Small Party MP Appearances and Contributions Pre and Post-Coronavirus Pandemic, 2019 - 2021


This dataset maps the parliamentary activity of House of Commons MPs from x small parties during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic (March 2020 - March 2021). To enable comparisons it also includes the year prior to the pandemic (March 2019 - March 2020). The parties included here are: Alliance, DUP, Green, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, SNP. It firstly includes a mapping document showing which contributions were made virtually and which were made in person on the floor of the House of Commons. Similar information is shown here also for Scottish Labour and Conservative Party MPs. Secondly, it includes all contributions made by these small party MPs across the March 2019 - March 2021 period. This includes: party, name of MP, date of contribution, contribution period (relating to different rules for parliamentary business during the pandemic), type of contribution (virtual/physical) and venue (Commons chamber, Westminster Hall).We tend to think of British Politics as being dominated by two political parties (the Labour Party and the Conservative Party). This is reflected in the style of parliamentary politics at Westminster, in which an elected government is opposed by the 'Official Opposition'. Debate tends to move between the two. Observers of the weekly Prime Minister's Question Time will see a prime demonstration of this, when the leader of the Official Opposition is granted the privilege of speaking from the dispatch box (something which is denied to the leaders of all other parties), and has the opportunity to ask up to six questions to the Prime Minister. The leader of the second opposition party receives two questions. Smaller opposition parties receive no such guarantee of a question. This two party dominance is therefore reinforced by parliamentary procedures, which grant greater speaking time as well as committee memberships to the largest opposition party. But small parties have played pivotal roles throughout nineteenth and twentieth century UK politics. They have become even more popular in the twenty first century as the appeal of the large parties has waned amidst a somewhat disillusioned electorate. The Labour Party and the Conservative party were regularly polling over 90% of the vote in the mid twentieth century, but managed only 67% in 2015.This gap is being filled by smaller parties, of which over 300 are currently registered with the UK Electoral Commission. These parties are contesting more seats than ever before in local elections and, crucially, they are winning a significant number of seats in national elections, to the UK Parliament and the devolve assemblies of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Ten political parties were represented in the House of Commons after the 2015 General Election, with a total of 85 MPs between them (accounting for 13% of the chamber). In fact, 2015 saw the best General Election performance ever for UKIP, the SNP and the Green Party. This fell to only 6 parties in the 2017 general election, but the unexpected hung parliament has seen one small party (the DUP) and has potentially empowered all other small parties in the chamber. In addition to this presence at Westminster, 19 parties have representation in the UK's sub national parliaments. Although the sub-national parliaments of the UK have more consensual practices, existing research still proceeds as though the 'opposition' is one parliamentary grouping. As such we still know little about the role of individual parties in these parliaments. But there has been an almost complete neglect of the role of individual small parties within these parliaments. This three year project aims to better understand the work of small political parties in the British House of Commons, the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. It uses large scale interviews with MPs and assembly members and analysis of contributions to parliamentary debates during the coronavirus pandemic to investigate the role which small parties play in our political system. In doing so, in considers the challenges they face in parliamentary institutions and the impact they are able to make on scrutiny of government and of legislation. In doing so, it will highlight an area of parliamentary life which is usually hidden, uncovering best practice which will be shared with parliamentary officials, MPs and staff.

We used a content analysis of contributions to House of Commons debates between 18 March 2019 and 17 March 2021. This two-year time frame enables us to compare contributions made by small parties during the pandemic with a conventional parliamentary year. Parliament’s online records of individual MP contributions were used to gather all speeches, interventions and oral questions by each small party MP across this two year period. We coded the type of contribution made (speech, intervention, question) and whether the MP was participating from the chamber or virtually. From April 2020, Hansard highlighted virtual contributions by MPs with a [V] following their name. This was sometimes inaccurate and so a random sample of contributions were further checked against the Parliament TV database , as well as any occasion in which an MP deviated from their typical parliamentary behaviour. This enabled us to correct some unintentional errors in the Official Report.

Metadata Access
Creator Thompson, L, University of Manchester; Meakin, A, University of Leeds
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2023
Funding Reference ESRC
Rights Louise Thompson, University of Manchester. Meakin Alexandra, University of Leeds; The Data Collection is available to any user without the requirement for registration for download/access.
OpenAccess true
Language English
Resource Type Numeric; Text
Discipline Social Sciences
Spatial Coverage UK House of Commons; United Kingdom