The Constitution Unit blog in 2018: a year in review


2018 has been an interesting year for the UK constitution, its institutions and those involved in studying or working within them. As the year draws to a close, blog editor Dave Busfield-Birch offers a roundup of the most popular blogs of the year, as well as a look at the reach of the blog through the lens of its readership statistics. 

Obviously, Brexit has made this a very interesting time to work in political science, and the blog has benefited both in terms of increased general interest as a result, but also because there are niche topics being discussed in public now that would have generated little interest in other years. Few, for example, would have predicted in May 2016 that whether or not a motion in the House of Commons was amendable would become a hot political topic.

Below are our most popular blogs from the past year, as well as two personal selections from me, at the end of my first twelve months as blog editor.

Editor’s pick

Gendered Vulnerability’ and representation in United States politics by Jeffrey Lazarus and Amy Steigerwalt.

This was obviously a tough decision, but if you were to ask me for my favourite post of the year, this would be my instinctive choice. Jeffrey Lazarus and Amy Steigerwalt discuss their new book, Gendered Vulnerability: How Women Work Harder to Stay in Office, which argues that women’s perception of a more difficult electoral landscape leads them to adopt distinct, and more constituent-oriented, legislative strategies than their male counterparts. It is a fascinating insight into the challenges faced by women in running for, securing and retaining office. A similar blog on the UK experience, entitled Strategies for Success, was written by Leah Culhane in November.

Our most popular blogs by month


The Lords and the EU (Withdrawal) Bill: 10 predictions, by Meg Russell.

Unit Director Meg Russell made ten predictions for how the Withdrawal Bill (as it then was) would fare when it passed to the House of Lords, and before the politically tense period of ping pong that led to parliament passing the bill in June.


Brexit and the sovereignty of parliament: a backbencher’s view, by Dominic Grieve.

Based on a speech hosted at UCL for the Constitution Society in January, in this post Dominic Grieve offers his distinctive perspective on Brexit, discussing the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, the role of international courts in UK law, and the more troubling aspects of what was then the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.


Devolution, Brexit and the prospect of a new constitutional settlement for the four countries of the UKby Mick Antoniw.

In an attempt to contribute to the debate on the role of devolved bodies in the Brexit process, the Welsh Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee produced a report on the subject in March. In this blog its Chair offered his personal view on the government’s approach to Brexit and called for a constitutional reordering of the UK once Britain leaves the EU.


The Good Friday Agreement at 20: what went wrong?by Alan Whysall.

In the first of two blogs Alan, who was involved in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement as well as its implementation, examined what has gone wrong since it was signed. The second blog, which discussed what can be done to get the Agreement back on track, can be found here.


Planning for the next Accession and Coronation by Robert Hazell and Bob Morris.

Former Unit Director Robert Hazell and Bob Morris produced two reports in May on the accession and coronation processes for the Queen’s successor as monarch. In this post, they discuss their conclusions and call for both oaths to be rewritten to reflect a country that has changed significantly since they were last used.


What is the Salisbury convention, and have the Lords broken it over Brexit? by David Beamish.

During the passage of the Withdrawal Bill, some commentators accused the House of Lords of exceeding its constitutional authority, with the Salisbury convention being cited in defence of this position. David Beamish discussed how the convention operates and argued that it had not been breached.


Reforming referendums: how can their use and conduct be improved? by Jess Sargeant and Alan Renwick.

The year’s turbulent political events represent the fallout from a referendum where the consequences of a ‘change vote’ were unclear. This is just one of many concerns raised about recent UK referendums. To reflect on such problems and consider possible solutions, the Unit established the Independent Commission on Referendums, which reported in July. This blog summarises the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations.


How long would it take to hold a second referendum on Brexit? by Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell.

With exit day fast approaching, one of the perceived obstacles to a second Brexit referendum is time. This post, which was the second in a series of posts on the mechanics of a second referendum, discussed the constraints, concluding a new referendum could be held much more quickly than previous polls but a delay to exit day would most likely still be needed.


How could a second Brexit referendum be triggered? by Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell.

Part of the series mentioned above, this post outlined the key decision points and processes by which MPs or the government might choose to trigger a second referendum.


How and when might a second referendum on Brexit come about? by Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell.

In October, the Unit launched a report on the possible mechanics of a further referendum on Brexit. In the last of its series of posts on this topic, the report’s authors summed up the findings, focusing on how a referendum might come about, what question would be asked, and the implications for referendum timing.


How did people’s expectations of the consequences of Brexit affect their vote? by Stephen Fisher and Alan Renwick.

This post summarises the conclusions of a paper by the authors, examining what people thought they were voting for in 2016 and how that affected their vote choice. The authors also attempted to draw out lessons for today’s debates.


A second referendum on Brexit looks increasingly likely: what key questions need to be addressed? by Meg Russell and Alan Renwick.

Widespread negative reactions to Theresa May’s Brexit deal have focused increasing attention on a possible further EU referendum. With MPs recently denied a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, a referendum could provide a way out of the apparent deadlock. But how would it work in practice? This post sought to answer that question.

Most popular blog that wasn’t about Brexit

Beating the boundaries? The stalled debate on how to draw up the UK’s parliamentary constituencies, by Charles Pattie, Ron Johnston and David Rossiter.

A major 2011 shake-up of the rules governing how the UK’s parliamentary constituencies are drawn has proved controversial. While the new rules deal with the long-standing issue of substantial inequalities in constituency electorates, they also threaten frequent major disruption of the country’s constituency map. In this post, the authors offer their view of where we are, and where we should go from here.

The year in numbers

Our total blog hits for 2018 are up on last year, at over 146,000 (and counting). As shown below, the vast majority of our readers come from the UK, but the blog has been read by people from 185 different countries and territories, including Turkmenistan, Lesotho, Syria, Cuba, Greenland and Vanuatu. The graphic shows the countries in which we were most popular.

constitution unit 2018

And finally…

The blog would be nothing without its contributors, who are too great in number to list here, but to whom everyone at the Unit is very grateful for the time and effort they have put into the posts that we have published this year. In addition, I am personally grateful for the support I have had from everyone at the Unit during my first year as editor of the blog and Monitor. Meg Russell and Alan Renwick (our Director and Deputy Director respectively) deserve a special mention on that front: the blog would not be what it is without them.

We hope that you have enjoyed our content in 2018, and that you continue to read the blog in the 12 months ahead; it promises to be another interesting year.

About the author

Dave Busfield-Birch is editor of the Constitution Unit blog and Monitor