The Constitution Unit

10 Episodes

By: The Constitution Unit

The Constitution Unit conducts timely, rigorous, independent research into constitutional change and the reform of political institutions. Our research has significant real-world impact, informing policy-makers engaged in such changes - both in the United Kingdom and around the world. On this channel, you will find the audio recordings of the Constitution Unit's past events.

Should military action require parliamentary approval?
Last Thursday at 4:33 PM

The UK’s recent air strikes on the Houthis in Yemen have renewed discussion about parliament’s role in approving military action. The government is not constitutionally required to consult parliament on military deployments, and can choose whether and when to seek MPs’ approval. So what is parliament’s current role? Should this be changed, as some opposition parties have suggested? If so, what are some of the possibilities and challenges?

In this webinar, an expert panel discuss parliament’s current role, and whether reform is desirable or feasible.


David Lidington – Chair of the Royal...

Do protests affect what politicians say?

Protest is a fundamental part of democracy. From thousands attending pro-Palestine marches in London, to farmers driving their tractors into Paris, Berlin, and Cardiff, to Just Stop Oil spraying UCL’s famous portico orange – protests are rarely out of the spotlight.

But what do protests actually achieve? Do they affect political debate and policy outcomes?

A new study sheds light on that, focusing on the impact of climate protests here in the UK on what MPs talk about – both in parliament itself and online.

One of the co-authors of that article is Tom Flemin...

UK Governance Project: proposals for reform

On 1 February a cross-party expert commission, the UK Governance Project, chaired by former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve, published its report. It makes various proposals for improving governance standards in the UK, aimed at restoring high standards of integrity in public office, enhancing the role of parliament, improving working between ministers and the civil service, and protecting democracy. What are the commission’s proposals? How could they be implemented? Could they improve how the UK is governed?

This webinar will discuss the commission’s report with its chair, Dominic Grieve, and Helen MacNamara, another member of the comm...

The Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales: UK-Wide Implications

The Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales launched its final report in January 2024. Its recommendations – which  assessed options for ‘entrenched devolution’, full federalism, and Welsh independence – have implications for the whole UK. How would such arrangements be viewed outside Wales? How would they function in practice? Would they affect constitutional debates in Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland?

This webinar discusses these UK-wide implications with an expert panel including the Commission’s Co-chair, Professor Laura McAllister.


Laura McAllister - Professor of Public Policy at Cardiff University's Wales Governance Centre and co-chair of the Independ...

How Parliaments Question Prime Ministers

How parliaments hold ministers (particularly prime ministers) to account is a fundamental part of parliamentary democracy. And one of those mechanisms of accountability involves asking questions. 

We take a good hard look at how – and how effectively – parliaments question prime ministers.

We are joined by Dr Ruxandra Serban, Associate Lecturer in Democratic and Authoritarian Politics here in the UCL Department of Political Science. Her research focuses directly on parliamentary questioning processes.

The Future of Power-Sharing in Northern Ireland

Peace in Northern Ireland is widely recognised as one of the leading achievements of politics in recent decades.  The Good Friday, or Belfast Agreement, reached in 1998 by the British and Irish governments and most of the main Northern Ireland political parties brought an end to thirty years of violent conflict in which over three and a half thousand people were killed.

It did so in part by establishing a system of power-sharing government.  A new Northern Ireland Assembly would be elected by proportional representation, so no one group could dominate. Within the new Northern Ireland Executive, representatives of...

The Future of Democracy in the UK: Public Attitudes and Policy Options

Over the past two years, a Constitution Unit team has been examining public attitudes to democracy in the UK. The project’s final report draws together the findings – from two large-scale surveys and a citizens’ assembly – and reflects on implications for policy-makers. It examines what kind of democracy people in the UK want and consider what changes in policy or behaviour may be needed in response.

Marking the report’s launch, this seminar gathered several leading figures from Westminster, together with an expert on public attitudes and members of the project team, to explore the findings and identify p...

Mark D’Arcy - Reflections on over 20 years of reporting on parliament

Mark D’Arcy recently retired after spending 21 years covering events at Westminster for the BBC. During that time he built up an unparalleled knowledge of the institution, its procedures and dynamics, with insider access to innumerable key players and a ringside seat at important political moments large and small. This conversation discussed his key reflections on parliament and parliamentary journalism, and how they have changed in the last two decades.


Mark D'arcy in conversation with Professor Meg Russell

Useful links

You can see the next Constitution Unit event here: https://ww...

Ian Dunt’s How Westminster Works … and Why It Doesn’t

The recent book by journalist and author Ian Dunt provides a detailed and critical account of many aspects of the UK’s political system, including political parties and elections, parliament and the legislative process, the work of ministers and civil servants in Whitehall, and the role of the media. The book analyses various perceived problems, and proposes a range of possible solutions. In this seminar Ian presents some of his key arguments, and responds to comments and questions from a panel of experts and the online audience.


Ian Dunt, journalist and authorDr Ruth Fox, Director of t...

Conference 2023: Panel 4 Elections and Electoral Reform

Adopting a more proportional electoral system is opposed by the Conservative Party, and by the Labour leader, but attracts growing support elsewhere. Would such reform be desirable or practical, and what might be its consequences? What might politicians wish to consider regarding other aspects of our elections, such as the minimum voting age, voter ID rules, or the reform proposals of the Law Commissions? How might any such changes be delivered?


Cat Smith MP – Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood and former shadow minister for the Cabinet Office

Lord (Robert) Hayward – Conservative peer...