37:24 - 00:07:01:24

Because I was one of my bugbears. I think financial scrutiny by the House of Commons is pretty much an empty ritual these days. But I suppose the key point here is that I don't suppose Rishi soon really knows when he's going to call the general election. I think that the Government is in what in my days, a thousand years ago we used to call the Travolta micawber strategy, staying alive and waiting for something to turn up.

00:07:02:01 - 00:07:22:08

They will be looking, I'm sure, for a window of electoral opportunity where maybe the polls stop looking quite as horrible for them, at which point they'll die through it. But they don't know when that's going to be. They might hope that, for example, a budget next year might give them a bit of a boost. But at the moment the polls look so dreadful for the Conservatives that I think they've got to try and hope that they can find a way of turning things around.

00:07:22:10 - 00:07:39:20

Yeah, well, if we think about the timetable by law, Parliament has to dissolve at the very latest on the 17th of December for an election that would take place in January. But Rishi Sunak told journalists, though, that he thought the election would be this year, so not in January. So he's presumably not going to go right up to that finishing line.

00:07:39:20 - 00:07:57:10

Well, I don't think anybody would forgive him for putting us through a general election campaign in the next Christmas. Ho, ho, ho. Yeah, but then you say, you know, there are a range of options. And the question is, does he go for the spring election? The advantage of that is held on local election day first Thursday in May.

00:07:57:12 - 00:08:18:00

You don't suffer the indignity of a possible really bad result on local election day, possible loss of a lot more councillors, you know, your key volunteers on the ground to get the vote out, so go for it that day. The Electoral Commission, it has to be said, absolutely hates the idea of general elections being run in tandem with a whole set of local elections.

00:08:18:00 - 00:08:38:14

And that's the kind of election watchdog. QUANGO The Voice used to be quite influential. I don't think that the government is exactly agog to listen to their views. These days. Now, I mean, voter ID will be an issue, of course, because in Wales, for example, you don't need voter I.D. for certain elections, but you will for the general elections if you have local elections and general elections on the same day, you would have issues.

00:08:38:16 - 00:08:58:14

The other option, of course, is then, okay, if it's not, May seemed unlikely. It would be kind in June and July if you haven't gone for my election. So you're probably looking then at sort of September, October, November. But then you get into some complexities around not least party conferences. And because this is, you know, the sort of a big set piece event, it brings in a lot of money for the political parties.

00:08:58:16 - 00:09:21:16

Are they willing to forego that? Yeah. For that or are they sort of, you know, happy to crash through it once you get into October? Of course, you get into the sort of the the clocks go back. You got to think about timing of other elections. I mean, the US presidential election, you know, you don't want to be sort of heading into a situation where parliament's not sitting or, you know, the general election just before November and Parliament's barely got back.

00:09:21:18 - 00:09:41:20

If we have a situation where we have a change in the presidency and for example, Donald Trump got elected and you have havoc. But I think to coin a phrase, that most of those considerations are trumped by the question of whether or not the government thinks it can win. They will go when they think they can win and damn the torpedoes as far as any other consideration is concerned.

00:09:41:22 - 00:10:02:16

So you've got the prospect of an election floating over parliamentary business for as long as it takes in the coming year, and that is of itself disruptive and that is in a way almost an invitation to backbenchers to start striking poses and being difficult. And I hope that generates a few good local headlines for them and perhaps saves their bacon.

00:10:02:16 - 00:10:22:14

You know, I think the longer the government waits before calling a general election, the harder it's going to find it to control its own troops. And that's a consideration as well, because the deadly effect of looking like a shower. Yeah, the electorate thinking that there's just chaos out there and we do need to check it feeds into any kind of time for a change narrative that Labour will be stoking.

00:10:22:14 - 00:10:45:10

So that's a problem for the Government too. Yeah, I mean it's completely anecdotal, but I'm quite struck by the number of people, friends, family who have said that they think the shower or worse than the Jamaican government, which if you think about, you know, the sort of the landslide 1997 result that was sort of seen as a very big response, reaction to the failings of John Major's conservative government in that 1997 parliament.

00:10:45:12 - 00:11:11:10

That must be pretty much a folk memory now. Well, 7 seconds an awfully long time ago. Yeah, well, people are sort of 40, 50 plus. So remember that a lot of those will be the ones who are going out to vote. And that sort of sense that this is this is worse in a way that the troubles of the John Major government, all those roles over the Maastricht Treaty and the scenes in the House of Commons when the government was in trouble there all look quite sedate compared to some of the things that are happening now.

00:11:11:16 - 00:11:37:10

I think the language of politics has gotten nastier and more confrontational, certainly even than it was in those later period John. Major years. And I think that possibly impacts more on the electorate now simply because it's all so sort of gaudy and shouty and nasty a lot of the time. Yeah, and of course a lot of it's driven by social media and a lot of MPs who perhaps would have struggled to have a substantive voice in the debate, you know, 20 or 30 years ago.

00:11:37:12 - 00:12:08:20

It's much easier for them now with social media. And it's one of the things that people have been saying about the kerfuffle over the Rwanda bill was that a number of the key backbench players in that were almost reprising their moments of glory during the Brexit process. And so you had all the same kind of rituals, a star chamber of lawyers considering the government's proposals of doorstep press conferences given by people from groups like the IRG and others, and that general impression that they had a moment of power and were milking it for everything it was worth.

00:12:09:00 - 00:12:30:02

Again, it didn't really help the government and I wonder if what happened with the Rwanda bill was that a lot of Conservative MPs tiptoed up to the edge of a precipice, took a look over and consciously decided that they really shouldn't jump. And so maybe that has, at least for a while, reinforced party discipline. How long that will hold, how long they can make it hold.

