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The University of Southampton
Public Policy|Southampton

Public Perceptions of the Hybrid Parliament


In response to the coronavirus pandemic Parliaments across the globe were forced to adapt their procedures and, like many workplaces, they turned to technology. The UK House of Commons put into place a ‘Hybrid Parliament’ where MPs were allowed to virtually participate as well as attend in person. This project builds directly on my commissioned Report for the civil society organisation the Centenary Action Group. ‘The Remotely Representative House’ (RRH) made the case for continuing virtual participation post-pandemic to increase the diversity of who sits in, and the effectiveness of, the UK’s legislative body. RRH focused on the elite perceptions of these reforms whereas this proposed original research will examine public perceptions MPs’ hybrid working, asking how seeing MPs working remotely influences citizens’ views of Parliament.

Globally, campaign groups, parliamentarians and academics are asking what lessons may be learnt from the pandemic ways of working in workplaces, including legislatures. The UK was quick to end its new working practices and return to a fully physical House as a narrative of the ‘good parliamentarian’ as the physically present one was championed by the Government (Challender and Deane 2021). Yet, the successful hybrid proceedings demonstrated that it is possible to accommodate MPs’ need – and at times preference - for more modern ways of working. Post-pandemic the readoption of hybridity has the potential to open up the Commons to a more diverse slate of candidates, and to see the retention amongst this group of MPs into the future.

Through a survey experiment this project will test how information about MPs working remotely versus being physically present alters perceptions of the Parliament, focusing on citizen’s trust in the institution, the relatability of MPs, as well as citizens personal political ambition. During the hybrid proceedings images of a male MP holding his new-born baby whilst participating remotely in a Select Committee session and of a variety of MPs sitting at their kitchen tables in front of their microwaves gained extensive media coverage. Such images may work to demystify and normalize the job of an MP. Together with the knowledge that, if needed, one would be able to participate remotely, these reforms could transform who considers themselves able to fulfil the job of an MP. The supply pool for Westminster might benefit from those with caring responsibilities, who live far from Westminster and/or who have long-term or fluctuating health conditions.


I aim to understand how introducing modern working practices in Parliament may impact public perceptions of the institution.

The project is timely, given that Covid-19 continues to change established ways of working and debates are being had in British politics – and in other places too - about whether Westminster should return to some form of virtual working given the Omicrom variant and large number of MPs (and staff) testing positive.

Impact and Dissemination

Building on a previous impactful Report, this project has a clear potential for greater impact as it addresses, through a UK Case, the international diversity sensitive parliamentary (DSP) reform agenda. It will provide original experimental evidence to more qualitative work being undertaken by both practitioners and academics on the impact of hybrid working for democratic institutions. Its findings will inform public, parliamentary, and international organizations, not least in respect of what lessons may be learnt from the pandemic for parliamentary reform.

I have ongoing relationships with politicians, campaigners and academics in the DSP network who are actively involved in parliamentary reform efforts. The results of this project will be disseminated within this network via a short report published with Public Policy Southampton. I will also present the findings to the monthly meeting of the Centenary Action Group which is an umbrella organisation for many charities and civil society groups who campaign on women’s equality and political representation.

The key outcomes will be:

(1) A policy brief of the findings published with Public Policy Southampton (March 2022)
(2) A presentation of findings to policy campaigners (April 2022)
(3) An academic journal publication (Submission in July 2022)

The work will also offer initial findings and design for a larger comparative piece of work. Collaborating with Professor Sarah Childs (joining University of Edinburgh in 2022), this will explore the ways in which the UK devolved parliaments as well as other Westminster systems, notably Canada, Australia and New Zealand responded to the challenges of running pandemic parliaments and the lessons learnt.

Project Lead

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