Browse audio and video recordings from past Constitution Unit events.
28 April 2022
We discuss the newly published report of the Unit’s recent Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK.
7 April 2022
We explore the key arguments around how the role of members affects the kind of leaders and policies adopted, balanced with the role of MPs.
17 March 2022
A panel of experts mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and explore what the future of the monarchy might look like.
10 February 2022
We discuss the newly published findings of our major survey of attitudes to democracy in the UK.
13 January 2022
A distinguished panel discuss the difficulties of Lords reform and whether new approaches are needed.
1 December 2021
This seminar reflects on the international trends of populism, with a particular interest in how they are affecting, and may continue to affect, the UK.
12 November 2021
CSPL’s chair, Lord (Jonathan) Evans, talks about the Standards Matter 2 review and CSPL’s main recommendations with Professor Meg Russell.
23 September 2021
Leading experts Professor Justin Fisher, Laura Lock, Baroness (Nicky) Morgan of Cotes, and Louise Edwards discuss some of the controversial proposals put forward by the government in the Elections Bill and draft Online Safety Bill.
29 July 2021
The latest book by prize-winning author Prof Linda Colley FBA (Professor of History at Princeton) is about the global history of written constitutions from the 1750s to the modern day, and the close connections between constitutions and warfare. She discusses the ideas in the book with Dr Harshan Kumarasingham (Edinburgh) and Robert Hazell (Constitution Unit).
17-18 June 2021
The government had a wide-ranging agenda for constitutional reforms on page 48 of its 2019 election manifesto. This conference, co-organised by the Constitution Unit, the Department of Politics & International Relations at the University of Oxford and UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE), brought together politicians, policymakers and academic experts to discuss the government’s progress so far, and what lies ahead.
The Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland published its Final Report on 26 May. The report explores how any potential future referendum or referendums on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would best be designed and conducted. A panel discuss its findings: Professor John Coakley, Sarah Creighton, Dr Avila Kilmurray, Alan Renwick, Patrick Maguire. Chair: Professor Cathy Gormely-Heenan.
24 May 2021
Westminster and Holyrood have both been engulfed by scandals over ministerial behaviour in the past year. The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) has launched a further review, Standards Matter 2, to evaluate the institutions and processes that uphold standards of conduct in Westminster and beyond.Sir Alex Allan, Susan Deacon and Richard Thomas CBE discuss this matter.
29 April 2021
Peter Riddell steps down as the Commissioner for Public Appointments in September 2021. The Commissioner’s role is to ensure fair and open competition, with the final choice made by ministers. In this valedictory talk, he reflects on the system of public appointments, and discusses what changes are needed to provide public confidence in the system.
22 March 2021
If the SNP win a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections in May, Nicola Sturgeon will declare they have a mandate for a second independence referendum. Boris Johnson has said he will refuse to allow one. But can he can really resist? Prof Aileen McHarg explains the legal issues; James Forsyth the politics, and the need for an alternative offer; and Dr Alan Renwick the referendum process, if the Scots are to make a fully informed decision.
25 February 2021
How do people in the UK view democracy? How do they think UK democracy ought to operate? What roles do they think should be played by parliament, government, the courts, and the public themselves? How do such attitudes vary across the population, and what shapes them? Professors Jane Green and Claudia Landwehr and Deborah Mattinson discuss.
27 January 2021
In partnership with The UK in a Changing Europe, two seasoned Conservative parliamentarians — Lord Young of Cookham and Mark Harper MP —and the director of the Constitution Unit look back at Boris Johnson’s relationship with parliament, reflecting on the highs and lows, expectations and reality, and lessons for the future.
19 January 2021
'Taking Back Control: Why the House of Commons Should Govern its own Time' is a Constitution Unit report which explores why MPs lack control of their own institution, what problems this causes, and what should be done; this launch event discusses its findings with its authors, Valerie Vaz MP, Karen Bradley MP, Sir David Natzler, and the report authors - Professor Meg Russell and Dr Daniel Gover.