00:12:30:06 - 00:13:01:01

Another question altogether. Yeah, because the other issue, the uncertainty of the election timetable comes into play is the timing of financial matters. The budget is 6th of March. Well, an early budget does suggest, you know, on coming election we're going to announce wonderful tax cuts and then go straight to the electorate and see what we can get. But when you think about about the timetable, it's sort of the next and possibly the last big set piece of parliamentary run that they will have, even if the election is is in the autumn, because you go through the summer and then the next big set piece will be party conferences.

00:13:01:01 - 00:13:21:24

And so that has the potential to be another attempt by the government to try and change the political weather. I do think, though, that these days certainly a budget is a great deal more important than influencing the voters and the conferences. I suspect that these days the conference season is more or less tuned down the days when party conferences could make or break a leader are now long gone.

00:13:21:24 - 00:13:41:18

This isn't the 1970s anymore. Well, they don't get the coverage that they used to. Why exactly. Yeah, but I also think equally in terms of the budget you might get Chancellor difficult in the economic circumstances to see that there's going to be some kind of big budget giveaway. But I think the electorate will probably look upon that as quite cynical, move so close to a general election, given everything that's happened in in recent years.

00:13:41:20 - 00:14:01:21

There are two dangers. However, if the government gets it right, it's got a chance of saying our strategy is working. We know it's been tough, but we are now starting to deliver the goodies for you voters and that will be their aim. But they've got to strike a balance between finding something big enough for the voters to actually notice, you know, some some incredibly marginal micro tax cut isn't going to cut the mustard on this.

00:14:01:23 - 00:14:19:18

At the same time, they don't want to scare the horses in the markets because we all saw what happened when Liz Truss decided to offer enormous tax cuts in a dash for growth and the markets took fright and that was that. So there's a kind of Scylla and Charybdis thing here where you've got to steer a very safe course between two different menaces.

00:14:19:23 - 00:14:46:14

Yeah, Yeah. Do you think the covert inquiry comes into play in this? Are we likely to see reports prior to the election that will perhaps influence the debate in the discussions? I think this is one of those. How long is a piece of string questions here? I mean, all the high profile hearings that have happened in recent weeks with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock and before that Dominic Cummings, all the big players who are in front of a COVID inquiry did attract a lot of attention.

00:14:46:14 - 00:15:08:12

And that's all for the module that's essentially on the way the government operated during the crisis. Now, if I was Lady Hallett, I might think that I had a bit of a responsibility to try and give a verdict in time for the voters to take it into consideration before the election. Whether I don't know whether she actually thinks that, but you would have thought it might be germane to the electoral process.

00:15:08:14 - 00:15:30:00

And B, will they have time if there's a march election, They may simply not be the time for her inquiry to produce an authoritative report and give its verdict in time to show the voters. But if they do well, just the way those hearings have unfolded doesn't suggest that they're going to be giving a shining seal of approval to the way that Boris Johnson handled the COVID crisis.

00:15:30:00 - 00:15:47:19

And that will undoubtedly not be a good thing for the Conservative Party. Yeah, and I think that's the risk for the for the inquiry, for the inquiry. Chair, is the perception that perhaps they seem to be putting their finger on the scales if they do report on just particular aspects of the inquiry. So they've dealt with also the governance of how the Government has handled the pandemic.

00:15:47:19 - 00:16:19:16

But you know, they're not sufficiently far into their inquiries about things like the economic implications of lockdown care homes, the vaccine programme and so on. So if they report on one aspect and that's particularly damning for the government, as you'd expect on the government side, given what we've heard, it might be perceived as a bit unfair and unbalanced and sort of I say scales, you can argue it both ways in the sense that you might also think that this is a report on Lucky things that was done by government during the last Parliament and maybe it ought to be out there.

00:16:19:20 - 00:16:41:17

And there may be other things to say as well, but maybe that ought to be out there in time for voters to feed their conclusions in and make a decision based upon that. After all, we are talking now about two prime ministers ago. This is not directly the conduct of Rishi Sunak, although his role as chancellor will obviously be quite important in all this because he was the man behind the eat out to help out campaign, etc. But surely the voters have a right to know.

00:16:41:17 - 00:17:02:02

And do you remember the head of the FBI, James Comey, putting out a report in the immediate run up to the 2016 elections about Hillary Clinton's emails and whether she'd had proper security on her official emails when she was secretary of State, and that quite possibly did tilt the result of that presidential election, which was, of course, very close.

00:17:02:04 - 00:17:28:19

Sometimes people may in these agencies just think we have to put out the report when we've got it. Well, see what Baroness Hallett decides. A couple of other things to look out for. We're see, looking at the prospect of two byelections, we know there's definitely going to be a by election in the Wellingborough constituency, because just before Christmas we got the result on the recall petition for Peter Bone and a sufficient number of of local constituents signed that recall petition.

00:17:28:19 - 00:17:56:03

So that will be a by election in his seat. We'll have to wait and hear from the government whips about when they'll move the writ for that and when Parliament returns. But this has to be a strong possibility of a second byelection or a second recall election in Australia, a strong possibility. It's one of those races like a dropping atom bomb went off, you know, that was Blackpool South and Scott Benton, who's also come in for pretty heavy criticism from the Common Standards Committee and has been awarded a whacking great suspension.

00:17:56:04 - 00:18:17:17

Well, more than enough to trigger this recall process. And five days on 35 days. And Blackpool South is a seat that's been labour in fairly recent memory. So it is a seat that Labour would hope to take back at a general election and would certainly hope to take back of the by election. And if either of those two seats are won by Labour, I think that they would be quite uncomfortable.

00:18:17:17 - 00:18:40:15

Now Wellingborough is in fact a much more formidable mountain for Labour to climb because Peter Bone has over the years built up a fairly substantial majority. It's something, a vote share of something over 60%. I think because he won that seat of Labour in 2005 and has been beavering away there as a local campaigner ever since. So that's quite a mountain for them to climb, but it's still claimable.

00:18:40:21 - 00:19:01:11

If we've learned anything in this current Parliament, is that anything can happen in a by election and the formidable looking majorities can just crumble. And the circumstances of this byelection and the allegations that it made against Peter Bone are such that this is the awful circumstances in which to have to defend a seat. Yeah, absolutely. And then going back to the Scott Benton case, I mean, he's indicated he's going to appeal.

00:19:01:12 - 00:19:21:13

You do wonder whether he's going to attract much support among his parliamentary colleagues, because, I mean, the report is from the Standards Commissioner and the Standards Committee is absolutely damning. He basically offered to lobby ministers on behalf of the gambling industry. He talked about leaking confidential policy documents in exchange for money. Basically, he was caught in a newspaper sting so he could call in favours from colleagues.

00:19:21:13 - 00:19:45:16

So you're effectively dragged his parliamentary colleagues into the story. You talked about getting easy access to ministers when queuing for parliamentary votes in the in the lobbies and the Standards Committee said he communicated a toxic message about standards in Parliament which unjustifiably tarnished the reputation of all MPs. So, you know, it's hard to say in that context that they're going to be that's keen to to offer him much support.

00:19:45:18 - 00:20:08:01

But there is also the time factor here and back to our earlier discussion about when a general election is, if you can use the process to string things out so that there isn't an embarrassing by election before a spring general election is called, then that might be considered a bit of a win and then the whole thing is fought out at the forthcoming general election instead of being an embarrassing event on its own beforehand.

00:20:08:01 - 00:20:23:14

Yeah, and I think even if you were able to string it out into the summer, you might survive it because I don't think the recall provisions in the act apply six months out from a general election. So if you assume that the Parliament has to dissolve in December, you sort of buy time, you hit summer months, you're into that territory.

00:20:23:16 - 00:20:39:20

So yeah, he might, he might well want to try and try and string things out. So a by election might just not happen there. And as you say, it's not all lost in the general Washington More of a general election. Yeah, yeah. The other thing to look out for possible rise, considerable rise in unpaid pay which would come into effect in April.

00:20:39:24 - 00:21:06:01

Parliamentarian's pay is independently determined by the independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, or IPSA, and they adjust pay levels to reflect changes in public sector earnings, which are sort of based on statistics published by the Office for National Statistics. And they use a metric for public sector earnings, which was basically the average as it was in October. That statistic was published last month and came in at 7.1%.

00:21:06:03 - 00:21:26:02

So in the normal run of things, unless IPSA decides otherwise, AMP's pay would be rated by that. So it would go it will go up from eight, six and a half thousand to 92, nearly 93,000, so about £6,000 rise. And you think a middle class chap of modest taste could probably just about get both. Yeah. Yeah. And you think so now it's a can adjust it.

00:21:26:02 - 00:21:42:21

They could decide not to go out. The whole amount is just part of it. But we'll have to see. Yeah. One thing is though that MPs themselves do not have direct traction on this. They don't vote on their own pay anymore. The whole system is configured to stop them voting on their own pay any more won't stop them getting criticised for it.

00:21:42:21 - 00:22:04:20

Well, absolutely not. I mean that nuance is probably lost on most voters outside, but it is something that they don't have direct control over and they get, you know, they can not make up. I was on holiday when it happened. Yeah. And of course this will also have knock on implications for severance pay for those who lose the seats in the general election because they've increased the provision for that from 2 to 4 months pay.

00:22:04:22 - 00:22:21:05

And obviously if you pay goes up considerably, then you you're getting more money. So it'll be 19 one plus it probably will not make a consolation for some of those who who lose their seats. And I think quite a number of MPs may be eyeing the possible loss of their seats. Indeed, that's another reason why there might be perhaps other by elections.

00:22:21:05 - 00:22:44:13

If you're an MP who thinks you're doomed at the next election and some nice job opportunity comes up. Now, it might be a moment when you say goodbye. It's certainly happened a couple of times in the previous Parliament there were people who got offered nice looking jobs, saw no great prospect of things improving for them in Parliament and a couple of MPs went then and I wouldn't be at all surprised if that process repeated itself in 2024.

00:22:44:13 - 00:23:17:02

Yeah, ultimately, whether it's whether it's things like standards or pay, who judges, ultimately it's the electorate. The electorate have the final say on the performance of their MP. The interesting question is how much the individual performance of an MP makes a difference to the ultimate vote. I think there's quite an interesting study to be done here. You know, compare an MP who has a weekly advice service and is, you know, by some metric out and about in their constituency a lot to an MP who doesn't do that and see whether it makes a vast amount of difference to the election results.

00:23:17:02 - 00:23:42:02

Of course, no two constituencies are exactly comparable, so it's a very difficult thing to turn into numbers, but I think the general assumption in Westminster is however hard you work, it's only worth a few hundred, possibly a couple of thousand votes of the absolute outside and beyond that, the general tide may just sweep you away anyway. Yeah, maybe you know, in current polls, if you're a sort of 10,000 majority plus, you might just hang on in certain seats.

00:23:42:04 - 00:24:06:22

But as you say, if if the tide is against you, it's very, very difficult to withstand. Of course, it's one of the big frustrations of MP having worked for an MP some years ago in a marginal constituency. One of the things, you know, you spend an enormous amount of time on the constituency activity and then you look at the voting register after the election and you look at particular areas or particular streets where you might have invested time and also secure individuals and you think they didn't vote.

00:24:06:24 - 00:24:28:02

Very frustrating. What's the phrase? The people have spoken, the bastards. Well, as we've been saying, the overhanging political factor of 2024 is that there's going to be a general election. And one of the points about the general election is that the rules are constantly evolving. There was an elections Act last year that made some quite important changes to election rules.

00:24:28:02 - 00:24:46:12

It made one very big change to the rules for electing mayors and a lot of mayors are up for election this May, which is that those elections are now first past the post rather than proportional representation. And that change has already beaten the mayor of Bedford, Lib Dem Dave Watson, was defeated precisely because he couldn't get transfer votes in an election in 2023.

00:24:46:17 - 00:25:06:13

So those kind of things can make a bit of a difference. So first of all, talk us through what's changed. One big change that was introduced through the elections was voter I.D., which we have had experience of at the last local elections. But it will be the first general election where we will have to all turn up at the polling station with our voter ID.

00:25:06:13 - 00:25:23:07

So this is a passport driving license. Yeah. So, you know, you've got to have some form of photographic I.D., but only particular types of voter ID are permitted. So you can't just rock up with anything. And there have been complaints about this. I mean, for example, a policeman couldn't show a warrant card and that would be sufficient identity, which seems slightly bizarre.

00:25:23:07 - 00:25:43:10

Yeah. So they're quite narrow and particularly quite narrow for young people. So one of the criticisms was that there was more flexibility for older people in terms of what they could show, but but not for younger people in terms of voter ID at the local elections. 4% said in research, I think it was for the electoral commission that voter I.D. was a reason that they had not voted.

00:25:43:12 - 00:26:11:13

And one of the problems is that in that there's sort of a concern about a significant share of them being, if you like, disengaged groups, underrepresented groups, the disabled, the unemployed, and people who might naturally have more difficulty in getting the money for their former driving licence, don't travel abroad, don't have a passport, therefore, so. So that's been one of the criticisms that the forms of idea to narrow and quite a number of parliamentary committees have looked at this place when the legislation was going through and were quite critical.

00:26:11:15 - 00:26:31:13

And the House of Lords Constitution Committee just before Christmas has written quite a long letter to the Minister expressing concern about this and asking them to to look at it. I do know that there's been concern. A piece I've talked to have been saying this, that there is a way that if you're, for example, an old age pensioner, you can get a kind of surrogate I.D. that you can use to vote in elections.

00:26:31:13 - 00:26:48:04

And the take up for that has apparently been minuscule. And a lot of MEPs are quite concerned that a lot of their elderly voters are going to rock up to the polling station, find they can't vote, get sent away, not come back. Well, because the criticism at the time was that the government did this without a lot of consultation.

00:26:48:06 - 00:27:06:06

The opposition want to be happy with it. And there was that sort of feeling. Is this a form of gerrymandering to aid older voters? But then they found local elections that actually it was some of the older voters who had more problems because, of course, they've not not got any experience of having to bring photo I.D. over the many years they've been voting to the polls.

00:27:06:06 - 00:27:26:11

And it came as a as a big shock. And it was interesting. At the national conservatism conference last summer, Jacob Rees-Mogg said in his speech, parties that try and gerrymander ends up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them as dare I say, we find by insisting on voter I.D. for elections. So the implication was that they might have been gerrymandering.

00:27:26:13 - 00:28:03:23

We found the people who didn't have ID were elderly and they by and large voted conservative. So we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well. And that's just one strand of the whole set of issues floating over the upcoming general election. More widely, there's just a general concern about things like foreign interference, social media being used as a channel for foreign governments to try and muscle in and influence British elections about the level of donations that are allowed about a whole series of concerns that might allow a general election to be influenced in a way perhaps voters wouldn't be entirely keen on if they knew about

00:28:03:23 - 00:28:26:07

it. Yeah, so one of the issues is around campaign spending levels and the kinds of donations that can be made and the levels at which they have to be registered. And one of the big issues is around what's called unincorporated associations. These are bodies that can donate. Well, it was originally £25,000 of spending limit. It's now been raised to £37,000 as a result of a recent regulation.

00:28:26:07 - 00:28:50:00

That's gone through parliament. Those associations have to identify gifts over seven and a half thousand pounds from a single source in a 12 month period, but only individual donations of £500 or more count. So you can get around that by making donations under the £500 limit. £499. 99. Yes. And you can make those multiple times throughout the year and you don't then have to declare it.

00:28:50:01 - 00:29:08:07

So the Committee on Standards in Public Life a couple of years ago said that these unincorporated associations are a route for foreign money to influence our elections and said that there's just a lack of transparency over that. Now, one of the concerns there is that the limit has been raised as part of a wider picture of increasing spending levels for the forthcoming election.

00:29:08:07 - 00:29:27:20

So the political parties have now got a much higher national spending cap. It's gone up from 19 and a half million to 35 million. Now. Bear in mind that the last general election in 2019, the Conservative Party spent more than any other party, and that was 16 and a half million. So they were under the national cap last time that national cap has now gone up considerably.

00:29:27:20 - 00:29:48:18

So are we going to see a huge splurge? Is that the plan? The electoral Commission's not very comfortable with this. The government's argument is, look, you know, we are simply raising the levels in line with inflation, which the act does permit. That's what they're supposed to do. This was all done completely without debate as well. Yeah, but. But why was it not raised in terms of inflation in previous years?

00:29:48:18 - 00:30:09:12

Why are we suddenly doing it now when we've not done it automatically in other years? And yes, because it's an inflation linked increase, the regulation, the statutory instrument didn't even have to be laid before parliament under the terms of the legislation. If the electoral Commission had approached the government and said we have got a concern about spending levels, we think you need to raise the cap.

