The House of Lords has frequently reached the news in recent years, but almost always in the context of its possible reform, rather than the existing chamber's role in the policy process. Meg Russell's new book, published in July, seeks to redress the gap in understanding, based on detailed research about the chamber's evolving membership, party groups, committees and treatment of legislation. The book argues that the years since 1999 (when Tony Blair's government removed most hereditary peers) have seen a 'revival' of bicameralism in the UK, with the Lords playing an increasingly active and influential role. Even before the arrival of coalition in 2010, the Lords had given the third party significant negotiating power, making British parliamentary politics far more plural than was suggested by the old 'Westminster model'. Since the arrival of the coalition, the independent 'Crossbenchers' have taken on a pivotal, but little-known, position. These changes have obvious consequences for how we are governed, and have also changed the tone of debates about Lords reform.
At this seminar Meg Russell will set out some of the key arguments and findings of her book, with a response from seasoned Westminster-watcher Mark D'Arcy of the BBC, followed by a wider discussion.
Meg Russell is a Reader in British and Comparative Politics, and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit at UCL. She is largely responsible for the Unit's research work on parliament, and has a particular interest in bicameralism and the British House of Lords. She has also written on political party organisation, candidate selection and women's representation in politics.