Position: Professor of British and Comparative Politics and Director of the Constitution Unit
Location: 2.03, 31 Tavistock Square
Telephone: 020 3108 6967 (Internal: 56967)
Meg Russell is Professor of British and Comparative Politics and Director of the Constitution Unit. She first began at UCL as a Senior Research Fellow at the Constitution Unit in August 1998. She leads the Unit's research work on parliament, and is currently a Senior Fellow with the ESRC-funded UK in a Changing Europe programme. Meg is particularly known for her work on the British House of Lords, bicameralism, and parliamentary policy influence. She has also conducted recent work on referendums, devolution, and citizens' assemblies. In the past she has written on topics including political party organisation, candidate selection, women's representation in politics and political psychology.
Meg has worked closely with policy makers throughout her career. Before joining UCL she had worked in the House of Commons and for the British Labour Party. In 1999 she was a consultant to the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords and from 2001-03 was seconded as a full time adviser to Robin Cook in his role as Leader of the House of Commons. She has acted as an adviser to the Arbuthnott Commission on boundaries and voting systems in Scotland, the House of Lords Appointments Commission, the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons ("Wright Committee"), the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) and the Lord Speaker's Committee on the Size of the House (of Lords). She has regularly given evidence to parliamentary committees, both in Britain and overseas.
In 2006 Meg was awarded the Political Studies Association's Richard Rose prize for contribution by a younger scholar to the study of British politics. She was promoted to Reader in 2008 and to Professor in 2014. In 2020 she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, and in 2021 she was judged Political Studies Association Political Communicator of the Year.
Meg is responsible for most of the Unit's research on parliament, and is known as one of the primary academic experts on the British parliament. As part of her UKICE Fellowship, she has been a key commentator on parliament and Brexit. She has closely researched the House of Lords, but also key aspects of the House of Commons, and Commons reform, as well as the devolved legislatures in the UK and other legislatures overseas. Major projects have focused in particular on the extent to which both chambers of the Westminster parliament influence government policy. In comparative politics terms Meg has a particularly strong interest in bicameralism (i.e. two chamber parliaments).
Meg has recently contributed significantly to the Unit's work on referendums and and citizens' assemblies. She has also written in the past on political party organisation, devolution, and women's representation in politics.
Meg's current projects, and recently completed projects, include the following:
- Brexit, Parliament and the Constitution
- The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit
- The Independent Commission on Referendums
- The Citizens' Assembly on Brexit
- Options for an English Parliament
- The Contemporary House of Lords
- An Elaborate Rubber Stamp? The Impact of Parliament on Legislation
Meg has also pursued many previous projects during her years at the Unit. These include:
- Financial privilege: a project exploring the House of Commons' ability to reject Lords amendments on financial grounds
- Legislative Committees at Westminster, the case for reform: which resulted in proposals for greater specialism and permanence in the committee system
- The policy impact of House of Commons select committees: in an innovative project in partnership with the House of Commons Committee Office.
- The House Rules? Research on new options for the way the House of Commons governs itself, which was very influential on the Wright Committee.
- A comparative study of second chambers, to inform the second stage of House of Lords reform.
- Research on parliament and devolution.
- The social psychology of political elites: exploratory work on how theories from social psychology may help explain parliamentary behaviour, in particular.
- Work on internal organisational reform in the Labour Party, culminating in a book.
- A study of legal mechanisms for promoting women's representation which helped bring about a change in the law to legalise electoral quotas.
Meg is the author of four books:
- Legislation at Westminster: Parliamentary Actors and Influence in the Making of British Law (OUP, 2017)
- The Contemporary House of Lords: Westminster Bicameralism Revived (OUP, 2013)
- Building New Labour: The Politics of Party Organisation (Palgrave, 2005)
- Reforming the House of Lords: Lessons from Overseas (OUP, 2000)
In addition her Fabian pamphlet Must Politics Disappoint? was shortlisted for pamphlet of the year at the Thinktank of the Year awards 2005.
She is joint editor of:
- Developments in British Politics 10 (Palgrave, 2016)
She has also written over 25 Constitution Unit reports. Some notable examples include:
- Taking Back Control: Why the House of Commons Should Govern its Own Time (with Daniel Gover, Jan 2021)
- Demystifying financial privilege: Does the Commons' claim of financial primacy on Lords amendments need reform? (with Daniel Gover, March 2014)
- Fitting the Bill: Bringing Commons Legislation Committees into Line with Best Practice (with Bob Morris and Phil Larkin, June 2013)
- Selective Influence: The Policy Impact of House of Commons Select Committees (with Meghan Benton, June 2011)
- The House Rules? International lessons for enhancing the autonomy of the House of Commons (with Akash Paun, October 2007) which was very influential on the Wright Committee on reform of the House of Commons.
- Women's Representation in Politics: What can be done within the Law? (June 2000) which was similarly influential in bringing about the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002.
For a complete list of all Meg's publications, and details of her media appearances, see the list below:
- Meg's publication list
Meg is responsible for the following three modules in the Department (the first two of which are currently taught by a Teaching Fellow, thanks to her UKICE Fellowship):
- British Government and Politics (Masters module)
- Parliaments, Political Parties and Policy Making (Masters module)
- British Parliamentary Studies (Undergraduate module)
She also supervises Masters dissertations and PhD projects in areas related to her research.
- Blog Posts
The House of Lords amendment to the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill returns appropriate power to MPs: they should accept it
Monitor 79: Is this what democratic backsliding feels like? Constitutional developments under the Johnson government.
The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill: why the House of Commons should retain control over dissolution
The marginalisation of the House of Commons under Covid has been shocking; a year on, parliament’s role must urgently be restored