00:30:09:14 - 00:30:30:02

That regulation would have had to be laid before Parliament, but we've now ended up, conversely in the rather odd situation where an automatic uprating doesn't have to be laid before Parliament and the Electoral Commission has got concerns about it. But parliamentarians can't debate it unless it goes through an opposition day debate or is otherwise raised. But the actual text of the regulation for this won't be debated.

00:30:30:06 - 00:30:51:09

The role of the Electoral Commission in all this is quite interesting because it was set up to be a kind of watchdog, an overseer, a non-party body that would comment on the running of elections and hopefully avoid gerrymandering and bail for changes to regulations. But it seems to have emerged as the quango that MPs hate most. And that's quite a high bar.

00:30:51:11 - 00:31:16:15

I mean, the society takes a big interest in this because the original proposals for an electoral commission, we published a paper in the 1990s by our then chair, Professor David Butler, of course the great apologist, the man who's seen on our TV screens election nights, you know, he invented the swing ometer. David wrote a paper proposing an electoral commission to provide independent regulation for our election systems.

00:31:16:17 - 00:31:35:00

And yes, it has grown to be to be heysel. I mean, one of the things I think is that certainly in its early years, there was a feeling among among MPs, among the parties that a number of the sort of the staff and the board of the Electoral Commission didn't really understand how elections worked. It was almost to independent, to non-partisan, to unworldly.

00:31:35:00 - 00:32:08:07

Yeah, they just didn't get politics and they didn't get, you know, party campaigning on the ground and the complexities of operating a national campaign with a professional team, a professional staff party headquarters. But having to implement that on the ground with essentially volunteer parties and, you know, local constituency members who were giving their time freely, voluntarily and having perhaps local agents who are having to navigate an incredibly complex set of rules and produce a detailed return of their election spending according to those rules, while perhaps not entirely understanding them.

00:32:08:12 - 00:32:31:21

And, you know, the sanctions are heavy. You can go to prison if you're not declaring things properly or get your calculations wrong. But it's interesting this time, the chair of the electoral commission, John Pullinger, of course, who you and I know because he's a former House of Commons official, former House of Commons librarian, he has done an interesting interview with the House magazine in which he expresses concern about the legislative framework underpinning the election system.

00:32:31:21 - 00:32:54:06

He calls it archaic. It's long been calls for the legislative system to be sort of updated for the electoral legislation to be consolidated in in one act rather than found in disparate places. And he talks about the risk of an election failure rising that something bad could happen because of the layers of complexity that now exist. And the implications of that are incredibly poisonous.

00:32:54:06 - 00:33:19:12

Because if people start to question the legitimacy of a general election and therefore the legitimacy of whatever government emerged from it, you really are in a completely different ball game. Well, as has there ever been a general election where the outcome has been widely queried is totally wrong and fixed and gerrymandered? No, I mean, you have had individual sort of local election campaigns where things have clearly gone wrong and they've they've had to be inquiries.

00:33:19:12 - 00:33:44:24

But generally not a general election. But one of the concerns that John Pullinger expresses is the sort of the funding, you know, the returning officers on the ground in each constituency are essentially local government officers. Local government runs the election officers for registration, for voter ID, for, you know, a lot of the sort of the the regulatory and transparency and accountability aspects of the process, making sure that people are registered, dealing with postal votes, dealing with proxy votes.

00:33:45:01 - 00:34:04:17

And he says they're under, as we know, serious financial and staffing pressures. And the more tasks and complexities that are imposed on them, often at short notice, often sometimes, you know, even some of these regulations doesn't give them an awful lot of time to implement them. By the time that these regulations will come into force, it increases the risks at each individual constituency level.

00:34:04:17 - 00:34:25:17

And of course, all the spending on this has to come at the expense of perhaps other services, other spending priorities for local councils. Is it one of my minor bets? Be very interested to see how this unfolds in the forthcoming general election is how many councils decide they can save a few grand by having their count the next day rather than by counting overnight, which rather takes the wind out of election programmes by evening.

00:34:25:17 - 00:34:42:21

If there's only a handful of places where the results are going to be declared. But you can save quite a lot of money if you're not paying through the night over time to the people who are counting your votes. Absolutely. The other sort of area that's come under criticism is the nation's political parties and the risks of overseas political influence.

00:34:42:21 - 00:35:06:15

And one of the arguments being made is that political parties should be subject to some of the sort of same anti-money-laundering legislation that, for example, charities like that society or your argument from political parties is, you know, we're obviously at local level, we're voluntary organisations, we're quite small in terms of constituency associations. And the counterargument to that is, well, so a lot of charities or a lot of other sort of community groups, so a lot of small businesses that are subject to these same regulations.

00:35:06:15 - 00:35:39:24

So is there a bit of hypocrisy here on the part of the political parties? That is one of the things I mean, one of my fantasy political reforms, because I'm the sort of person who has fantasy political reforms would be to take money out of politics as much as possible and make the political parties much more dependent on small donations, have the incentive to be to get hundreds of thousands of small donors, rather than simply raking in a couple of billion from some random billionaire who took a bit of an interest in politics, whether because they were genuinely committed or whether because they were taking a sort of dilettante ish idea that might be quite

00:35:39:24 - 00:36:07:19

nice to get involved for a while and play with politics. So I would like to see a system that depended on having lots of people prepared to work for a political party and lots of people being prepared to give modest amounts and a strong cap on how much could be given by any single individual or interest. Well, because one of the ways that done in other countries is you get a tax benefit by donating to a political party in the same way that if you donate to a charity, why not the same for politics?

00:36:07:19 - 00:36:34:18

A lot of the debate and the discussion around this is that, you know, politics is a bit dirty, a bit murky. What is critically important, it affects all our lives and it should be seen as a civic duty rather than something that is the preserve of rich people in dark corners. And, you know, if you go back several decades to the days when political parties had membership in the hundreds of thousands or even millions, then it was quite easy for them to raise enough money to run campaigns.

