Political academics have nothing to contribute to practical politics


How often have we heard this lazy slur? The truth is that they have been given precious few opportunities to contribute to the political process, but that is hopefully all about to change.

When I became chairman of the new Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform I was determined to tap into the resources of academia. This was borne out quickly by our unique and productive collaboration with King’s College on a written constitution for the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the Select Committee’s reports have included fixed-term Parliaments, individual electoral registration, and the recall of MPs. Academic input into these reports has been of tremendous value, especially in the Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Individual Electoral Registration and Electoral Administration Bill, which led to significant practical changes in the final version of the Bill that is now going through Parliament. As part of our inquiries,we hear from the leading academic experts in the field.  But that field is quite small. However, we believe that graduate students and academics who are just starting out in their careers could offer us a great deal to supplement more established contributors.

These are the issues where we are currently seeking evidence:

  • Do we need a constitutional convention for the UK?
  • Prospects for codifying the relationship
  • between central and local government
  • The impact and effectiveness of  ministerial reshuffles
  • Ensuring standards in the quality of legislation
  • Mapping the path to codifying —or not codifying—the  UK’s  constitution.

Further details about all these inquiries can be found on the Committee’s website or by contacting the Committee team or on 020 7219 6287. My staff are more than happy to chat informally about the inquiries and how to submit pertinent, timely and evidence-based contributions. Written submissions do not have to be long, and nor do they have to address all the terms of reference. Sometimes a couple of pithy paragraphs drawn from previous research on one aspect of the inquiry can be as useful to the Committee as pages and pages. If you would like to submit evidence, but cannot make the deadline, or notice that the deadline has already passed, please contact the Committee team. British social science  is the best in the world, so please make responding to our calls for evidence a regular part of your work. It will help make British politics better. I look forward to hearing from you!

Graham Allen MP is chair of the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee.