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
Thursday, 09 August 2018
Two years on from the Brexit vote, the benefits of a second referendum are being hotly debated. In this post, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell identify seven questions that should be considered before parliament decides whether a second Brexit referendum will take place. Last week a Sky poll suggested that 50% of the public would favour a […]
The failed Senate reform in Italy: international lessons on why bicameral reforms so often (but not quite always) fail
Friday, 20 July 2018
On 11 and 12 June 2018 the Constitution Unit co-hosted two workshops with Rome LUISS university, the first being on ‘The challenges of reforming upper houses in the UK and Italy’. This post is the first in a series summarising the speakers’ contributions. Here the Unit’s Meg Russell reflects broadly on the international challenges of bicameral […]
Friday, 25 May 2018
One part of the government’s flagship Brexit legislation is now nearing its parliamentary endpoint after the EU (Withdrawal) Bill completed its report stage in the House of Lords in early May. The UK parliament’s second chamber inflicted 14 government defeats on the bill, which sets out arrangements to facilitate Brexit. It will soon return to the House of Commons […]
Revisiting Tony King’s analysis of executive-legislative relations shows just how much parliament has changed
Tuesday, 20 March 2018
The inaugural issue of Legislative Studies Quarterly contained one of Tony King’s most insightful pieces on parliament and politicians. It is still regularly cited, and has influenced the analysis of a generation of parliamentary scholars. In this blog post, Meg Russell and Philip Cowley analyse the extent to which King’s conclusions hold true in a parliament that looks significantly different to its 1976 […]
Friday, 09 March 2018
Constitution Unit researchers have been working on a detailed project on Options for an English Parliament, whose final report has just been published. In this post, report authors Meg Russell and Jack Sheldon reflect on the key design questions associated with the two main models for an English Parliament, and how proposals for such a […]
Wednesday, 21 February 2018
A Constitution Unit project has been examining options for an English Parliament. One factor that must be taken into account is implications for the UK’s central political institutions. Focusing on the separately elected model for an English Parliament, in this post Jack Sheldon and Meg Russell suggest that there would inevitably be substantial implications. Both […]