Dr Louise Thompson

Lecturer in British Politics

Qualifications: Ba (Hons) British Politics and Legislative Studies (Hull), MA Legislative Studies Online (Hull), PhD (Hull)

Email:
Phone: Work: 01483 68 6635
Room no: 17 AC 05

Office hours

  • Mondays 3.00-4.30
  • Tuesdays 12.30-2.00

Further information

Biography

I joined the Department of Politics in September 2013 after completing my PhD in the Centre for Legislative Studies at the University of Hull under an ESRC Scholarship. I have previously worked for a Member of Parliament, for the Smith Institute and for the Labour Party.  I am currently Managing Editor of the Political Studies Association’s blog.

Research Interests

My research focuses on the UK Parliament and I am particularly interested in parliamentary committees, the legislative process and public engagement with Parliament and the political process. My wider research interests are in legislative studies, British politics and constitutional reform. I have published widely on the impact of public bill committees on government legislation and continue to research in this area, focusing on the impact of coalition/majority governments on committee work and on the impact of the Scottish National Party on committee scrutiny.

In March 2015 I was awarded a small research grant from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust to carry out an evaluation of Public Reading Stage in the House of Commons. This was a process piloted by Parliament which enabled members of the public to comment directly on a piece of legislation. This project is funded through a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust grant and will run until 2016.

I am also interested in pedagogical research and I have published work on the use of parliamentary sources in teaching. I am co-author of a series of guides for lecturers and students published by the Higher Education Academy, including a guide to referencing parliamentary material and a portfolio of teaching case studies.

I am the Co-Convenor of the PSA’s Parliaments and Legislatures Specialist Group, a member of the Study of Parliament Group and a research associate at the Centre for Legislative Studies (University of Hull).

Publications

Journal articles

  • Thompson L. (2015) 'Debunking the Myths of Bill Committees in the British House of Commons'. Politics,
    [ Status: Accepted ]

    Abstract

    © 2015 Political Studies Association.Bill committees play a crucial role in the scrutiny of government legislation, yet they have traditionally been overlooked by academics and journalists in favour of the more newsworthy aspects of parliamentary scrutiny on the floor of the House of Commons chamber or by investigative select committees. This lack of interest has perpetuated a series of myths about bill committee work. This article discusses the common depictions of bill committees before demonstrating why these are incorrect. It argues that these incorrect assumptions can damage our perception of the policy influencing power of Parliament and that bill committees deserve a kinder billing in the literature.

  • Thompson L. (2014) 'Evidence taking under the microscope: How has oral evidence affected the scrutiny of legislation in House of Commons committees?'. BRITISH POLITICS, 9 (4), pp. 385-400.
  • Thompson L, Leston-Bandeira CC. (2013) 'Mind the Gap: Using UK Parliamentary Sources to Enhance Teaching'. The Journal of Legislative Studies, 19 (3), pp. 410-421.

    Abstract

    Online primary parliamentary sources can be of great value in teaching Parliamentrelated courses and a valuable means of promoting the development of students’ research and analytical skills; particularly taking into account the research habits of the modern student population. Through a series of focus groups with politics students and a national survey of politics lecturers, the perceptions and current use of the UK Parliament website in teaching are analysed. It was found that a considerable number of lecturers are making use of the website for teaching purposes, though this is usually at a very basic and often superficial level. Barriers to the use of parliamentary resources include a lack of awareness of the types and variety of parliamentary material, difficulties in finding appropriate material on the Parliament website and a lack of understanding on the part of lecturers as to how to use this material effectively in lectures and seminars

  • Thompson L. (2013) 'More of the same or a period of change? The impact of bill committees in the twenty-first century House of Commons'. Parliamentary Affairs: devoted to all aspects of parliamentary democracy, 66 (3), pp. 459-479.

    Abstract

    Bill committees have long been a fundamental feature of legislative scrutiny in the British House of Commons. The recent introduction of oral evidence sessions as a standard bill committee procedure has further underlined their importance.1 Yet despite their prominence in parliamentary life, bill committees have been somewhat under-studied. A comparison of bill committee activity in the first decade of the twenty-first century with the last comprehensive examination undertaken in 1974 shows that significant changes have taken place; bill committees appear to be working harder than ever before but this is not reflected in terms of the relative impact they are making on government legislation.

  • Thompson L. (2009) 'Adding Value to an Arena Legislature: A Preliminary Examination of Topical Debates in the British House of Commons'. The Journal of Legislative Studies, 15 (4), pp. 535-546.

    Abstract

    The introduction of the topical debate mechanism in the autumn of 2007 sought to enhance the contemporary nature of debate in the British House of Commons and to increase opportunities for the participation of backbench MPs. Though experimental in the first instance, these debates have since become an entrenched feature of parliamentary life. This note seeks to assess the impact of topical debates on a legislature which has long been characterised by the strength of its plenary sessions. Analysis of the topical debates held during the 2007–08 parliamentary session demonstrates that topic selection has indeed been broad, examining issues of both national and constituency concerns. Whilst there has been no extraordinary change in the House, the use of topical debates by backbench opposition MPs in particular is significant and has the potential to add considerable value to the House of Commons as an arena legislature.

