As we inch closer to the general election (seriously, can democracy survive another month and half of saturation coverage?) a lot of commentators are turning their attention to Scotland.
There are a couple of reasons for this – not least the recent close(ish) referendum result and the increased popularity of the SNP. So there would be a certain logic to starting a series of “regional” blog posts by looking at Scotland. But that kind of logic is wasted on me, so I’m starting with Wales instead.
I’ve looked at parliamentary debates over the last ten years or so, to see whether Welsh MPs (meaning MPs representing constituencies in Wales) talk about different things in parliament to MPs representing the rest of the UK. The analysis that follows is adjusted to take account of differences between parties.
Before we look at what they talk about, let’s take a quick look at how much they talk. Looking at the average number of speeches per MP in each parliament, we find that Welsh MPs talk slightly more (or, more accurately, made slightly more speeches per MP in each parliament) than other MPs – but not enough to be statistically significant. Interestingly, the reverse is true if we look at written questions – again not statistically significant, but Welsh MPs ask slightly fewer written questions on average than other MPs.
So having used statistics to prove nothing at all, let’s return to what they talk about, where things get a bit more interesting.
It will not come as a surprise to anyone who has thought about it for more than a few seconds to learn that Welsh MPs talk a lot about Wales. In fact, around 10% of speeches made by Welsh MPs are in debates that have a specific Welsh subject (think “Welsh Affairs” and “The Commission on Devolution in Wales”).
Which raises a couple of interesting questions. What about debates where no Welsh MPs spoke … and turning that on its head, what about debates where only Welsh MPs spoke?
It turns out that Welsh MPs don’t have much interest in London, Canterbury or (more surprisingly) the Scottish Parliament. More controversially, they don’t seem to have much interest in apprenticeships, armed forces pensions or volunteering. But treat this with caution, because each topic really only relates to one debate or series of debates – it doesn’t mean that no Welsh MP has ever talked about volunteering. If you have a particular interest in any of these areas, then please get in touch for a chat about how we can help you with some bespoke analysis.
The list of things that only Welsh MPs talked about is less surprising and the numbers involved are much smaller – mostly we’re talking about adjournment debates here. There is a very clear geographic and demographic pattern, with issues that disproportionately affect Wales featuring heavily, including HMRC offices and miners’ compensation. Muscular Dystrophy makes an appearance because the Welsh government stopped screening for it in 2012, leading to a reinstatement campaign.
Finally, we come to the list of topics that MPs from all over the UK talk about, but Welsh MPs talk about more. I’ve manipulated this list a little – dropping the top 5 items which heavily dominated and were all boringly predictable. What we’re left with is an interesting mix. Cluster munitions, succession to the throne (think about it) and the future of the BBC all feature. A couple of processy issues are also in the list, which will not surprise anyone who read my post about gender, where we discovered that male MPs like to talk about issues of parliamentary process and Wales.
So the bottom line is that if you’re Welsh, you can rest assured that your MPs are doing good work raising things in parliament that affect you. Especially if you’re the Prince of Wales and/or spend a lot of time worrying about cluster munitions.
Did anything in these lists surprise you? Care to offer some insight into the topics? Use the comments section below, or tweet me.