GE2017: campaigning for a well-informed election

Parliament dissolves at one minute past midnight tonight.  Every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant. Members of Parliament revert to being ordinary citizens, losing the privileges associated with being an MP as they campaign for election against other candidates.

The House of Commons Library does not publish new research during dissolution, and as there are no MPs, we also stop answering MPs’ enquiries. We start again on Friday 9 June. While we are not subject to the Cabinet Office’s pre-election period guidance, we take the view that the best way of protecting our reputation for impartiality during the intensely contested campaign period is not to publish new work.

An evidence-based decision

But we continue to be driven by our House Service mission: “supporting a thriving Parliamentary democracy”. Our research and analysis continues to contribute to this, because our existing published works stays online. We encourage people to make the best possible use of it, because freely available, impartial and high quality information is more important to the debate than ever before.  You can use our research to check claims being made in manifestos, to find out more about the issues being debated and to get a better understanding of how Parliament works.  As well as reading the posts on this blog, you can find our detailed research briefings (together with Lords Library and Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology briefings), here.

Using our research carefully

Of course, all politicians use information to persuade voters of their arguments. Today I have written to the parties and MPs to encourage any use of Commons Library analysis, including any commissioned as part of our confidential enquiry service, to be appropriately transparent by including:

  • The data that supports any claims
  • Sources
  • An explanation of methodology
  • Any major caveats, and not to take the work out of context.

This allows everyone to scrutinise the claims being made by parties and candidates.

Preparing for the new Parliament

While we’re not publishing any new information, we’re not putting our feet up. Our expert staff are busy on our flagship publication: Key Issues 2017, our post-election look at the big issues the new Parliament will face.  (The 2015 publication is here). As well as articles on Brexit, trade deals, the NHS and education we’ll be writing about cybercrime, housing and more. Look out too for posts on this blog serialising the articles after the election.

We’re also planning to work with Full Fact, the independent and highly respected fact checking charity to support their ambitious plans to fact check the election, by offering our research staff placements to Full Fact.  The civil service has also offered its statisticians a similar opportunity.

Our Commons Library statisticians are working on their election gathering data project too – we will have the first, verified constituency-by-constituency record of how people voted. Election enthusiasts can see our comprehensive stats paper on general election results since 1918 in the meantime, which also looks at the composition of the new Parliament by gender, ethnicity and party.

Picture credit: Polling Station  by Simon ClaysonCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)