Professor Meg Russell
Position: Professor of British and Comparative Politics and Director of the Constitution Unit
Building: 29-30 Tavistock Square
Telephone: 0207 679 4998
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:
- 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 three books:
- 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 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
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
Changes to the way the Labour leader is elected were an essential factor in Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. Meg Russell explains how the switch to a ‘one member one vote’ system was a fundamental change for the party – and for British politics – with last summer’s events raising profound questions about party democracy. This text is […]
Friday, 18 December 2015
Lord Strathclyde’s report into the House of Lords and secondary legislation, commissioned following the row over tax credits, was published yesterday. Meg Russell discusses his proposals and argues that they may present an opportunity for a deal to be struck between the Lords and government – restraint in the use of Lords’ powers in return for […]
Sunday, 13 December 2015
The House of Lords amended the government’s European Union Referendum Bill in order to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the referendum. Last week the Commons overturned the Lords amendments claiming ‘financial privilege’. Ahead of fresh votes in the Lords on the topic, Meg Russell and Daniel Gover explain this much misunderstood term. Hot […]
Thursday, 26 November 2015
The UK parliament continues to be dismissed as powerless in many academic and popular accounts. Drawing on a large body of quantitative and qualitative research conducted over more than 15 years, a recent article by Meg Russell and Philip Cowley argued that the Westminster parliament is in fact an institution with significant policy influence. Meg […]
Thursday, 29 October 2015
In the aftermath of Monday’s Lords defeats on tax credit cuts there has been much talk of a ‘constitutional crisis’. In this post Meg Russell argues that whilst Monday’s vote was certainly unusual, the most significant change is the wider political context: that it is a Conservative government on the receiving end of repeated defeats in the Lords. Much like […]
Thursday, 22 October 2015
The power of the House of Lords over ‘delegated legislation’, and financial matters, has become a hot topic due to threats to defeat the government’s planned cuts to tax credits. There have been claims and counterclaims about the conventions governing these matters, and also some fairly wild claims about how the government might retaliate if […]