The Constitution Unit


Professor Meg Russell wins PSA Communicator of the Year award

31 March 2021

Unit Director awarded the PSA Communicator of the Year prize for providing accessible and informative political commentary.

Meg Russell, Director of The Constitution Unit

The UK's constitutional arrangements came under considerable strain in 2020 due to the combination of a newly elected government, the pandemic and Brexit negotiations, resulting in much uncertainty and need for high-quality political analysis.

The substantial contribution of Unit Director Professor Meg Russell FBA to such analysis has now been recognised by the Political Studies Association through awarding of the prestigious Political Communicator of the Year prize. An elected British Academy Fellow, Professor Russell leads the Unit’s work on parliament, and is a Senior Fellow with the ESRC-funded UK in a Changing Europe programme in which she leads a project on ‘Brexit, Parliament and the Constitution’. Meg is also co-investigator of the recently launched ESRC-funded project, ‘Democracy in the UK after Brexit’.

The PSA announcement describes Meg's "powerful and insightful voice upholding the proper role of parliamentary scrutiny and deliberation as an essential part of a well-functioning political process".  The PSA also regonises her "leadership of the outstanding team at the UCL Constitution Unit, and the numerous contributions that this team has made... to advance public understanding." The Political Communicator award has a history in the Unit, with its founder, Professor Robert Hazell, winning the award in 2009. 

Meg Russell said, on receiving the prize:

"I'm absolutely delighted to receive this recognition from the PSA for political communications. I and other members of the Constitution Unit have long worked hard to inform real-world political debates, drawing on evidence from high-quality research – and the numerous emerging constitutional and political controversies of recent years have certainly kept us busy! In a post-Brexit environment it’s particularly important for the UK to reflect carefully on how best to maintain and strengthen its democracy. We will seek to continue contributing constructively to those reflections, through research, events, publications of various kinds, and direct engagement with policymakers and the media."

Some of Meg Russell’s notable recent political communications include:

  • a discussion on the state of democracy in the UK as part of the 'Democracy in the UK After Brexit' project in the most recent episode of the ‘UCL Uncovering Politics’ podcast.
  • speaking at a jointly-organised Constitution Unit and UK in a Changing Europe webinar on Boris Johnson’s relationship with parliament, with her contribution later appearing on the Unit blog;
  • a report co-authored with Dr Daniel Gover on why the House of Commons should govern its own time which was mentioned by Valerie Vaz MP in parliamentary debate, commented upon by Karen Bradley MP in a Conservative Home article, and discussed by Meg in an edition of the Never Mind the Barcharts podcast;
  • speaking at a webinar organised by the Mile End Institute on House of Lords Reform;
  • Unit blogpost with Lisa James highlighting government's sidelining of parliament during the pandemic which was quoted in major news outlets such as the Guardian and Telegraph, and in a House of Commons emergency debate;
  • heading a joint letter to The Times (£) expressing concerns that the Leader of the House of Commons' ending of hybrid arrangements breached fundamental democratic principles, more fully expanded on the Unit's blog;
  • expert evidence to the Constitution Committee in the House of Lords and Procedure Committee in the House of Commons on the constitutional and procedural implications of COVID-19;
  • quotation in the Financial Times and the New York Times of Meg's Unit blogpost outlining the problems caused by a bloated House of Lords following the Prime Minister's appointment of 36 new peerages in July 2020;
  • Unit blogpost, written jointly with Hansard Society Director Ruth Fox, on the challenges and trade-offs parliament might face while transitioning to ‘virtual’ working during the COVID-19 pandemic which was quoted in major outlets such as the Mirror, and also appeared on Conservative Home;
  • quotation in an article by Wired about the possibility of parliament being shut down at the early stages of the pandemic;
  • an edited report on Brexit and Parliament, jointly with the UK in a Changing Europe;
  • an article for the Conversation in the run up to the Labour Party’s leadership contest on the role of members in party leadership elections;
  • a discussion of what was to be expected of the then newly-elected Conservative-majority government in terms of Brexit on an episode of the UK in a Changing Europe’s Brexit Breakdown podcast.

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