Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians

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WikiProject British Politicians
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This project is aiming to compile structured data for all Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom, and its predecessors. The goals are:

  • to build a comprehensive index of all members of parliament as far back as possible, ensuring that Wikidata has an item for each one, alongside core biographical data to place them in a historical context, and links to authoritative third-party records; and
  • to provide a rich data framework of information about those members, recording the period served, constituency, parties, and so on.

Please contact Andrew Gray with queries.

Coverage status[edit]

Full details at Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians/Coverage

As of March 2022, we have:

  • comprehensive data including party affiliation, constituency, and service dates for all MPs, 1970 onwards;
  • comprehensive data including party affiliation, constituency and service dates for all members of the Scottish, Welsh, and (current) Northern Irish devolved assemblies;
  • near-comprehensive data including service dates and constituencies for most MPs from 1820-1970, with some omissions and ambiguities (validated complete from 1880, imperfect before that date), plus party affiliations for members from 1923 onwards.

Prior to 1820 service dates are not yet available, but we do have some form of Wikidata entries representing the majority of known historical MPs, and improved coverage for some early periods:

  • 1660-1820 - basic items with a link to History of Parliament records for all MPs, but no dates of service or constituencies
  • 1640-1660 - only incomplete coverage of the Civil War and Commonwealth periods
  • 1509-1629 - constituency and parliamentary terms for all MPs recorded by the History of Parliament (which is incomplete in this period), but no exact dates of service
  • 1422-1504 - very incomplete coverage of the fifteenth century
  • 1386-1421 - constituency and parliamentary terms for all MPs recorded by the History of Parliament (which is incomplete in this period), but no exact dates of service
  • prior to 1386 - very incomplete coverage
  • pre-Union Scotland or Ireland - very incomplete coverage

Data model[edit]

Full details at Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians/Data model

The data model we use is consistent with that developed for the EveryPolitican project. This allows us to represent all the core information needed to describe someone's parliamentary career - when they were elected, who by, for what party, how long they served, when any of that information changed, and why they left.

Service in Parliament is recorded using position held (P39) statements. Qualifiers on the statement show the start and end dates that it applies to, as well as the constituency, party affiliation, and so forth. Each discrete term in office is given a different statement, with a new one assigned whenever there is a definable break in service; for example, if -

  • Parliament is dissolved
  • an MP resigns their seat to stand for reelection
  • an MP is suspended from the House for a period of time
  • an MP changes party affiliation, including the whip being suspended to sit as an independent. (Speakers are treated as having changed party affiliation when elected, but deputy speakers are left with their existing party.)

This means that an MP who served over, for example, the four Parliamentary terms 1979 to 1997 would have at least four position held (P39) statements, even if they had continuous service for the same constituency.

In a more complicated case, such as if they were one of the members who went from Labour to the SDP to the Liberal Democrats in that period, they might have six statements - two each in the Parliaments when they changed affiliations.

Accessing the data[edit]

Full details at Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians/Building Queries

All data is available through Wikidata, and is freely available for use. All data is available under CC-0. If you do reuse this data in some way, a link to the source would be appreciated but is of course not required. And, of course, we would love to know about any interesting reuses. See Wikidata:Data access for further details.

While the Wikidata interface is a good way to view data on individual members, it is not very useful for looking at aggregated information - say, on all members in a given Parliament. The Wikidata Query Service is a powerful SPARQL query engine, which while it has some limitations, is the most effective way of doing large-scale queries across this data.

A guide on building queries from scratch, introducing the syntax and the data model, is at Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians/Building Queries. A more detailed set of examples is available at Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians/Sample Queries, including some unusual examples - for example, chains of MPs known to be parent and child, or MPs who sat for several different constituencies in their career.

Data sources and acknowledgements[edit]

Data on the terms of office was in the first instance drawn from the Historic Hansard dataset provided by Parliament (1945-1997), together with the MySociety 'They Work For You' dataset (1997-date), and manually validated and extended where necessary. Prior to 1832 data on terms of office is primarily drawn from the published History of Parliament records.

Key sources for confirming dates and other details include:

  • London Gazette, for dates of official appointments
  • Chronology of British Parliamentary By-Elections 1833-1987, FWS Craig (1987), for validation of completeness
  • Who's Who of British Members of Parliament (4 vols, ed. M. Stenton & S. Lees, 1976-1981), plus errata lists courtesy of Stephen Lees
  • House of Commons Library briefing paper SN04731 (Appointments to the Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead Stewardships since 1946), plus earlier SN/PC/04731 (since 1850)

We gratefully acknowledge the help and guidance of MySociety (particularly the EveryPolitician team), the Parliamentary Digital Service, and the History of Parliament Trust, as well as a number of other specialists and historians who have provided feedback on the project.