Publications / Briefings

A Year in the Life: From Member of Public to Member of Parliament

20 Jun 2011

As part of the Hansard Society's longer-term 'A Year in the Life' study of newly-elected legislators, this 2011 report explored the experience of MPs elected in 2010. The report found that long hours and the competing demands of Westminster and constituency were damaging new MPs' family life – yet most such MPs aspired to make politics a long-term career.

Entering a legislature as a newly-elected Member is a daunting experience. Exhausted from an election campaign, new Members are faced with a huge, multifaceted, and heavily scrutinised but poorly understood role for which no job description exists and which they are expected to perform effectively from day 1.

At Westminster, new MPs need to master the traditions and procedural complexities of the Commons, set up their offices, hire staff, find personal accommodation and re-arrange family life – all before they can properly begin working as a legislator and constituency representative. How do they decide what they are going to do and how they are going to do it? How do they learn the ropes in a new and challenging political environment? Do they have the resources to carry out their role effectively? How do they balance the expectations and demands of their constituents, their party, the media and others? What are they hoping to achieve, and how does the reality of the experience match up to their expectations?

The Hansard Society's long-term 'A Year in the Life' research investigates the experiences of newly-elected legislators during their first year in the job. The research aims to advance public understanding of what MPs and other elected representatives do, and provide an independent evidence base to aid parliamentary staff developing induction, training and support for newly-elected Members.

At Westminster, the core of the research consists of repeated surveys of new MPs, supplemented by interviews. The research was first conducted with respect to MPs newly elected in 2005, generating a first report in 2006.

This 2011 report presented the results of the research as conducted with respect to MPs elected for the first time in 2010. These MPs faced the added pressures and new requirements of the post-expenses scandal environment. The report found that:

  • New MPs are certainly not in it for the money

  • New MPs are working very long hours, to the detriment of their personal and family lives

  • MPs face a difficult balancing act, weighing up the demands of constituency work and their parliamentary role

  • Early Day Motions (EDMs) are the biggest source of dissatisfaction with how Parliament works

  • Most of the new MPs aspire to make politics a long-term career, and more than half hope to become ministers

Our reports on the experiences of the 2005 and 2010 intakes of MPs were used by the House of Commons Administration Committee during its inquiries into post-election services. House of Commons officials used the research in particular to inform the improvement of the orientation and induction offerings provided to Members after the 2010 and 2015 general elections. The research was also used by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) during its Review of MPs' Pay and Pensions.

After 2011, the 'A Year in the Life' research was extended to Members newly elected that year to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Irish Dáil. This expansion of the research allowed the generation of comparative insights and the potential for learning and exchange of best practice among the four parliaments and assemblies involved.

  • Executive Summary

  • Introduction

  • Salary and expenses

    • Change in salary

    • IPSA

  • Working operations

    • Working hours

    • Division of time

    • Work priorities

    • Voting priorities

    • Communications and technology

  • The parliamentary experience

    • Satisfaction with Parliament

    • Impact on personal life

    • Aspirations

  • Next steps

  • Research details

  • Endnotes