Books

  • Thompson L. (2015) Making British Law Committees in Action. Palgrave Macmillan

    Abstract

    This book sheds light on the hidden world of House of Commons bill committees as they scrutinise legislation.

Book chapters

  • Thompson L, Norton P. (2015) 'Parliament and the Constitution: The Coalition in Conflict'. in Beech M, Lee S (eds.) The Conservative-Liberal Coalition Examining the Cameron-Clegg Government Palgrave Macmillan Article number 9 , pp. 129-144.

    Abstract

    The provisions of the Coalition agreement covering constitutional issues were embodied in section 24 entitled ‘Political Reform’ (HM Government 2010, pp. 26-7). The 27 bullet points included fixed-term five-year Parliaments, a referendum on the introduction of the Alternative Vote (AV), reform of the House of Lords, legislation to provide for recall of MPs, and implementation of the Wright Committee recommendations for reform of the House of Commons. The section created inherent problems when it came to implementation. In part, these were practical. However, the most substantial problem derived from competing ideologies. There were also problems in carrying out changes not envisaged in the agreement. Governments have mandates that are permissive and not just prescriptive. The Coalition had to deal with the unplanned. Among the changes not included in the agreement was press regulation and strengthening Parliament in waging war. There were also two issues that were essentially designed to be sidelined through the use of commissions – one on English votes for English laws and the other on a British Bill of Rights. However, the referendum in Scotland in 2014 gave fresh impetus to the former and pressure from Conservative MPs, responding to some judgments from the European Court of Human Rights, reawakened demands for the latter.

Teaching

In 2015-16 I will be teaching the following modules:

  • Debates in British Politics (Level 4)
  • Social and Political Thinkers from Machiavelli to Keynes (Level 4)
  • Public Policy Analysis (Level 5)
  • British Politics: Prime Ministers, Parties and Parliament (Level 6)

I have previously taught modules in British Government, Electoral and Voting Systems, European Politics and Social Policy.

Other Published Work

  • Parliament as a Teaching Resource:  A Guide for Lecturers and Teaching Staff, June 2013 (with Dr Cristina Leston-Bandeira),  Higher Education Academy/UK Parliament
  • Using Parliamentary Resources in Teaching: A Case Study Portfolio, June 2013 (with Dr Cristina Leston-Bandeira,  Higher Education Academy/UK Parliament
  • Referencing Parliamentary Material: A Guide for Lecturers and Students, June 2013
  • Using Parliamentary Websites as an Engagement Tool , May 2013 (with Dr Cristina Leston-Bandeira).
  • Organising and Managing Parliamentary Websites: A Guide for Parliaments, May 2013, (with Dr Cristina Leston-Bandeira)

Blogs

I regularly write short blogs for The Conversation, Democratic Audit, the LSE British Politics & Policy and the Political Studies Association Blog. Selected blogs are listed below.

  • ‘Committee stages and constitutional reform in the new Parliament’, UKCLA Blog, 8 July 2015.
  • ‘The New Opposition: How will SNP MPs influence Westminster Politics’, The Constitution Unit, 1 June 2015.
  • ‘EVEL, Brexit and the SNP: What does the 2015 election mean for the House of Commons?’, Democratic Audit, 27 May 2015.
  • ‘Everything you wanted to know about the British election, but were afraid to ask’, The Conversation, 6 May 2015.
  • ‘The electoral arithmetic keeping Britain’s political strategists awake at night’, The Conversation, 27 April 2015.
  • ‘Challenger debate shows Cameron should be afraid – but not as afraid as Nick Clegg’, The Conversation, 16 April 2015.
  • ‘While far from perfect, the work of bill committees shouldn’t be underestimated’, Democratic Audit, 3 April 2015.
  • ‘Election Debate: Cameron coasts, Farage falls flat and Sturgeon steals the show’, The Conversation, 2 April 2015.
  • ‘We shouldn’t focus solely on the Syria vote when assessing Parliament’s power over military deployments’, Democratic Audit, 30 March 2015.
  • ‘Simpler Language in Parliament Must Go Hand in Hand with Simpler Processes’, PSA Parliaments and Legislatures Specialist Group Blog, 12 February 2015.
  • ‘Democracy the Loser when Parliament descends into Farce’, The Conversation, 11 November 2014.
  • ‘House of Commons clerk spat is more important than you think’, The Conversation, 21 August 2014.
  • ‘One Small Step for Technology: One Giant Leap for the Commons’, Political Studies Association Blog, 14 June 2014.
  • ‘Selecting Committee Witnesses: Experts Back the Call for a More Even Gender Balance’, Democratic Audit, 29 January 2014
  • ‘Parliament still has a long way to go if it is to be considered ‘family friendly’, Democratic Audit, 17 December 2013.
  • ‘The House of Commons is not as ineffective as we think when it comes to amending legislation’, Ballots & Bullets, 23 May 2013.

Written Evidence

House of Commons Procedure Committee Inquiry into Committee of Selection and Membership of General Committees, P 19, July 2013.

Invited Lectures/Seminars

The Scrutiny of Government Bills, Seminar for the Study of Parliament Group, House of Commons, 23 July 2013.

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