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Lucky question MPs more likely to be re-elected

A Member of Parliament is more likely to be re-elected by their constituents if they are ‘lucky’ and randomly selected to ask an oral question in the House of Commons.

Research from the University of Warwick’s Economics department has found an MP who asks an average of 15 oral questions in the House of Commons is 4.7% more likely to be re-elected than one who is not selected to ask a question.

Oral questions are drawn at random using a ballot system and this study has looked for the first time at the connection between asking pre-submitted questions and a member’s chances of being re-elected.

Author of the study, PhD researcher Luc Tucker said: “There is a real element of luck here, because among all the MPs submitting questions, a random ballot is used to decide which members get to ask their questions in the House.

“By comparing those who are lucky enough to be selected and those who are unlucky, we can be confident that any observed difference in their re-election probabilities can be attributed to the asking of questions itself. The result is therefore much more specific than simply observing that members who ask more questions are re-elected more often, in that it implies a causal relationship.”

The study uses data published by the UK Parliament Library on member characteristics. This data was also combined with online transcripts from Hansard for the period between 2007 and 2010.

Tucker added: “We are not yet completely clear on why those who get selected to ask their questions are more likely to be re-elected than those who are unlucky. It seems unlikely that constituents directly observe the behaviour of MPs in Parliament. Other factors such as local media potentially play a role in reporting when MPs ask questions on behalf of the constituents they represent, which is in turn rewarded by constituents when choosing whether to re-elect that MP.”

Notes to editors

To speak to Luc Tucker, please contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Senior Press and Communications Manager, University of Warwick, k.e.parkes@warwick.ac.uk, 02476 150868, 07824 540863

The working paper, 'Parliamentary Questions and the Probability of Re-election in the UK House of Commons', is available online