4 December 2020
How will devolution and the Union change post-Brexit? As the final part of the Constitution Unit’s 25th anniversary celebrations, we examine devolution and the Union with four academic experts, one from each part of the UK: Professors Laura McAllister, John Denham, Cathy Gormley-Heenan and Michael Keating. Chair: Prof Robert Hazell.
Report launch: Interim Report of the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland
3 December 2020
The Interim Report of the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland was published on 26 November. The report explores how any potential future referendum or referendums on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would best be designed and conducted. This webinar discusses the report’s purposes, analysis, and conclusions with speakers Professor Alan Renwick, Clare Slaters, Alan Whysall and Martin Kettle. This event was chaired by Professor Meg Russell.
3 November 2020
What were the key questions, and motivating factors, then and now? As part of the Constitution Unit's 25th anniversary celebrations, this online seminar hosts speakers Jack Straw, Professor Francesca Klug and David Gauke. They look back at the constitutional reform agenda of the 1997 Labour government, and forward at the constitutional reforms proposed in the 2019 Conservative manifesto. This event was chaired by Prof Meg Russell.
5 October 2020
The Conservative party had a clear commitment to repeal the FTPA, which was repeated in the Queen's speech. Nothing further has happened from the government. But in September, two parliamentary committees published reports explaining complications. In this webinar, Baroness Taylor, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP and Professor Petra Schleiter discuss these reports and their implications. Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
30 September 2020
'The Role of Monarchy in Modern Democracy: European Monarchies Compared' is the first comparative study of European monarchies, written with 20 academic experts. An expert panel of Lord Janvrin, Valentine Low, Professor Jean Seaton, Jonny Dymond and Professor Rudy Andeweg discuss the book's main findings. Namely, how an ancient, hereditary institution has survived as a central part of these democracies. Chair: Jonathan Dimbleby.
2 July 2020
This webinar is about the challenges of reporting on politics, and on parliament, during the lockdown. What have journalists lost with no access to the lobby, and what alternative sources can they use instead? Mark D'Arcy, Esther Webber and Brian Taylor give their thoughts. Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
1 June 2020
Lockdown has seen parliament and the Climate Assembly UK conducting business online. This webinar hosts four experts, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, Greg Power, Sarah Allan and Doreen Grove to explore key questions about the effects of lockdown. What has been lost? What lessons might be learned? Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
27 February 2020
Rt Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC has had a unique parliamentary career. He was an MP for 49 years, held the status as Father of the House (i.e. longest-serving member), and served in a variety of ministerial posts. In this session, he reflects on his career in conversation with Meg Russell.
4 February 2020
The Conservative party's 2019 manifesto commits the new government to 'look at the broader aspects of our constitution.' There are also specific commitments: to update the Human Rights Act; to ensure judicial review is not abused; and to set up a 'Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission'. Two Conservative experts, Lord Dunlop and Chris White discuss how the new government might implement this agenda and possible obstacles. Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
16 December 2019
In this seminar, three UCL experts and Dr Sofia Collignon discuss key aspects of the general election. Prof Ben Lauderdale analyses the accuracy of polling; Dr Sofia Collignon talks about the main characteristics of the candidates; Professor Alan Renwick about the performance of the campaign rules; and Prof Meg Russell about the likely political dynamics in the new parliament. Chair: Lisa James.
28 November 2019
'Brexit has triggered a constitutional as well as a political crisis, and it is time that we had a written constitution.' So many people believe this statement; but are they right? And how should we set about drafting one? In this seminar, experts Professors Sionaidh Douglas and Nick Barber make the case for and against a written constitution. Chair: Professor Robert Hazell.
23 October 2019
Brexit has seen the government not merely proroguing parliament for five weeks, but also threatening that the Queen might be advised to withhold Royal Assent from parliamentary bills, or even that the Privy Council might suspend Acts of parliament the government doesn't like. In this seminar, experts Professor Anne Twomey and Professor Alison Young discuss whether the prerogative needs to be more regulated, and how this might be done. Chair: Professor Robert Hazell.
