I spent the weekend at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire attending the Tenth Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians. My attendance could be described as necessary given that I organised the event, as I have done all the previous workshops. They are held every other year. The first took place in Berlin in 1994 and the rest have been held at Wroxton College, an ideal venue for an international conference. Each Workshop draws scholars and parliamentarians from around the globe. This year saw a record number of papers presented. The Workshop is co-sponsored the Inter-Parliamentary Union and it is through the good offices of the IPU that parliamentarians are able to attend. This year, we opened with a discussion of a global parliamentary report just published by the IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on The Changing Nature of Parliamentary Representation. The discussion was led by the lead author, Greg Power, who is also a visiting scholar in the Centre for Legislative Studies in Hull.
There were some fascinating papers. The value to parliamentarians is not only gaining the fruits of scholarly research but also in recognising that many of the problems they face are not particular to their own institution. There are challenges common to many legislatures. Being able to identify them, and their causes, as well as discover how others are tackling them, can be of practical value. The parliamentarians attending the Workshops tend to be drawn disproportionately from new or emerging democracies, keen to learn from practice elsewhere. Organising the workshops can be rather demanding, but the results extremely rewarding.