Saturday, 3 October 2015

Research What MPs Do

Backbencher Kris Hopkins MP campaigning/conducting PR
We all have a rough idea of what MPs are and what they do ... but what exactly does their job involve, and how do you become an MP?!

You will find below a simple explanation of what an MP is from the Wiki, plus further sample resources to help you investigate the role of MPs.

Your task today is to:
  1. in small groups answer one or more of the following question
  2. Your answer must be clear and in your own words, not just copy/pasted.
  3. Start your answer by copy/pasting in the question!
  4. Where you have used any direct quotes from a website use "", and put the URL (www...) in brackets like this (SOURCE:
  5. Highlight any terminology you've come across in a list at the bottom of your answer
  6. There is likely to be overlap between some answers!
  7. share your answers electronically with 1 or more groups, and electronically share any answers they have
  8. ...until you've got answers to all the questions! 

Here are your questions, or mini-research tasks:
  1. How do you become an MP? What's the difference between constituency selection and parliamentary election? What is a PPC?! How powerful are constituency offices?
  2. Can you be sacked as an MP, or forced to resign? What is 'deselection'? Newspapers, pressure groups and some MPs have suggested giving each constituency the 'power of recall' - what is that? Have any MPs been forced to quit ('stand down') in recent times?
  3. What sort of work do MPs do for their constituency (the area they represent)? What is an MP's 'surgery'? How are Commons Questions used by many MPs for this?
  4. What sort of work do MPs do in the House of Commons? Do MPs have a second home in London? Do they spend much time in London? How often do they vote, and can they do this from a computer? Do they take part in debates?
  5. If an MP is also a minister, what sort of duties do they carry out? Do they present new bills, take part in debates, answer questions, appear before Select Committees?
  6. If an MP is also a member of a Standing Committee or Select Committee, and most backbenchers are members of at least one, what sort of work does this involve? Do they present new bills, take part in debates, answer questions, appear before Select Committees? Do they get involved in writing Reports that make suggestions for changes in law?

Once you've done all this, each group pick out one local MP to investigate, and look for quotes, news stories, evidence of how they communicate through their website, any information on their diary (when/how often they hold 'surgeries' for example), media appearances etc to add a case study to the general information you've already found. You'll find this post helpful for finding local MPs:

You can find general guides; videos from/about specific MPs, and a range of videos in particular on Keighley MP Kris Hopkins and the youngest MP for 350 years Mhairi Black.

MPs are defined either as backbenchers or ministers/Secretary of State (Opposition MPs can also be referred to as 'shadow' ministers if their party is in opposition/not currently in government). Here's how the relevant Wiki puts it:
In Westminster parliamentary systems, a backbencher is a Member of Parliament (MP) or a legislator who does not hold governmental office and is not a Front Bench spokesperson in the Opposition. A backbencher may be a new parliamentary member yet to receive high office, a senior figure dropped from government, or someon
e who for whatever reason is not chosen to sit either in the ministry or the opposition Shadow Ministry.
In most parliamentary systems, backbenchers individually do not have much power to influence government policy. However, they are important in providing services to their constituents and in relaying the opinions of their constituents. Some backbenchers also sit on parliamentary committees, where legislation is considered in more detail than is permitted on the floor of the House, and thereby provide valuable input into the legislative process. In addition, since backbenchers generally form the vast majority of the number of MPs, collectively they can sometimes exercise considerable power especially in cases where the policies of the government are unpopular or when a governing party is internally split.

USEFUL RESOURCES: Use the links below to further investigate what it is that MPs actually do. If you hold in the Ctrl button when clicking you can open these links in a new tab or window [on iPads hold your finger on the link, and you get an option to 'Open in a new tab'], and avoid having to keep clicking back.
Find at least one point from each of the links below, noting at least 5 things in total that MPs do.
Alan Meale MP: most MPs now have a website (running this is one way of keeping in touch with, and informing, their constituents), this is just one example is a huge resource with all sorts of useful information, including on the job of MPs is an even bigger bigger which aims to deliver information and services on behalf of the government; they have a great summary of what MPs do!
A job description for wannabe MPs!
Ilkley Gazette articles featuring Kris Hopkins MP (Keighley).
BBC on Parliament (scroll to bottom for specific info on MPs role)

If you are finished this before others, you could compare the use of online media by two local MPs, Kris Hopkins and George Galloway.

You could also try the video on what MPs do, which raises useful questions such as:
What do they vote on? - What two jobs do they have? - How do they vote?

NEXT - TASK THREE: Work in groups of 2 or 3 to note 10 points about Parliament works

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