Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians

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Project working notes are at Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians/backend

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 (talkcontribslogs) with queries.

Coverage status[edit]

As of June 2018, we have:

  • comprehensive data including party affiliation and term dates for all MPs, 1997 onwards (example for the 2010-15 Parliament)
  • comprehensive data including party affiliation and term dates for all members of the Scottish, Welsh, and (current) Northern Irish devolved assemblies (example for 2011-16 MSPs)
  • near-comprehensive data including term dates for the majority of MPs from 1832-1997, with some omissions and ambiguities (validated complete 1950-97, imperfect before that date), and a very small amount of party affiliation data (sporadic and pending further work)

Prior to 1832 data with term dates is not yet available, but we do have basic Wikidata entries representing the majority of known historical MPs:

  • entries for all MPs between 1386-1421, 1509-1629, 1660-1832 in the English, British, or UK parliaments (names and dates);
  • partial coverage of MPs between 1629-1660 (the Civil War and Commonwealth periods)
  • partial coverage of the earlier incarnations of the devolved Northern Irish parliaments
  • very limited coverage of pre-Union Scottish or Irish MPs, English MPs before 1386 or 1421-1504

In total, this represents around 28,400 individual MPs, or around 29,900 including members of the devolved parliaments plus pre-Union Ireland and Scotland.

Work is under way to improve the data for earlier years, and to ensure that contemporary data is regularly updated. We do not currently cover the House of Lords, and it is not anticipated that we will for some time.

Milestones
  • 24 June 2018 - Data validation completed back to 1950
  • 1 June 2018 - History of Parliament matching completed for all volumes (another ~25 entries missing from the original scrape were added 5 June)
  • 27 May 2018 - History of Parliament matching completed for 1386-1421 and 1604 onwards
  • 22 April 2018 - Data validation completed back to 1964
  • 22 February 2018 - Historic Hansard term and constituency data completed back to 1832
  • 11 December 2017 - Historic Hansard term and constituency data completed back to 1918
  • 12 November 2017 - Historic Hansard term and constituency data completed back to 1950
  • 10 October 2017 - Began import of pre-1992 term and constituency data from Historic Hansard
  • 24 September 2017 - History of Parliament name matching complete back to 1690; now covers all members of the Parliament of Great Britain
  • 20 August 2017 - term and constituency data for all MLAs completed (modern Assembly only)
  • 17 August 2017 - term and constituency data for all Westminister MPs completed 1997-2017
  • 31 July 2017 - term and constituency data for all MSPs completed
Country Start End Status Source(s)
England 1265 1385 Period not yet covered; very limited coverage of names
England 1386 1421 All MPs matched to History of Parliament; no term and constituency data History of Parliament
England 1422 1504 Period not yet covered; patchy coverage of names
England 1509 1629 All MPs matched to History of Parliament; no term and constituency data History of Parliament
England 1640 1660 Civil War and Commonwealth period not yet covered; patchy coverage of names
England 1660 1707 All MPs matched to History of Parliament; no term and constituency data History of Parliament
Scotland 1235 1707 Very limited coverage of names
Great Britain 1707 1801 All MPs matched to History of Parliament; no term and constituency data History of Parliament
Ireland 1297 1800 Very limited coverage of names
United Kingdom 1801 1832 All UK MPs matched to History of Parliament; no term and constituency data History of Parliament
United Kingdom 1832 1918 Term and constituency data imported but not fully checked (patchy data) Historic Hansard
United Kingdom 1918 1950 Term and constituency data imported but not fully checked (mostly complete) Historic Hansard
United Kingdom 1950 1997 Term and constituency data complete and validated, but party data not available Historic Hansard with manual checking
United Kingdom 1997 2018 Term and constituency data, and party data, fully validated MySociety data

Data model[edit]

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. (Speakers are treated as having changed party affiliation when elected, but deputy speakers are not.)

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.

Each position held (P39) statement is specific to a given Parliament, such as [example]; this approach helps with maintenance and error-correction. A statement should have the following qualifiers:

Some of these are not applicable in all cases. "Elected in" will not be appropriate, for example, where a new statement arises because of a change in party affiliation.

"Parliamentary group" is handled with a focus on the effective groups in Parliament, rather than formal party membership. This means that (for example) 'Labour' includes Labour Co-Operative MPs. Independents are assigned to a notional "independent politician" group even if they describe themselves as, for example, "Independent Conservative". An MP who resigns the whip but remains a member of a party is treated as independent.

Party data is currently not systematically provided before 1997, and we have yet to decide on the best way to assign it for historical members before the emergence of the modern party system. It remains a work in progress.

Optionally, other qualifiers may be used:

"Significant event" is not yet systematically used, but hopefully in the future it will be rolled out to show abstentionist MPs.

Special cases[edit]

Speakers

Speakers should use parliamentary group (P4100):Speaker of the House of Commons (Q464103) as a qualifier on P39 when sitting as Speaker (eg John Bercow (Q263147). Deputy speakers are impartial, but they are conventionally counted with their own party, so use the normal party affiliation here. (They can be listed as deputy speakers with a seperate P39 item specifically for that role)

Delayed elections

If the general election poll in a constituency is delayed, then for the elected MP, give the actual date of election in start time (P580) and add significant event (P793):postponed election (Q35647389) as a qualifier to clarify what's going on (eg Anne McIntosh (Q544947)).

Abstentionists

If an MP deliberately did not take their seat (eg contemporary Sinn Fein MPs), use abstentionism (Q13580111). Do not use this if they intended to take their seat but died before they could take the oath.

Election petitions

If an MP's election is voided by an election petition (either to deem someone else elected or to order a by-election), use end cause (P1534):election petition (Q13634247) to terminate the P39 entry on the day of the ruling.