5 October 2019
Brexit continues to be a central controversy in British politics: it has divided the public and brought key aspects of the UK's constitutional settlement into doubt. A panel of expert commentators, Professors Meg Russell, Jeff King and Alan Renwick reflect on recent controversies and possible ways forward. Chair: Lisa James.
12 September 2019
The rules governing election campaigns are no longer fit for purpose: parliamentary committees, independent reports, and even the government have acknowledged this. Yet, if an early election is called, these rules will not have been updated. Experts Dorothy Byrne, Ed Humpherson, Joe Mitchell and Will Moy give their opinions on what others (journalists, regulators, researchers, campaigners) can do in the meantime to improve the information available? Chair: Professor Alan Renwick.
22 July 2019
A panel of experts, Hilary Benn MP, Professor Meg Russell, Brigid Fowler and Chris White analyse parliament's handling of Brexit thus far. Have procedures been used appropriately? What do recent events tell us about parliament's power over government? What is the effect on public perceptions of both? Chair Dr Daniel Gover.
15 July 2019
This full-day event, brings together experts, academics and politicians to consider the implications of Brexit for the constitution. The event was co-badged with the UK in a Changing Europe and the Hansard Society.
1 July 2019
This event brings together a panel of experts: Joanna Cherry MP, Lilian Greenwood MP, Sarah Allan and Graham Smith. These experts give their thoughts on the following questions: How do citizens' assemblies work in practice? What are they good for? Are there topics or circumstances for which they are not suitable? Chair: Professor Alan Renwick.
17 June 2019
In this seminar, experts on all the main political parties — Tim Bale, Paul Webb, Jess Garland and Mark Pack — discuss the process by which leaders of political parties are selected. Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
14 May 2019
This seminar launched Rethinking Democracy, a collection of essays edited by Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright. Leading academics Andrew Gamble, Joni Lovenduski, Tony Wright and Albert Weale explore the problems of democracy and suggest ways it might now be extended and deepened. Chair: Meg Russell.
19 March 2019
On 1 March 2019 Sir David Natzler retired from his role as Clerk of the House of Commons. Sir David joined the House Service in 1975, and has held various senior appointments during his career. In this event, Sir David reflects on his 40+ years in parliament and the challenge ahead for parliament in conversation with Professor Meg Russell.
21 February 2019
A seminar with Dame Sue Owen (Permanent Secretary at Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and Peter Riddell (Commissioner for Public Appointments). Sue Owen discusses the challenges of making public appointments to 45 public bodies in the fields of culture, media and sport. Peter Riddell reflects on how the system of public appointments has developed in the light of the Grimstone review of spring 2016.
11 February 2019
Brexit will be a momentous event. Discussion has largely focused on its economic consequences but it will also have large consequences for the British constitution. Could Brexit result in greater powers for government rather than parliament? How will rights be impacted? Prof Vernon Bogdanor author of `Beyond Brexit’, explores these questions in this event.
12 December 2018
Ian Shapiro discusses his new book, 'Responsible Parties: Saving Democracy from Itself' with Frances Rosenbluth and Dr Sherrill Stroschein. He explores the varieties of political competition across the democratic world and suggests that efforts to make political parties more democratic over the past several decades have backfired.
3 December 2018
Digital campaigning has received bad press recently. But the internet also has huge potential to engage and mobilise people, and enable them to be more active citizens. In this seminar, three leading figures, Areeq Chowdhury, Joe Mitchell and Will Moy speak about ways in which technology can enhance democratic participation, and also about some of its limitations. Chair: Professor Alan Renwick.
