As regular readers will know, I organise the biennial Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians, which provides an opportunity for academics to present findings likely to be of practical interest to parliamentarians. It also facilitates extensive dialogue between the two. The Workshop is co-sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, through whose good offices we are able to recruit members from parliaments around the globe.
I organised the first Workshop in 1994 at the Berlin Science Centre. All the rest have been held at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, an ideal venue for a gathering of this sort. The Twelfth Workshop was held this weekend and drew participants from around the globe, including from nations as diverse as Greece, the USA, Poland, China, Bangladesh, Italy, Mexico, Kenya, Bahrain, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. There was a particular emphasis on development and what constitutes an effective parliament. I opened by drawing attention to one Workshop panel some years ago when a parliamentarian asked the first question of a panellist, which was ‘What use is that to me?’ Paper givers remained sensitive to the ‘so what?’ question.
This year’s Workshop was different in that it was held in an odd numbered year, following the Eleventh Workshop last year: we have altered the sequence to avoid clashing with the biennial conference of the International Political Science Association. (IPSA means something different to political scientists than it does to UK parliamentarians.) It was also notable for the excellent attendance, not only in total, but also throughout the sessions. We had some impressive panels.
I opened the Workshop by saying that I left each Workshop thinking how excellent it was and looking forward to the next one, but as the next one neared, with all its organisational demands and complexities, I thought this may be the last one I organised. I left this one thinking how excellent it was and looking forward to the Thirteenth in July 2o17. In one year and eleven months….