00:36:34:23 - 00:36:51:21

Easy, maybe an overstatement, but it was more possible for them raise that kind of money from their membership of a wider support group than it have since become now. Political parties are rather hollowed out institutions, sometimes with only a few tens of thousands of members. That just isn't really the way you can run a credible national campaign anymore.

00:36:51:21 - 00:37:21:14

No. And then we come to another reform that's been introduced that does have implications in terms of donations, and that's the changes to the rights of overseas citizens to vote. So British citizens living abroad, they're going to remove the 15 year limit on British citizens living overseas, being eligible to vote. Now, again, that sort of regulations that are just coming through now in Parliament under the powers in the Elections Act 2022, the figures are suggested that this could affect 3.4 million people.

00:37:21:14 - 00:37:44:11

So you could talk to a lot of voters. Yeah. And one of the concerns here is which seats will be voting. How do you particularly if you've been if you've been abroad for 15 years or more, how do you prove and demonstrate a link to a particular constituency? And there's a process called attestation, which is basically somebody else in the constituency, sort of a test on your behalf that, yes, you do have this link.

00:37:44:13 - 00:38:02:06

The feeling is that that's actually quite weak, a time when we've all got to rock up at the polling station with photographic I.D. in order for somebody abroad to vote. They've just simply got an in particular constituency. They've just simply got to say, I've got this link with this person in this particular constituency. So there's a feeling it's making it easier for them.

00:38:02:06 - 00:38:31:02

At the same time, we're making it harder for citizens resident in the UK to participate and it also gives parties a reason to have quite an elaborate organisation to try and most of their overseas support as well. And that's another thing that they end up having to spend money. So again, it favours the better resourced parties. And again, going back to this whole business about the local election office managing this process, they're the ones that we've got to look at and investigate the credibility of this attestation and whether in fact this person is indeed who they say they are.

00:38:31:02 - 00:38:54:23

And I've got this link to their constituency. And again, that's then additional time effort resource that is imposed on the local election office to try and get that right. There is a question, too, about choosing where you vote. If you've got perhaps links in several different places. This was a complaint about the student votes, students voting in marginal university seats rather than in whatever safe seat their family might have come from originally.

00:38:55:00 - 00:39:19:14

It may have tipped the balance in quite a lot of university constituencies. Canterbury's the example, a lot of people point out, rather startlingly went from perpetually conservative seat to suddenly being Labour in 2017. Now those kind of arguments also apply here. Could you choose to go to a place that you have some connection with? If you've visited several different places in Britain, you don't choose the most marginal seat where you want your vote to have the most influence.

00:39:19:14 - 00:39:41:22

Yeah, and as we know, you know, some of these seats we're talking about a couple hundred votes being the difference. That could be the difference for a really well-organised campaign between hanging on and and losing. And it's one of the things that sometimes emerges after elections that a bit of organisational effort in a certain place can be the thing that can be said to have tipped the balance in the Brexit referendum.

00:39:42:03 - 00:40:03:21

A lot of Brexiteers pointed to the efforts they've made to up the leave vote in Northern Ireland, while the majority of the vote in Northern Ireland was for remain a bigger than expected leave contingent was fairly crucial in what was, after all, quite a time before referendum. Yeah, and we talked in an earlier pod about data protection and digital information bill and changes to two opt in procedures for direct marketing.

00:40:03:21 - 00:40:32:21

So we're all potentially facing an awful lot more campaign materials coming through our inboxes on the TV face tsunami of spam. Yeah, and it's just interesting that's getting a little bit more focus now. The bill's heading off in terms of laws. That's starting to get some real focus. So we'll see what happens with with that. And just finally, something to look out for once Parliament's back is that the public administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has been doing some post legislative scrutiny of the Lobbying Act, which was introduced ten years ago.

00:40:32:23 - 00:40:57:23

So it's its ten year anniversary and they're looking at whether there needs to be changes to that legislation because it casts too narrow an umbrella over over lobbying that has to be registered. It's not in the way the lobbying and the way this plays into a general election campaign is what organisations, charities, whatever campaign groups can do in the course of a general election campaign, all they're allowed to campaign for their own priorities.

00:40:58:00 - 00:41:23:01

The committee, chaired by the Conservative MP William Makepeace, who's not backwards coming forwards in criticising the Government where he thinks they're going wrong. They're looking at this, they've been doing an inquiry now quite, quite a while and they're going to be coming forward with a with a report. We don't know the date, but sometime in the spring, you know, William Ranke interesting guy because he's been a bit of a rebel for the government on a number of issues and is planning to leave parliament at the next election.

00:41:23:03 - 00:41:41:12

And it's very young and he's very young and he can go off and do plenty of other things and so he hasn't got any particular reason to toe any party lines and not rock n roll and mixing metaphors. Again, not rock any boats as the poll approaches, but depending upon what he says in his report, you may not be getting a job in lobbying.

00:41:41:14 - 00:41:59:03

So there'll be no shortage of parliamentary and electoral action for us to talk about in 2024. Now, they won't Mark, but before we hit the runway to look at the global picture, I just want to out how many listeners, if you're enjoying the part and think like Mark and I do, that Parliament matters, why not join the Hansard Society This year?

00:41:59:03 - 00:42:16:03

We celebrate our 80th anniversary and throughout the year we'll have a number of special events to mark this important milestone for as little as a cup of coffee each month. You can join us and following the illustrious footsteps of our first members, Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and you free enjoying the issues that we're talking about on the pod.