28 November 2018
The House of Lords has become increasingly controversial, with its numbers reaching around 800: up from less than 700 in 1999. In October 2017, the Lord Speaker's Committee, chaired by Crossbencher Lord Burns, proposed a system of phased retirements and a more regulated system for appointments. At this event, Burns reflects upon progress since the report alongside Baronness Taylor and Sir Bernard Jenkin. Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
15 October 2018
Do citizens' assemblies allow for more effective public participation? Are they sufficiently representative? How do they interact with the rest of the democratic process? At this seminar, two of Ireland’s leading experts on citizens’ assemblies, Professor David Farrell and Dr Jane Suiter, reflect on the experience in Ireland and draw out potential lessons for the UK. Chair: Professor Alan Renwick.
27 September 2018
How many days’ debate will the Brexit legislation require? How many votes will Theresa May need to stave off confidence motions? What counts as a confidence motion under the new rules of the Fixed Term? Dr Jack Simson Caird, Dr Alan Wager, and Matthew Bevington discuss. Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
The Future of Referendums in the UK: Launch of the Report of the Independent Commission on Referendums
11 July 2018
In October 2017 the Constitution Unit established the Independent Commission on Referendums to review the role and conduct of referendums in the UK. The Commission met over eight months, took evidence, deliberated, and produced a detailed report containing comprehensive recommendations. At this seminar, members Sir Joe Pilling, Professor Alan Renwick, Jenny Watson CBE, and Deborah Mattinson discussed the recommendations and how they were reached and considered what could be done to take the proposals forward.
18 June 2018
Drawing on a four-year ESRC funded study of parliamentary candidates standing in the 2015 and 2017 general elections, this event shares research and insights into key questions around selection, campaigning, election and representation in Britain. Who are our parliamentary candidates? What motivates them to stand? How much does it cost to run? Are they representative of the constituents they serve? Speakers: Prof Rosie Campbell; Dr Sofia Collingnon Delmar; Dr Stefanie Reher; Dr Javie Sajuria; Dr Maria Sobolewska; and Lord Hayward.
30 May 2018
Robert Hazell and Bob Morris present the findings of two of their recent reports: 'Planning for Accession and Coronation' and 'The Accession Declaration and Coronation Oaths.'
15 May 2018
There is widespread concern about the quality of debate that precedes elections and referendums. Campaigners' claims are often seen as false or misleading. Many voters feel they cannot find reliable information on the options before them. But what can be done to improve this situation? This seminar explores emerging ideas and compares how the issue is tackled in other countries. Professor Aan Renwick, Dr Jane Suiter and Lord Foulkes discuss in this event. Chair: Professor Robert Hazell.
17 April 2018
The House of Lords created an ad hoc Committee to explore how influential political polling and digital media is on politics and democracy in the UK. The Committee is due to report in March 2018. Lord Lipsey, chair of the committee, discusses the committee's findings and recommendations, with responses from Prof Will Jennings and Martin Boon. Chair: Jennifer Hudson.
21 March 2018
In December the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) published its report on intimidation of parliamentary candidates and others in public life. At this seminar, experts Lord Bew, Jane Ramsey and Sofia Collignon explore the Committee's recommendations, which are directed to government, social media companies, political parties, the media, and MPs themselves. Chair: Jennifer Hudson.
21 March 2018
In recent elections and in the EU referendum, concerns have been raised about online targeting of voters in social media and the use of voter data. Dr Martin Moore's research for his latest book suggests there is cause for concern. He is director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at King's College London, and was previously founding director of the Media Standards Trust.
23 January 2018
This event is the inaugural annual lecture of The Constitution Society, hosted by the Constitution Unit. Dominic Grieve QC MP offers his distinctive perspective on Brexit, discussing the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, the role of international courts in UK law, and the more troubling aspects of the Withdrawal Bill itself.
Taking a Deliberative Approach to Complexity: What can we learn from the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit?
23 January 2018
This seminar examines what we can learn from the experience of holding a citizens' assembly about Brexit and considers the role of such participatory processes in current decision-making in Scotland. Experts Professor Alan Renwick, Kaela Scott, James Mitchell and Oliver Escobar discuss. Chair: Doreen Grove.
