Professor Meg Russell
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 began at UCL as a Senior Research Fellow at the Constitution Unit in August 1998, and is now the Unit's Director. She leads its research work on parliament, and is particularly known for her work on the British House of Lords, bicameralism, and parliamentary policy influence. She has also written in the past on 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 2001-2003 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 and the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons (the "Wright Committee"). 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.
Meg is responsible for most of the Unit's research on parliament. She has a particular interest in the British parliament, and she is known as one of the primary academic experts on the House of Lords. But she has also researched the House of Commons, and Commons reform, as well as the devolved legislatures in the UK and other legislatures overseas. Her recent work has focused in particular on the extent to which the Westminster parliament influences government policy. In comparative politics terms she has a particularly strong interest in bicameralism (i.e. two chamber parliaments). 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:
- Options for an English Parliament
- The contemporary House of Lords: monitoring members' behaviour, the passage of legislation through the chamber, and prospects for reform. This followed a major ESRC-funded project on the impact of the 1999 reform.
- An Elaborate Rubber Stamp? The Impact of Parliament on Legislation
- Financial privilege
- Legislative Committees at Westminster: The Case for Reform
Meg has also pursued many previous projects during her years at the Unit. These include:
- 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 numerous Constitution Unit reports. Key examples include:
- Enough is Enough: Regulating Prime Ministerial Appointments to the Lords (with Tom Semlyen, Feb 2015)
- 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 teaches the following modules in the Department:
- British Government and Politics (Masters module)
- Parliaments, Political Parties and Policy Making (Masters module)
- British Parliamentary Studies (Undergraduate module)
She also supervises teaching on:
The latter three of these are all comparative politics modules.
She also supervises Masters dissertations and PhD projects in areas related to her research.
Meg is currently chair of the Exam Board for the Department's MSc programmes.
- Blog Posts
Legislation at Westminster launch seminar: senior parliamentary figures discuss the impact of parliament on government bills
Friday, 24 November 2017
Meg Russell and Daniel Gover’s new book Legislation at Westminster challenges received wisdom about the UK parliament’s influence on legislation. In contrast to common portrayals of Westminster as having only weak policy influence, Russell and Gover present evidence demonstrating strong influence, exercised in a variety of subtle ways. The findings were discussed at a seminar […]
Friday, 01 September 2017
Ongoing Constitution Unit research is exploring options for an English Parliament. One essential question for such a body is the choice of electoral system. In this post Jack Sheldon and Meg Russell focus on the possible implications of using FPTP as compared to using AMS or another proportional system. They conclude that the choice of […]
Wednesday, 23 August 2017
The Westminster parliament is famous throughout the world, but often presented as relatively non-influential when it comes to making the law. Meg Russell and Daniel Gover‘s new book Legislation at Westminster is the most detailed study of the British legislative process for over 40 years, and challenges these assumptions. Here the authors summarise their findings […]
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
The Constitution Unit has today launched an Independent Commission on Referendums, to review the role of referendums in UK democracy and consider how the rules and practice could be improved. The Commission’s members represent a range of political opinions, with expertise extending across all major UK referendums of recent years. Alan Renwick and Meg Russell […]
Friday, 16 June 2017
Just two days after the general election, Professor Meg Russell, Dr Jennifer Hudson and Dr Alan Renwick of the Constitution Unit spoke at UCL’s It’s All Academic festival about the constitutional and political fallout. Michela Palese summarises what they said. Theresa May called for a snap election on 18 April in order to increase the […]
Friday, 09 June 2017
The unexpected election result leaves the Conservatives seeking to establish a minority government, with support from the Democratic Unionist Party’s ten MPs. With fewer than half the seats in the House of Commons, and barely more than half when adding the DUP, Theresa May’s new government will face many additional challenges in parliament. Meg Russell […]