00:42:16:09 - 00:42:42:16

You'll also be getting our special members only Dispatch box newsletter each week where we bring together the best news and stories about parliaments here in the UK and around the world. You can join by going to Hansard Society dot org UK and look for the membership button at the top left hand side. I mean, while 2024 looks set to be the year of a thousand elections, well, maybe not quite a thousand, but there's going to be an awful lot of electioneering action.

00:42:42:18 - 00:43:03:03

Ruth took us through some of the biggest of course, the big one is the American election. Fifth November, Remember? Remember? Yeah. So will it be Biden versus Trump? Will Biden be stepping aside? There's a lot of criticism, obviously, in terms of his age, some uncertainties in Democratic ranks about whether he's going to be up to the rigours of the campaign.

00:43:03:05 - 00:43:24:09

Is Trump going to get through or is one of the other candidates perhaps going to get through is the alternative Republican? And there's also been a whole lot of very interesting action around whether Trump will be eligible to stand. I think it's the Colorado State Supreme Court has banned him from the ballot paper there because he's an insurrectionist because of his support for the January six demonstrations back in 2020.

00:43:24:11 - 00:43:49:20

That I think is going to resound all the way through. The several other states apparently are considering doing something similar. And the Supreme Court, I think, is going to be dragged into this one way or another before much longer. And heaven only knows what happens if Donald Trump is legally stopped from being a viable presidential candidate. Yeah, I mean, it's it's very difficult to imagine what the implications of that would be in terms of the the Republican Party's supporters.

00:43:49:20 - 00:44:06:04

I mean, at the moment, it doesn't look as if there's any candidate out there that's going to be let's go toe to toe with him if he is allowed to run. Nikki Haley, former governor, former ambassador to the UN. Ashton, under Donald Trump, she seems to be the most likely front runner, but she's still some way behind in the polls.

00:44:06:06 - 00:44:25:24

It is suggested, though, that the candidate that Trump supporters, like most of the others, is, is the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. But he's several light years behind the Donald in the Republican poll ratings. So how it plays out will have an only nose if we ever reach that scenario, because it may well be that the Supreme Court says, no, of course, Donald Trump can run.

00:44:25:24 - 00:44:46:22

And end of story. Here in the UK, historically there's been a lot of back and forth, a lot of exchanges between the Conservative Party, the Republican Party, the Labour Party and the Democrats in terms of, you know, electioneering management campaign techniques, campaign planning, generations and generations of people from both parties have gone over to work in American elections.

00:44:46:24 - 00:45:17:10

Phillip Gould, who was the sort of House pollster for New Labour, having just been trounced by the Conservatives in the 1992 general election, went to work for Bill Clinton's campaign. Later that same year, and he used his experiences of how the Conservatives have toughened up Neil Kinnock Labour Party in 92. He fed them into the Clinton campaign and provided them with a bit of a kind of inoculation against the campaign techniques that George Bush, the first re-election campaign, tried to use against them.

00:45:17:10 - 00:45:35:14

Yeah, but of course I think the links to the states are not quite as strong as they were sort of 20 years ago. Well, so there's this sort of view that actually we're seeing a lot more links with Australia and that campaigning. You've got Isaac libido. He's at the top of this sort of Conservative Party campaign. He's been working in Australia.

00:45:35:16 - 00:45:57:10

You've Lynton Crosby before him. Yeah, and Australian politics is very, very partisan and we saw the last election, you know, some really, really quite brutal campaigning. So the cross-pollination effect will be quite an interesting one to watch. Yeah. Then another big one that which will affect us here in the UK, although we're no longer a member of the U.S., the EU parliamentary elections six to the 9th of June.

00:45:57:10 - 00:46:21:03

So 400 million voters will go to the polls. 720 members of the European Parliament will be elected across the 27 member states. And honestly, one of the issues there is the extent to which there may be a shift to the right as the populists surge from places like Hungary has, I think, disconcerted the EU establishment and most particularly the populist surge in Germany and France, core members of the EU.

00:46:21:05 - 00:46:41:09

And if that plays out with a very large bloc of people of that ideological outlook sitting there in the European Parliament, I think they'll be trouble. Yeah, and that will have a knock on effects in terms of the selection of the European Commission, European president, and if that involves having the European Parliament have to sign off on some new trading relationship with the UK, for example.

00:46:41:11 - 00:47:05:14

Well, all kinds of consequences could follow. Yeah, there are a number of other elections across Europe, individual sort of countries that have got legislative elections, presidential elections. And so we've got Belgium facing elections Finland, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Portugal all Romania, Slovakia, to name just a few. And of course, one of the big issues in some of these states is concern about the prospects of Russian interference.

00:47:05:14 - 00:47:28:10

I mean, you know, you think about Finland, you think about Lithuania, Georgia, Moldova, real concerns about the prospects of Russian interference in those elections, whether that's directly whether that's through funding, whether that's through cyber campaigns to disrupt things, you know, subtle social media disruption, campaigns in general elections, I think is going to be one of the new threats that all democracies have to find a way to deal with.

00:47:28:12 - 00:47:57:03

And then we don't know the dates of this election, I think the April-May time, but some the biggest democracy in the world, 900 million voters going to the polls in the world's largest democracy in India. There you've got, of course, Prime Minister Narendra modi seeking re-election for a third five year term. And interestingly, you think about the size of that electorate, you think about the size or geographically of India, the lower house, they've got fewer seats in the legislative chamber than we have.

00:47:57:03 - 00:48:25:02

So we've got 650 at Westminster. In India, it's 543 in the Lok Sabha I mentioned the constituencies must be vast. The number of voters in them must be vast. Yeah, there's actually apparently a constitutional limit, 552. So that could be pretty close to that. But big issue in India at the moment, I mean, real strains and pressures within that that legislative chamber between Modi's party and the main parties of the opposition, not least because 141 of them have been chucked out.