17 January 2018
In October the Constitution Unit launched an Independent Commission on Referendums, to review the role of referendums in British democracy and consider how their rules and practice could be improved. At this seminar, the chair and members of the Commission discuss their task, how they are setting about it, and the input they need from other experts and the public to ensure the Commission draws on the widest possible evidence base. Speakers Professor Alan Renwick, Sir Joe Pilling, Sue Inglish and Sue Baxter discuss. Chair: Professor Meg Russell.
13 December 2017
In September the Constitution Unit convened a Citizens' Assembly to engage in detailed, reflective and informed discussions about what the UK's post-Brexit relations with the European Union should be. 50 members of the public - carefully selected to reflect the diversity of the UK's population - met over two weekends in Manchester. Its findings were presented at this seminar.
20 November 2017
In April the Prime Minister announced a snap general election to be held on 8 June. This created a six month hiatus in Parliament, with legislation rushed through before the election, and then a long delay before Parliament was fully up and running again. Meanwhile election officials had just seven weeks to prepare for polling day. In this seminar we discussed the preparations necessary for a snap election.
15 November 2017
Meg Russell's latest book Legislation at Westminster, co-authored with Daniel Gover, demonstrates that parliament has much greater influence over legislation than is often supposed. She discussed the book at this seminar.
12 September 2017
The prospects for the Withdrawal Bill's passage were discussed by the BBC's parliamentary correspondent Mark D'Arcy and Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society: they assess the balance of forces in each House, and the main amendments which were proposed.
22 May 2017
This event featured a debate between two legal experts, Carl Gardner (author of What a Fix Up!) and Professor Gavin Phillipson (Durham University).
15 May 2017
The Orwell Prize Shortlist Lecture 2017, Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, discussed partiotism, nationalism and the current state of politics in the United Kingdom.
10 April 2017
Professor Tony Travers (LSE) spoke about the prospects for further devolution in England, in an age of greater austerity and growing uncertainty post-Brexit.
12 March 2017
Brexit presents Parliament with daunting challenges, politically and procedurally. Every Select Committee has an interest, and over 40 committee inquiries have been launched. A new Brexit Committee of twice the normal size was established in October. At this seminar, its Chair, Hilary Benn, spoke about the challenges it faces; Baroness Kishwer Falkner explained the work of the Lords EU Committee and its sub-Committees; and Commons legal adviser Arnold Ridout spoke about the Brexit work of the other Select Committees in the Commons.
6 March 2017
Recent research shows that the UK parliament has more openly LGBT members than any other legislature in the world. This seminar will brought together the author of that research - Professor Andrew Reynolds of the University of North Carolina - and four of the UK's most prominent LGBT politicians. It will explored how the barriers faced by LGBT candidates and politicians have changed in the UK , why the UK appears to stand out so far among liberal democracies in the presence of openly LGBT politicians, and whether any problems remain.
13 February 2017
Jim Gallagher has suggested that the return of powers from Brussels not only to Whitehall, but also the devolved governments, presents an opportunity to move the UK towards a confederal constitution (Constitution Unit Blog 10 October). Kezia Dugdale has called for a People's Constitutional Convention to devise a new Act of Union. Kenny MacAskill sees some advantages in a confederal solution, and federalism is a longstanding policy aim of the Liberal Democrats. These issues and more were discussed at this Constitution Unit seminar.
30 January 2017
An expert panel of lawyers discussed the reasoning behind the court's judgement, public and press reaction, and the constitutional implications of the Supreme Court's ruling.
8 December 2016
The Government published Grimstone's report on public appointments, proposing major changes to the way Ministerial appointments to public bodies are regulated. Sir David Normington reviewed the arguments for and against giving Ministers more control over public appointments.
28 November 2016
In 2015 the House of Commons approved an important set of procedural changes known as 'English Votes for English Laws'. This event marked the publication of a report by Michael Kenny and Daniel Gover about EVEL's first year in operation. The authors propose a number of changes to the current system and discussed their main recommendations.
