UK Parliament and MPs

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Lawrence McKay

Esmerelda: thanks for your paper! I researched offline communication by MPs for my PhD, so I have a lot of interest in your topic! The analysis of tone as well as volume of communications is important and seems very robust. A couple of quick thoughts: Correlating posting activity and the polls could be very interesting… But an alternative hypothesis would not be that change in polls -> increased posting, but that specifically narrowing of polls -> increased posting, particularly on the Remain side, as people realise the referendum is becoming more competitive than they expected. Could this be something to… Read more »

Esmeralda Bon

Hi Lawrence. Thank you! 🙂 That’s an interesting idea worth looking into. I do wonder whether it’s possible to disentangle an effect of the narrowing of polls with the effect of the campaign increasing in intensity, in general. The caveat with using this kind of research design and time series analysis is that it is difficult if (in some cases) not impossible to say whether a specific event or change has actually had an impact. After all, there are many events that take place during a campaign and there are many circumstances that we probably don’t know about (e.g., whether… Read more »

Lawrence McKay

Good luck with submitting your papers – they both sound great! I think your conclusion sounds right re: both papers – MPs are basically just quite idiosyncratic in how they communicate (amount or tone/content), which is interesting and has important implications in its own right, and shouldn’t be hard to sell even as a null finding. Look forward to seeing where your work goes!

Ellen Watts

Thanks everyone, I learned a lot from these presentations. I have a question for Lewis and Tom – great paper, I found the shift over time particularly interesting. As someone who’s never read up on this, I found the stuff on ‘unanswerable questions’ particularly interesting. I’m wondering whether the kind of unanswerable questions you coded in your data set were broadly similar to those discussed in prior research, in terms of content and (assumed) intent? While this wasn’t your main focus I’d love to hear if your work to date tells us anything else about how, why and when MPs… Read more »

Lewis Virgo

Hey Ellen, Thank you for watching our talk and we are glad you liked it. In terms of unanswerable questions, the only one I have seen is the example given in the Bates et. al by Dennis Skinner: “Is the Prime Minister aware that, once he has had the guts to go to the country, for the first time in his political life he will be sitting on the Opposition Benches? I have been keeping this seat warm for him. After the election, at least half a dozen Tory ex-Ministers will put the knife into him, because they want his… Read more »

Ellen Watts

Interesting, thanks for the detailed answer and the recommendation. I agree that this sounds like a space for further research, especially feeding into the whole debate about the purpose and utility of PMQs. I’m glad for your sakes that on the whole the posts were relatively easy to code! Best of luck with the rest of your research projects

Louise Thompson

Lewis and Tom: Thanks for the presentation. You’re tackling some interesting questions here and it looks as though you’ve put together a pretty comprehensive dataset to explore them. I’ve got a few questions about the process of coding and the sample first of all.  When I first started to listen I really wanted to know if you’d distinguished between Order Paper PQs and supplementaries. From the last half of the presentation it seems that you did code for this. One thing I’m not sure about though is whether an MP who asked a PQ and then had a supplementary PQ… Read more »

Tom Barton

Hi Louise, Glad you enjoyed the presentation! On your first point the simple answer is yes we did code all Order and Supplementary questions. You are correct in thinking that an MP would typically ask a standard type order question then their supplementary question could be unanswerable. The explanation we give for this is that order questions are known beforehand by ministers so in tabling these questions MPs lose ‘the element of surprise’; which they have with supplementary questions. On your point about changes over time, yes we do think our year variable captures something more than just time but… Read more »

Louise Thompson

Leah – Thanks for your presentation. You’ve got so much Hansard to go through with this one, I’d like to know a bit more about how you’ve carried out your content analysis? You talk very quickly in the presentation – I do that too when I’m just talking to the computer! https://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/13.0.1/svg/1f60a.svg So you may have said this and I’ve just missed it. I wasn’t sure if you’re doing a content analysis of statements/ debates etc running right across this time period (which seems to cover many decades of parliamentary business) or if you’ve identified key points and you’re looking at… Read more »

Leah Rea

Hi Louise, thank you so much for kindly giving your time to provide me feedback and questions, I appreciate it.  On the conducting of the content analysis, I followed the general approach of Neuendorf (2002) in that by undertaking content analysis of Hansard reports of proceedings and debates pertaining to the discussion of human rights in Northern Ireland within historic and contemporary contexts I could extract meaningful content from these texts in a systematic and objective manner. The content may then be utilised in critical examination and evaluation of the practical operation and impact of the identified constitutional conventions. I… Read more »

Louise Thompson

Esmeralda – Thanks for your paper. This looks like another massive dataset so I realise when I ask these questions that you simply won’t have had time to look at everything you want to look at yet. I think you said you’re only in year 1 of your PhD – in which case you’re making fab progress! My main question was similar to Lawrence’s. Having just listened to the paper on this panel on PQs, I wondered whether you’ve also coded the posts by leave/remain MPs and whether this brings any noticeable differences in terms of anger/anxiety tone over the… Read more »

Esmeralda Bon

Hi Louise, Thank you for your comments and question! 🙂 I do look forward to meeting you in person at Manchester Uni soon. Yes, I have looked at whether there are differences in the use of anger/anxiety by Leave/Remain MPs in another paper. However, this paper does not consider the time dimension and precedes the paper presented. In the earlier paper mentioned, the Facebook post is the unit of analysis, and not the date. It’s a multilevel data set where I also cluster the posts by MP. I find that MPs generally did not use anger and anxiety in their… Read more »

