People-Power Index 2019
The People-Power Index: Methodology
We’ve used ten data sources to measure an MP’s openness and responsiveness to their constituents over the last Parliament (2017-2019). The Index should be viewed as a health check of how Parliament is working and how our MPs are listening to, and engaging with, us – their voters.
All mentions of “MPs” refer to Members of Parliament for the 2017-2019 period, most of whom are now candidates seeking re-election in December 2019 at the General Election.
To make the Index, we used ten data sources which measure the following, in priority order:
1.Your MP’s availability to their constituents. This looks at how your MP is available online (email and social media), offline (holding “surgeries” in your local area and a caseworker), and whether your MP is distracted by a second (or third) job.
2.Your MP’s participation in Parliament. This looks at your MP’s participation record for voting in Parliament, so that your constituency is counted when new laws are passed, and how often your MP raises issues from your constituency in Parliament.
3.How an MP listens to the public. An MP’s top priority is their constituency, but they also have a responsibility to the wider general public to bring political attention to public campaigns and priority issues by discussing them in Parliament.
There are a total of 50 points available for each MP: 30 points based on their availability to constituents, 10 based on their participation in Parliament, and 10 for how your MP listens to the public. The “best” MPs are listed from the top with the highest scores.
Overview of methodology
This is the first People-Power Index and has been created using data from the 2017 General Election to date. As with all Indexes, there are limitations in the approach we have chosen.
Our primary source has been Hansard, the official record of an MP’s contact details and voting record, complemented by the official Parliament website, Twitter, data on email correspondence kindly provided by WriteToThem and direct email and phone correspondence with MPs’ offices.
MPs are listed as belonging to the party they are affiliated with at the time Parliament was dissolved (6 November 2019). MPs who have announced they are standing down at the General Election have been greyed out, again accurate at the time of publication (last updated 15 November 2019).
We made best efforts to speak to all MPs’ offices to confirm the frequency of their advice surgeries, whether they have a caseworker, and whether they would like any absences since the 2017 General Election taken into account for discrepancies in their voting record. This involved two emails and a follow-up phone call over a two week period to MPs’ offices (except where no email address or phone number was publicly available). We greatly thank the MPs and their staff who took a moment to speak to us. Where we were unable to reach an MP’s office in this timeframe, we have recorded the answers to these questions as a default “no” to avoid further penalising MPs who took time to respond. We will update the Index ongoing, in bulk, if we receive further replies from MPs’ offices.
There are additional data points we could use for openness and responsiveness, but we chose this shortlist for the first edition based on availability and accuracy of different sources.
Extra detail on methodology
Each MP is assigned a score out of 10, based on the number of points they get in each different category. Each category is composed of 2-6 data points. (A score out of 10 for each category is also provided, but this is not used in calculating the overall score.)
Points are awarded for each data point based on their importance, set in the “Importance ranking” tab. There are 50 points in total, 30 provided for the Availability to Constituents, and 10 each for Behaviour in Parliament and Listening to the Public. The total points for all data points are added up and converted into a score from 1 to 10, which is the final People Power Score.
Where data points aren’t easily convertible to points (e.g. times an MP mentioned their constituents in the chamber), we’ve taken an average and then made a decision about how that should convert into points. For example, for number of petitions targeting an MP, we’ve just turned it into a true/false (as doing it based on the overall number of petitions would advantage higher-profile MPs) and awarded the points on that basis.
Currently, the index is composed of 10 different data points, each of which have been assigned a category for ease of analysis. The categories are as follows:
• Availability to Constituents (constituency office, active on Twitter, second job, WriteToThem responsiveness, case workers, and constituent surgeries)
• Behaviour in Parliament (attendance, mentions of constituents in the chamber)
• Listening to the Public (number of signatures on Change.org petitions in their constituency, number of times petitions raised and debated in Parliament)
1.Your MP’s availability to their constituents.
This looks at how your MP is available online (email and social media), offline (holding “surgeries” in your local area and a caseworker to help with individual issues), and that your MP isn’t distracted by a second (or third) job.
The sources used for this category:
• Does your MP have a constituency office? Yes (4 points) or No (0 points).
We understand many MPs keep the address of their constituency office private for security reasons, so we are not penalising those who do not make the address public, but having a constituency office in the first place is important for an MP’s accessibility and presence in their local area.