15 September 2016
The EU referendum raised many questions about how referendums in the UK should best be conducted. This seminar explored these and other questions with four speakers who were uniquely well placed to provide a broad range of fresh insights
26 July 2016
This event celebrates the launch of Alan Renwick's new book, Faces on the Ballot: The Personalisation of Electoral Systems in Europe. Dr Renwick introduced the book, which he co-authored with Professor Jean-Benoit Pulet. He discussed the implications for current electoral reform debates in the UK, then three leading experts on electoral systems presented their responses to the book.
20 July 2016
The position of Lord Speaker is very different to that of Speaker of the House of Commons, and much less well understood. Baroness D'Souza reflected on her term of office in discussion with Meg Russell, outlining the Lord Speaker's role, the highs and lows, her achievements and hopes for the future. The discussion was informal and wide ranging, and was followed by audience questions.
16 June 2016
Following the murder of the MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, campaigning for the EU referendum was suspended on 16 June 2016. The planned UCL EU Referendum Debate was therefore changed into a Meet the Experts Q&A. A panel of academics with expertise in the politics and economics of the EU and processes around the referendum answered a wide range of audience questions.
2 June 2016
What are the likely effects of Brexit on politics within other member states? Would Brexit change remaining member states' relatinships with the EU? Would it affect decision-making within member states? This seminar explored how these issues might play out in a diverse range of member states.
25 May 2016
On 5 May votes went to the polls for the devolved assembly elections in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The next five years will be critical for devolution and the future of the Union, with devolution of significant tax powers to Scotland, future powers for Wales, and the promise of a fresh start in Northern Ireland. A penl of three experts will discuss the implications for the UK.
19 May 2016
What will happen if the UK votes to leave the EU, but a majority in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland vote to remain? Will such an outcome trigger a second Scottish referendum? Would Wales or Northern Ireland follow suit? What would the broader implications of Brexit be for devolved areas of the UK?
5 May 2016
How would Brussels manage the negotiation process, constitutionally and politically? What would be the short term institutional consequences of Brexit for the UK's MEPs, the 2017 UK Presidency, and voting rights in the Council of Ministers. In the long run, how would Brexit impact on the balance of power between member states in the EU's policy process?
21 April 2016
This seminar considered the implications for Whitehall and Westminster both of Brexit itself and of the process of negotiating Brexit. How would Whitehall manage the negotiating process and what would be the role of Westminster? How would the UK's new relationship with the EU be managed post-Brexit? Would Brexit require a re-configuration within Whitehall or Westminster?
15 March 2016
The Westminster parliament is classically presented as a weak institution with respect to the all-powerful UK executive - but is this really the case? A workstream at the Constitution Unit has focused on the policy impact of parliament. This seminar drew on extensive research by two of the leading experts on parliament. The event was organised in collaboration with the Hansard Society adn the Parliament and Constitution Centre.
7 March 2016
The UK government intends to replace the Human Rights Act with a new 'British Bill of Rights'. However, any change to existing human rights law promises to be a complex and difficult project. Reform of the HRA has the potential to impact upon devolution and the UK's relationship with its European partners. This seminar explored the state of play and considered the past, present, and future of the HRA.
10 February 2016
Two pilot citizens' asembles were held in Sheffield and Southampton in autumn 2015. Dr Alan Renwick from the Constitution Unit and Katie Ghose fro Electoral Reform Society were both members of the team that ran these assemblies. In this seminar they presented evidence on how well they functioned and discussed the degree to which they engaged citizens in policy-making.
25 January 2016
Individual electoral registration has been a huge project, running for several years, and requiring tight co-ordination between the Cabinet Office, Governent Digital Service, Electoral Commission, and individual Electoral Registration officers in local authorities. Representatives from all four bodies spoke at this seminar about challenges they faced, and how they project was brought to a successful conclusion.