Members of Parliament
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
You may have seen men and women debating (or rather screaming) about various issues in Parliament. But who are they exactly?
They are your Members of Parliament!
Their roles can often be confusing and the word “Constituency” may have not been heard or used by many.
However, this guide will break down all the jargon and make your life simpler while watching parliamentary debates.
This guide will consider:
Role of an MP
What are Constituencies?
How are MPs elected?
MPs and their Constituencies
What do MPs do in Westminster?
How to contact your MP?
Role of an MP
Represent the interests and concerns of the general public
Propose new laws
MPs from governing parties can become government ministers and be in charge of certain areas like Health, Finance, Defence etc.
They work in/for: Parliament, the constituency that elects them, and the political party that they are a member of.
What are constituencies?
Constituencies are geographical areas that are represented by each MP. The UK is divided into 650 areas called constituencies:
England: 533 constituencies
Scotland: 59 constituencies
Wales: 40 constituencies
Northern Ireland: 18 constituencies
How are MPs elected?
Local MPs are elected through the general elections that take place every 5 years. Everyone eligible to cast a vote in their constituency vote for their desired MP. The candidate with the most votes secures the position as an MP for that area until the next election.
It is important to understand that at general elections, you vote for your local MP and not for a new prime minister (the leader of the party that wins the most seats becomes the prime minister). If the current prime minister represents your constituency, you still have to vote for them as your local MP in the next parliament.
Most MPs are members one of the two main political parties in the UK: The Conservative Party or The Labour Party. Currently, The Scottish National Party is the third biggest party in Parliament. Other MPs represent other smaller parties or remain independent of a political party.
Head to our cheat sheet on political parties for more information.
MPs and their constituencies
MPs hold meetings (also known as a ‘surgery’) in their constituencies where local people come along to discuss their different issues.
MPs also tend to attend local festivals, schools, universities and businesses to gather a greater context on the issues that their local people are facing. They meet new people, discuss and mingle with the crowd to ensure all issues are given an ear to.
What do MPs do in Westminster/Parliament?
MPs sit in the House of Commons, where they raise issues affecting their constituency, attend debates and vote for new laws. They can pose questions to a government minister on behalf of its constituency’s people. These questions may be in the form of suggesting or highlighting particular campaigns or issues that the local people might resonate with.
Want to know how parliament actually works? We've got a cheat sheet for that!
How do I contact my MP?
Reaching out to your MP is accessible to all, be it through technology or good old pen and paper.
Shockingly, like us, MPs are also living in the 21st century which means the majority of MPs have an online presence. Most MPs are active on Twitter or Instagram. Not only is this a quick way to contact your MP but it is also a good way to see the work your MP is doing both in Parliament and in your constituency.
Formal methods of communication
Of course, if you’re a bit more old school, you can correspond with your MP in writing through letters, faxes or email.
You can write to any MP at:
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Or, email them using the contact details of the Parliament’s Directory of MPs.
Take a look at our cheat sheet, UK Parliament, Explained, to learn about how the system works as a whole.