August was filled with newspaper stories about the repair works to Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower, and the temporary silencing of the chimes of Big Ben. In a blog originally posted on the PSA Insights blog, PSA Parliaments Communications Officer, Alexandra Meakin, argues that this media coverage poses a concern for the future of the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster programme.
When witnesses appear before select committees, Hansard records their words – but not their expressions. In a blog originally posted on Democratic Audit, Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey (LSE), analysed nonverbal behaviour in 12 economic policy committee hearings, including some in which George Osborne gave evidence. In some of the hearings with Osborne, he appears to be smirking; in others, his smiles appear genuine. She argues that gestures, expressions and tone may be pivotal in whether a policymaker’s arguments are accepted.
By Michael Smethurst and Ben Worthy
We’re the data and search team in the Parliamentary Digital Service. We’re currently working on:
- Building a data platform to power the website. 
- Designing and developing a data model that properly ties together parliamentary people, processes and outputs.
- Improving search internally and externally.
This is easy to write but difficult to do. Mainly because it’s complicated.
By Paul Seaward
A short article on the BBC website, written after SNP members burst into applause when their leader in the Commons, Angus Robertson, spoke on 27 May 2015, pointed out that while clapping is not regarded as proper in the House of Commons, there have been a number of occasions on which it has happened. It cited Tony Blair’s last speech in the House of Commons on 27 June 2007, and the speech by Charles Walker on the debate on the conduct of the Speaker on 26 March 2015. Since then, there have been more: a tribute to Jo Cox on 20 June 2016; and David Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday 13 July 2016. There have been other, earlier, incidents: Robin Cook’s resignation statement on 18 March 2003 was strongly applauded in some quarters of the House, with some Members trying to convert it into a standing ovation. It’s tempting to argue that this tendency to ignore old conventions, and burst into applause, is new – the product perhaps of a society more apt to wear its emotions on its sleeve. It’s notable that the Modernisation Committee of the Commons considered the question of applause in 1998 in response, as it said, to some new Members, who, they said, found it ‘incomprehensible’ that applause was not allowed.