General election called: What now for Parliament? - Parliament Matters podcast, Episode 36

24 May 2024
©Rishi Sunak/Twitter
©Rishi Sunak/Twitter

This week, we dive into the unexpected political shake-up in Westminster, where Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a general election has thrown Parliament into turmoil. The Prime Minister’s surprising move to hold the election in early July, rather than waiting until Autumn, has sent shockwaves through the political landscape.

We explore the immediate impact on MPs and their staff, highlighting notable figures who have swiftly announced their decision to step down.

With the election looming, the normal legislative process is being accelerated in what’s known as the 'wash-up,' where parties negotiate which bills will make it onto the statute book. Some bills may fall by the wayside, others may be significantly altered, and a few might make it through relatively unscathed.

Select Committees also face significant challenges. How many of their outstanding reports can be completed and published before Parliament is prorogued? And what will happen to unfinished inquiries once MPs depart Westminster?

Looking ahead, we discuss the parliamentary timetable post-election. Newly elected MPs will be summoned to Parliament, but what will the schedule look like if the State Opening and the King’s Speech occur in mid-July? Will the Summer recess proceed as usual, or will a new government keep MPs in Westminster into early August to legislate and get acquainted with their new roles?

Away from the Westminster drama, we examine a major scrutiny challenge for the next Parliament: holding Metro Mayors accountable for their powers and the billions they spend on services. Should accountability be driven from the top down by Parliament, or from the bottom up by local government? The Conservative Government has proposed regional “MPs sessions” in the West Midlands and Manchester. What form would these sessions take, and would they be effective? We also explore Labour's proposals with insights from Dr. Jack Newman of Bristol University, author of a new report on rebuilding local democracy and the accountability challenges posed by English devolution.

  • Which MPs have announced they are standing down since the general election was called?

  • What is the legislative wash-up and how many of the government's remaining bills are likely to make it on to the statute book?

  • What happens to Select Committee inquiries if they have not completed their work?

  • What will happen at the start of the new Parliament: will MPs have a normal Summer recess?

  • How can Parliament hold Metro Mayors accountable after the election?

Parliament Matters is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Parliament Matters is supported by a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.


Dr Jack Newman, University of Bristol

Dr Jack Newman is a Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, where his research focuses on urban development, devolution and cross-government working. Previously, Jack worked at the Productivity Institute at the University of Manchester, focusing on how decentralisation and improved relations between central and local government could affect local economic development. Prior to this he worked at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, collaborating with the Institute for Government on a review of the UK Constitution and co-authoring a major report on Devolving English Government.

Hansard Society

Hansard Society: Parliamentary Affairs Journal

Productivity Institute

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.

00:00:02:07 - 00:00:16:15 You're listening to Parliament Matters, a Hansard Society production, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn more at 00:00:16:17 - 00:00:39:22 Welcome to Parliament Matters, the podcast about the institution at the heart of our democracy, Parliament itself. I'm Ruth Fox and I'm Mark Darcy. Coming up, Sunak's summer surprise brings the parliament elected in 2019 to an abrupt end. There's a spasm of speed legislating as MPs rushed through as much of the outstanding legislation as they can in just two days. 00:00:39:24 - 00:00:52:06 And both parties want more devolution, more mayors, but how will Parliament keep track of the billions they spend? 00:00:54:17 - 00:01:21:12 But first, Ruth, an asteroid struck planet Westminster this week, Rishi Sunak's almost completely unexpected decision to call an election caught most MPs, most journalists, most commentators, most podcasters, most podcasters, it’s a fair cop, society’s to blame. But here we are suddenly, with a general election and an awful lot of very surprised MPs having to make very rapid decisions about their future. 00:01:21:18 - 00:01:47:10 Quite a number. We're perhaps teetering on the cusp. Will I stay or will I go? Will I try and be in the next Parliament, or will I depart gracefully before the next general election? Have had to come to a very, very swift decision indeed. Names like Jo Churchill, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, Dame Eleanor Laing or the Senior Deputy Speaker, has decided to stand down, which is a little bit of a surprise because she seemed almost in pole position, perhaps, to be the next Conservative speaker of the House. 00:01:47:10 - 00:02:06:09 But after 27 years in Parliament, I think she's now had enough and announced to her constituency that she's going. Another name that's just dropped in the last few minutes, just before we started recording this, Huw Merriman, former chair of the Transport Select Committee, now a transport minister, suddenly announced that he's not going to be standing at this election. 00:02:06:09 - 00:02:32:13 And he's been an MP for, I think, nine years. He's he's not one of the old lags who's been around forever, but he's decided to move on and do other things. And I think there'll be many more decisions of that kind to come on all sides. So a couple of Labour MPs, Yvonne Fovargue, for example, has decided to stand down from her Makerfield seat, which I think she's been in since 2010, and Holly Lynch, shadow deputy chief whip on the Labour side, is also standing down for family reasons. 00:02:32:13 - 00:02:51:11 So I think we'll see over the next couple of days more of some more announcements. They're going to have to make, as you say, the decisions pretty quickly because basically two weeks time close of nominations, all the parties will have to have their candidates signed, sealed and delivered and in with the electoral returning officers. So there's not a lot of time for members to contemplate what they're going to do. 00:02:51:13 - 00:03:10:19 And of course, you know, for those MPs who already made the decision to stand down, some of them were perhaps hoping for a slightly more dignified departure and an opportunity to, you know, make a valedictory speech or finish off some work that they'd been sort of campaigning on. And it's kind of been ripped away. Yeah. No long goodbyes for them. 00:03:10:19 - 00:03:46:17 And some MPs may have discovered, to the horror, that they've already made their final contribution in Parliament and may never get to speak again. And normally it's a much gentler exercise in which, you know, you get a chance to shake hands with the speaker, and a clutch of MPs will go and see the commission that formally prorogue Parliament at the end of a parliament, a sort of weird ritual in the House of Lords, with lots of people in robes doffing cocked hats at various points during a generation in sort of pretend medieval English and all sorts of things like that, or possibly not now happen for them, and instead it'll just be a rather rapid 00:03:46:17 - 00:04:06:15 exercise in packing up the office and never darkening the doors again. Yeah, and of course, we're talking on Thursday, the day after the election has been called. This podcast will be out this episode on Friday morning and Friday was supposed to be, you know, finishing up for a week for the Whitsun recess. MPs had got holidays booked. They’ve got family plans. 00:04:06:15 - 00:04:27:10 Yes, some of them, a lot of them would have been campaigning in the constituency. But I mean, taking a few days break over the bank holiday rather splendidly. Steve Baker, a conservative minister, announced that he was going to have his holiday anyway. But of course, you and I were in the Palace of Westminster yesterday afternoon when the news broke talking to Patrick Grady, the SNP MP who is himself departing. 00:04:27:12 - 00:04:47:19 We were talking to him for a future episode. More about that in the coming weeks. And meeting MPs and in and around the corridors of Westminster was that there was a fair amount sort of quite stunned, frankly. Yeah. I think an awful lot of people struggle to fathom the political reasons, the electoral strategy, if any, behind Rishi Sunak's decision to call an election.

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