I spent the weekend at Wroxton College – pictured right – in Oxfordshire, for the Eleventh Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians. I organised it under the auspices of the Centre for Legislative Studies, as I have done for the previous ten Workshops. The first – in 1994 – was held in Berlin, but the rest have been held in the ideal setting of Wroxton College, housed as it is in a Jacobean mansion – ancestral home of Lord North, Prime Minister under George III – in over fifty acres of wooded grounds. Held on a biennial basis, it provides an opportunity for scholars to present findings likely to be of interest to parliamentarians. It is co-sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), who inform their member branches of the event and hence facilitate the attendance of parliamentarians.
Each Workshop has been successful, but this was probably the most successful. It attracted a record number of papers – you can see the list here - and the quantity was matched by quality. Panels covered such topics as legislatures in developing nations, specific legislatures such as the Chinese NPC, engaging with citizens and the press, the Westminster system in context, and legislatures in Europe, and concluded with a plenary session addressing what constitutes an effective legislature.
Those attending were drawn from all five continents, with MPs, officials or scholars from a range of Commonwealth nations (such as the UK, Australia, Kenya, and the West Indies), but also from nations as diverse as Jordan, Malta, Brazil, Bahrain, Burundi and Tonga. It made for a fruitful exchange of views and experience, including in the final session.
The final announcement I made in closing the Workshop was that the Twelfth will be held in 2015, instead of 2016, in order to avoid clashing with the biennial International Political Science Association (IPSA) conference. That means getting under way pretty soon in organising it….