• Does your MP hold regular constituency “surgeries”? Yes (7 points) or No (0 points).
We view an MP’s availability to meet and listen to constituents as important to their openness and responsiveness. We have scored an MP as “yes” if they have confirmed they hold at least one surgery a month, and we understand that for security reasons meetings with constituents may not be publicly advertised. For this question, we had to ask MP’s directly so if an MP’s office did not respond, we marked this as a default “no”.
• Does your MP have a caseworker? Yes (5 points) or No (0 points).
MPs are contacted by hundreds, if not thousands, of constituents every year. Many of these people have suffered a personal injustice or need expert support in navigating the system, so we view employing a caseworker as an important resource to giving constituents personal support. For this question, we had to ask MP’s directly so if an MP’s office did not respond, we marked this as a default “no”.
• Does your MP have a second (or third or fourth) job? Yes (0 points) or No (5 points).
There is a public record of MPs’ additional jobs on the Parliament website under “Register of Members’ Financial Interests”. We view being an MP as a full-time job and have awarded the most points to MPs who don’t have additional jobs, except where the second-jobs is a public service such as a doctor.
• Does your MP use social media, and how? Up to a maximum of 3 points.
Twitter is the only social media platform with publicly-available data on how MPs post messages and engage in conversation online, so we have only been able to include Twitter in our assessment of whether MPs’ use social media to keep in touch with constituents and listen to their ideas.
In order to determine this, we look at MPs’ last 500 tweets to see first how active they are. We then analyse the type of tweets – are they replies to users, actively commenting on issues and speaking their mind or are they retweeting the party line? We combine these two pieces of information to reward MPs who actively use Twitter and to listen to, and engage with, people.
• Does your MP use email to engage with constituents? Up to a maximum of 6 points.
We’ve teamed up with WriteToThem to find out how MPs respond to constituents who contact them. WriteToThem is a service which allows people to get in touch with their MPs via email. WriteToThem sends a survey a few weeks afterwards, asking the user whether their MP replied to them.
WriteToThem then turns this into a responsiveness score – which also takes into account the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, an Office of National Statistics product which measures (in several different ways, from education to crime, to housing) how deprived an area is. This makes it fairer to compare MPs representing different parts of the country. You can find out more about how WriteToThem calculate this here.
2.Your MP’s participation in Parliament.
This looks at your MP’s participation record for voting in Parliament, so that your constituency is represented when new laws are passed, and how frequently your MP raises issues from your constituency and their constituents inside the House of Commons.
The sources used for this category:
• What percentage of votes in Parliament has your MP attended since the 2017 General Election? Up to a maximum of 4 points.
This is a score for how frequently your MP voted in divisions in the House of Commons in this Parliament. We looked at attendance across all MPs and used that to set a target – the median MP attends 82% of divisions – so we picked 80%. We then score MPs against that 80% target – so they get all 4 points if they meet or exceed that attendance rate, and evenly lower the fewer divisions they attended.
It does not take into account how your MP voted, for example if they rebelled against their party’s position, because we do not take an opinion on how MPs should vote on issues – this should be a case-by-case decision between the MP and their constituents.
We have made best efforts to negate any unfair negative scoring, for example if an MP has taken parental or sick leave, by asking MPs directly if they have had a period of absence since the 2017 General Election, which we can deliberately exclude from the scoring. Where MPs have not replied to inform us of any absence, we have presumed they were expected to attend all votes. We will of course respect MPs’ right to privacy by not publishing any personal reasons for periods of absence, which were agreed by their parties.
We have also made best efforts to not unfairly penalise MPs who can’t participate in all votes. For example, the Speaker, Deputy Speakers, or MPs who chair votes. We have factored in that MPs in Scotland generally do not vote on matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament under English Votes for English Laws (EVEL). Similarly, we have factored in that Sinn Féin MPs are voted in by constituents on the understanding they do not attend the UK Parliament or take part in votes.
There are also many other reasons why MPs will have missed the occasional votes – select committee meetings, UK delegations, ministerial trips, unplanned constituency emergencies. There is no public record of why MPs have missed votes, so we are unable to factor in these ad hoc absences. We believe that MPs have a responsibility to put their constituents first, and will not have undertaken any additional Parliamentary roles or trips without ensuring their constituents would not miss out on representation meanwhile.