00:48:25:02 - 00:48:44:02

Yeah, just just been suspended, ostensibly for protesting about security breach in the Parliament and the fact that these MP, by virtue of their protest was seen to be disruptive proceedings and therefore were thrown out. But you know, there is an opposition view that says this was a part of a government plan to push through bills without the Opposition being in the chamber.

00:48:44:02 - 00:49:03:19

And so just a general view that the government in India doesn't like scrutiny, it doesn't like being held accountable and is sort of using the power in the majority that they've got to dilute the opposition and and marginalise them. This really is the general theme of an awful lot of these elections is democracy's under pressure. This isn't the regular changing of the guard anymore.

00:49:03:20 - 00:49:22:17

This is the changing of the guard with that really live threat just hanging over proceedings. Yeah. And then just one more I will be keeping my eye on because I've done some work there actually over the last ten years is Bangladesh. So it's one of the first elections of the year, 7th of January for the for the parliament.

00:49:22:17 - 00:49:46:03

There's a just a sort. And the interesting thing about Bangladesh is if you think Westminster MPs are locally focussed, you've not seen anything yet until you've met the Bangladeshi MP. They are hyperlocal in that they focus the level of constituency service is incredible. They give their mobile phone number to constituents. You know, they get calls all hours of the day and nights.

00:49:46:09 - 00:50:04:14

They have a sort of almost like a social entrepreneur role. One Bangladeshi MP described the role of members as being like medieval moguls in Bangladesh. These days, everything requires their signature. If you want to, you know, get into college, if you want a scholarship, if you want to join the police force, you know, whatever it is, and it needs a piece of paper work.

00:50:04:14 - 00:50:32:00

Signing the MP is one of the key people that signing it, and the politics is incredibly divisive. But interestingly, what they used to have is a caretaker government. The government used to relinquish power 90 days before an election, bringing in an independent caretaker government headed by a figure usually the former chief justice of the Supreme Court. He would take over and administer free and fair elections and sort of oversee things.

00:50:32:00 - 00:51:00:08

And then once election was over and the result was known handover to the new government, the new prime minister, and it all fell apart in part because one of the parties decided that they were no longer prepared to abide by this. And they sort of, you know, tinkered with the appointment of this, the caretaker government, but also fell apart because countries like us and the US, this idea of an incumbent incoming caretaker government was seen as fundamentally undemocratic and therefore we discouraged it.

00:51:00:12 - 00:51:19:14

And the living and the political parties in Bangladesh on this and used us to undermine the system. And ever since there has not been a free and fair election and a handover of power. And one of the things that I think an awful lot of democracies are going to have to worry about is contested election results and the losing side crying foul.

00:51:19:16 - 00:51:39:07

And that, I think, is going to be a theme in election after election throughout 2024. And who knows where it lend us. I think that's all we've got time for, Mark. So watch this space and we'll we'll see you next week. Indeed. Join us then.

00:51:39:09 - 00:51:58:07

Well, that's all from us for this week's episode of Parliament Matters. Please hit the follow or subscribe button in your podcast app to get the next episode as soon as it lands and help us to make the podcast better. By leaving a rating or review on Apple or Spotify and sharing your feedback, all producer tells us it's important for the algorithm to give the show a boost and tell us more about the algorithm.

00:51:58:09 - 00:52:20:14

What do I know about algorithms? I write my scripts with a quill pen on vellum and then send it in by carrier pigeon. Well, before we go, a quick reminder also that you can send us your questions on all things Parliament by visiting We'll be discussing them in future episodes, including our special with urgent questions editions dedicated to what you want to know about Parliament.

00:52:20:18 - 00:52:36:22

And you can find us across social media at Hansard Society to get more content related to the show and the wider work of the Hansard Society.

00:52:36:24 - 00:52:52:21

Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. For more information, visit or find us on social media @HansardSociety.

Subscribe to Parliament Matters

Use the links below to subscribe to the Hansard Society's Parliament Matters podcast on your preferred app, or search for 'Parliament Matters' on whichever podcasting service you use. If you are unable to find our podcast, please email us here.

News / What has Keir Starmer got in common with Robert Redford? - Parliament Matters podcast, Episode 42

The legislative process is underway following the King’s Speech, so what bills are planned? This week, Professor Philip Cowley, an expert on parliamentary rebellions, joins the podcast to discuss managing a mega-majority. Intriguingly, he reveals why Keir Starmer reminds him of Robert Redford.

19 Jul 2024
Read more

Briefings / Back to Business 2024: A guide to the start of the new Parliament

The new Parliament will assemble on Tuesday 9 July 2024, five days after the General Election. This guide explains the ceremonial, legislative, organisational and procedural processes that are engaged at the start of the Parliament.

03 Jul 2024
Read more

Guides / How does Parliament approve Government spending? A procedural guide to the Estimates process

In order to incur expenditure the Government needs to obtain approval from Parliament for its departmental spending plans. The annual Estimates cycle is the means by which the House of Commons controls the Government’s plans for the spending of money raised through taxation.

16 Jan 2023
Read more

Blog / Mock Elections 2024: The results are in!

Results are in for the Hansard Society's nationwide Mock Elections. Thousands of pupils have cast their ballots and the results show that Labour has won the election among pupils across the country, with 27.3% of the vote.

04 Jul 2024
Read more

News / Who will be the stars of the new Parliament? - Parliament Matters podcast, Episode 40

With a 50% new intake and 40% female representation, the latest parliamentary group promises exciting new talent. Renowned journalist and 'Tomorrow’s MPs' watcher Michael Crick shares his insights on the standout figures to watch in the coming years.

07 Jul 2024
Read more