Louise Thompson

Thomas – thanks for your presentation. I don’t know how far into this research you are but it looks like you’ve got some fantastic interviews (and some cracking quotes from them!).  I’ve got two questions on this one really. The first is about what our expectations would be from the literature. You don’t say anything about this. How do most leaders manage dissent in their cabinets/shadow cabinets?  The second links to this – to what extent was corbyn’s behaviour as leader different to previous Labour (or other) leaders? Are there any parallels with other leaders. Things you mention like bringing… Read more »

Thomas Ron

Hi Louise, good questions! From the literature one would expect a leader to work within the constraints of collective responsibility and basically put your allies in areas that matter to you and then let your opponents within the party handle the other areas (like Blair did, education he put his allies in). Most leaders would listen to their Shadow Cabinets and would be able to come to an agreement. What is distinctive about Corbyn is basically that not only did he not abide by collective responsibility and not start fights but he was never able to finish them either. For… Read more »

Lewis Virgo

Hey Thomas, thank you for your talk. I was just wondering whether you explored the crucial relationship between Corbyn and his Deputy Tom Watson (of course as you said Miliband got rid of members selecting the Shadow Cabinet but the deputy leader is still elected. I think there is a lot to be said about the fallout of this relationship. I was wondering if you have read ‘Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn’ by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire? Its an excellent book and highly relevant to your talk. A paper that may be of interest is… Read more »

Thomas Ron

Hi Lewis, I really intend to read that book, it is very much on that list. Watson played a role and you are right I should perhaps expand on that, but his role was split into two areas. Firstly it was trying to make the Shadow Cabinet work. Watson was someone who the moderates could deal with and therefore could have been an envoy to them in the same way that Prescott was an envoy to the soft left under Blair. Unfortunately Corbyn’s office was seeing stabs in the back from everyone and basically cut Watson out and ignored him… Read more »

Lewis Virgo

Hey Esmeralda,   Thank you for your talk,   I was just wondering how you found the process of looking back at MP pages? How did you find the process? How difficult or easy it was to find the posts? I would love to know how you did it. I have a had little look for some potential research I am interested in and it seems restrictive, certainly worse than twitters historic search engine (perhaps this is why facebook is less covered) I would love to have a detailed chat with you   Another point, you selected the murder of… Read more »

Esmeralda Bon

Hi Lewis, Thank you for your comment! I started trying to collect this Facebook data in 2016, after having a go at it for a master’s thesis in 2015. It was a struggle, with Python, JSON-files, and so forth, and then shortly after, Cambridge Analytica occurred and this brought along ethical concerns and access issues. To put it briefly: it was difficult and not much fun, and it caused some terrible delays. However, my supervisory team and I did want to stick to Facebook because, as you mention, compared to Twitter, this platform received less attention. These days, due to… Read more »

Esmeralda Bon

Hi Liam, Thank you for listening to my presentation, for looking at my paper and for your questions and comments! I greatly appreciate them. 🙂 These days, I work on a project for Rachel (Gibson) and I know Ros (Southern) too, so we have some acquaintances and interests in common! Unfortunately, I don’t have a measure in my data for MP-tags/@-calls. This is because this measure was not included in the package used and also simply because I haven’t considered it before (so thank you for the suggestion!) I really struggled with the data collection back in 2016-2018. I eventually… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Esmeralda Bon
Lewis Virgo

Dear Leah,

Thank you for the presentation and I learnt a lot. NI is a topic in political science that I am not familiar with (although thanks to your talks i know more). But I liked the talk and hope to read your paper sometime in the near future.

Esmeralda Bon

Thomas: Thanks very much for your talk. I do not know much about the history of the Labour Party, and I’ve therefore learned quite a bit!

This is also the reason why my question is methodological. Elite actors are notoriously difficult to interview – they are so busy! How did you manage to obtain these 15 interviews? Did you contact all Labour MPs who were in office at a certain time? How many invites did it take?

Thomas Ron

Hi Esmerelda,

It took a lot of work. It does help that I am a member of the Labour Party so that probably softened opposition to me. Additionally, I am factionally located on the moderate side so MPs probably saw me as someone who was on their side. The COVID pandemic may have helped as well as some of them I spoke to in their Zoom surgeries.

Esmeralda Bon

Leah: Thank you for your talk! 🙂 I enjoyed learning more about human rights in Northern Ireland and the role of the British government. I know very little about North Irish politics and the constitutional devolution arrangements (I can’t stress this enough), so please excuse me for asking simple questions, which I hope are not sensitive and which may have already been addressed in your talk, or (perhaps worse still!) which may not be fully related. Whilst listening to your talk, I kept thinking about possible repercussions of human rights violations and issues of accountability. For example, in the country… Read more »

Esmeralda Bon

Lewis and Tom: Thank you for your talk. Studying how MPs interact is great fun and interesting, especially when it’s on such a public (theatrical) stage, such as at PQs. I like your identification and labelling of the three types of questions. The labels are intuitive. Am I right in interpreting these three types of questions as pro / neutral / anti (helpful, standard, unanswerable)? After all, one type of question serves to promote, another serves to acquire information (which is what questions are for) and the final type serves to criticise. I bet that with these data, you could… Read more »

Lewis Virgo

 Esmeralda, thank you for watching and your comments. We hope you enjoyed it. Yes, you are right essentially with your interpretation of the questions. This was takes from the Bates et. al. 2014 article and we thought there was no point reinventing the wheel and the classifications suited our study perfectly too. We will probably make this data set public after we publish so others can have a play around with it. That is an interesting question, and you raise an excellent point about polling that I have not considered. I will certainly look into that. Myself I have also… Read more »

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