• How frequently does your MP raise issues from your constituency in the House of Commons? Up to a maximum of 6 points.
This is a score for how frequently your MP mentions your constituency or constituents in the House of Commons. It’s a measure of how they prioritise your local area and their voters when taking up airtime, on the record, often in front of decision makers such as Ministers and the Prime Minister.
To determine this, we look at how often MPs mentioned their constituents, their constituency and the issues that matter to them in Hansard. Using that data, we took the average and then set an ambitious but achievable target for MPs to reach: 25 times across the Parliamentary term. We then used this total to create a percentage score from 0-100%, so MPs like Alison Thewliss who’ve mentioned their constituents 60 times will get a maximum of 100% and get 6 points, while MPs who’ve had fewer opportunities to mention their constituents in the House will still be scored fairly. Some MPs have fewer opportunities to mention their constituents due to Parliamentary roles such as being a Minister or Whip which means you can only speak within the remit of your role. See below under “The “science part” of the Index” for an explainer of these exclusions.
We appreciate that MPs who have a role such as a Minister, Shadow Minister or Whip, are bound to rules which mean they can’t speak freely on issues other than their job. Our scoring does not unfairly penalise MPs who have held such a role since, or in between, the 2017 General Election. See below under “The “science part” of the Index” for an explainer of these exclusions.
3.How your MP listens to the public.
An MP’s top priority is their constituency, but they also have a responsibility to the wider general public to bring political attention to public campaigns.
• How frequently does your MP raise mass public campaigns or petitions in the House of Commons? Up to a maximum of 8 points.
This is a score for how frequently your MP mentions public campaigns or petitions in the House of Commons. Although your MP’s top priority should be their constituents, they also have a wider responsibility to the general public to listen to public concern across society and bring that into Parliament. The analysis is based on whether they’ve mentioned the following phases:
‘presenting a petition’
‘organisers of the petition’
‘present a petition’
‘present petitions on behalf’
‘that this house has considered e-petition’
‘present this petition’
‘present my first petition’
‘constituents signed the petition’
As above, we appreciate that MPs who have a role such as a Minister, Shadow Minister or Whip, are bound to rules which mean they can’t speak freely on issues other than their job. Our scoring does not unfairly penalise MPs who have held such a role since, or in between, the 2017 General Election.
• How many signatures on Change.org petitions in your MP’s constituency? Up to a maximum of 2 points.
We view a healthy democracy as one in which citizens feel empowered to make change happen and have their voice heard as part of everyday life. An MP’s job is to help inspire this participation in democracy, so it’s a positive sign if people are signing petitions on issues they care about where they live or work – regardless of who the decision-maker is or what the issue is.
This score is calculated based on the number of signatures in each constituency in this Parliament. Analysing across all constituencies, we’ve come up with a target of 125,000 signatures, which is then adjusted based on the size of the electorate in that constituency. This is then used to award MPs points. MPs with 125,000 signatures or more in their constituency will receive all 4 points, and points will scale down fairly as that figure gets lower.
The “science part” of the Index.
We have weighted different sources according to how we place relative importance on openness and responsiveness. This means that out of a total 50 available points for an MP, 30 are reserved for their availability to constituents, 10 reserved for their participation in Parliament and 10 for how they listen to the wider public.
Where the answer to a metric is binary (e.g. yes/no), we have recorded this as +points (number of points based on determined importance to overall Index) or 0.
Once we’ve calculated the scores for each individual element of the index, we add together all of the scores and divide that by the total possible points. For most MPs, that will be 50, but it’ll be lower for MPs who’ve had a period of absence, such as maternity leave, or who have joined Parliament after a by-election, for example.
We then convert that percentage score into a simple and easy-to-understand 0 to 10 scale by multiplying it by 10.
• An MP has scored 34 points out of 50 in total
• Since they’ve been a whip, we remove attendance in votes from consideration, so the total possible points they can receive is 42
• We divide 34 by 42 and multiply that by 10 – resulting in the MP’s final score: 8.01.
• The intention of this Index is to spark a conversation about what it means to be a “good” MP. It should be used to celebrate MPs who are the most open and responsive to their constituents and inspire future MPs. We know that MPs work under intense pressure to bring together many varying views in their constituency and the party they were elected with or are affiliated to.
• Please email email@example.com if you would like more information or to submit a clarification.