Communicating research ideas


I was delighted last week to be filmed by Sam Mohammed in my garden shed. Researchers want to communicate their ideas beyond universities and yet many people don’t have time to read books or long scholarly articles. So I jumped at the chance to explain my research project to a movie camera. It was edited into a 4 minute video and uploaded onto an intriguing new site ( which has physicists talking about string theory, an artist explaining the metaphorical potential of image and a report on different outcomes resulting single-sex and co-educational schools, to mention just a few.


I touched on some of my main conclusions:


1.     MPs have multiple and interconnected roles pulling them in different and sometimes irreconcilable directions. The differences between them arise from their identity (gender, class, and age, as examples); their professional background; and their party and constituency. The work in constituencies and select committees is on the increase. The Wright reforms of 2010 created new opportunities for backbenchers to investigate the inevitable mistakes of government and flex their muscles in cross-party debates. The result for MPs is a life split between two homes, impossible choices, and an average 70-hour week.


2.     Politics in our adversarial system requires MPs on opposing sides to contrive verbal battle so that voters are presented with clearly distinct choices. But political parties are in decline, internal disagreements are more public and MPs rebel against the whip more than ever. In the face of this fragmentation, parties cling to the few weapons they have left to galvanise support from their members: idealistic visions for the future, gladiatorial battles at PMQs, the showpiece party conferences, and collective campaigning at elections.


3.     Relationships are central to the work of politicians, whether in parliament or in their surgeries with constituents, knocking on doors to win elections, or consulting with those affected by legislation. Their privacy is shrinking, especially if they are women, with their private lives and conflicting statements endlessly exposed. But most MPs are genuine in their performances; they are contradictory because that is the nature of democratic politics.


But these conclusions are difficult to summarise; the whole point is that the study is in-depth. And actually I am still working them out. So I had better get on with finishing the book in the hope that people will read it for the longer version.