Disqualification

If an MP is disqualified from sitting (eg after a criminal conviction), use end cause (P1534):disqualification (Q1229261)

Removal of the whip or resignation from the party

This should end the current P39 entry (using end cause (P1534):leaving party (Q30580660) or suspension from a political party (Q35855188) - more rarely no label (Q30580630), but most leave before they are expelled) and start a new one with parliamentary group (P4100):independent politician (Q327591). If the removal of the whip (or suspension from the party) is intentionally temporary and lasts only a very short period, such as a few days, it may be easier just to skip it and assume they remained with the party throughout. If they end the parliamentary term (by dissolution or resigning) while independent, however, it should definitely be recorded. On the end of a suspension period, use end cause (P1534):rejoining party (Q35867887)

If they leave the party to sit as a "named independent", it may potentially be worth using a more specific qualifier than parliamentary group (P4100):independent politician (Q327591), but be careful that this is not actually a party - for example, Clare Short (Q333550) sat as "Independent Labour", which was not the same as Independent Labour Party (Q1507913). For the moment, all independents are simply listed as parliamentary group (P4100):independent politician (Q327591).

A note on dates[edit]

Members are treated as having "become" MPs on the day of their election, or in rare cases, on the day they were deemed elected by a court. In the occasional case where polling is delayed at a general election, they are shown as having been returned at the general election, but on a later date. All dates are given to single-day precision where possible.

This is inconsistent with some other approaches, which may use the date of the returning officer's declaration (particularly for 1918/45, which were delayed by a few weeks), the date of the official return, or the date the member took their seat. This last approach is perhaps the most strictly "correct", but if followed consistently, would mean that abstentionist MPs were missed out, as well as a small handful who died before ever reaching the House. The approach chosen here has the virtue of being straightforward, makes sense to most lay users, and builds on easily available information.

Where a general election took place over several days (before 1918), members are treated as having been elected on the first day of polling. In some cases, Historic Hansard quotes a day during the election period as the start of the term, and where this happens we have provisionally used that date.

Where a term is split in two by a member changing party affiliation, the two parts are shown as starting and ending on the same day. In some cases there may be a slight ambiguity about the exact day on which a member ceased to be affiliated to a party and so these dates may not always be reliable to the exact day.

Terms are considered to have ended on:

  • the day of dissolution
  • the day of their death (even if not known until later);
  • the day they inherited a peerage (before Lords reform);
  • the day of the letters patent creating their peerage;
  • the day their election was [voided?] by a court;
  • the day of their resignation through accepting an office of profit; or
  • the day of their appointment to another incompatible office.

Constituencies[edit]

The data model is set up in such a way that a single constituency corresponds to a particular time period. If a constituency has existed for two distinct periods under the same name, then it will have two distinct items with distinct start and end dates. Wikipedia tends to have a policy of merging by name - constituencies with the same name at different periods are placed in the same article, regardless of any boundary changes, while constituencies with substantially different names but essentially the same boundaries are brought together. For the time being, the approach we have used here is to split the Wikidata entries to allow accurate start/end dates, but to help reusers find the relevant Wikipedia article, these are crosslinked with said to be the same as (P460) links to the most recent instantiation of the constituency, the one with the Wikipedia sitelink.

Some constituencies may have anachronistic names, particularly if the name has changed over time, or if an unofficial form is commonly used rather than the official one. However, it should be clear which seat is meant.

Constituency articles should have:

geographical data
identifiers


External identifiers[edit]

Biographical items in Wikidata are, where possible, systematically crosslinked to external resources. In addition to the more generic identifers such as library authority control records, the following are of particular relevance for MPs:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ID (P1415) - a significant fraction of historic MPs were listed in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. All ODNB articles are matched to Wikidata and so this matching is believed to be comprehensive.
  • Hansard (1803–2005) ID (P2015) - covering MPs and Lords who sat between 1803 and 2005. Historic Hansard coverage is patchy and not all MPs are present, but for those who are indexed, the matching is believed to be comprehensive.
  • UK National Archives ID (P3029) - this is only partially matched, and is unlikely to be complete for some time, but around 15% of post-1800 MPs are covered.
  • Rush Parliamentary Archive ID (P4471) - a database of post-1832 Members which has been used extensively in academic research. It is not currently available online, but hopefully these numbers will allow any projects which have already used it to match easily to Wikidata. Around two-thirds are currently matched.

Work is under way to crossmatch to Parliament's Members Names Information System (MNIS). It is hoped this will be available at a later date in 2018.

For contemporary MPs, or those who held office in the last few years, there are a range of external services with useful content -

as well as a variety of standard properties with links to social media identities, etc.

Accessing the data[edit]

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.

Wikidata queries[edit]

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. Here we show some sample queries:

All terms for a single MP
# parliamentary terms of a single person
# here, Winston Churchill
SELECT DISTINCT ?constituencyLabel ?partyLabel ?start ?electionLabel ?end ?causeLabel {
 wd:Q8016 p:P39 ?positionStatement . # all positions held by this person
  ?positionStatement ps:P39 [wdt:P279* wd:Q16707842] . # filter to positions which are a subclass of UK MP
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P768 ?constituency . }  # then find various specific values for each term
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P4100|pq:P102 ?party . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P580 ?start . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P2715 ?election . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P582 ?end . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P1534 ?cause . }
 SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language 'en' }
}
ORDER BY ?start

Try it!

All MPs and term details for a single Parliament
# members of the 2010-15 Parliament.
SELECT DISTINCT ?item ?itemLabel ?constituencyLabel ?partyLabel ?start ?electionLabel ?end ?causeLabel {
 ?item p:P39 ?positionStatement .
 ?positionStatement ps:P39 wd:Q35494253 . 
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P768 ?constituency . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P4100|pq:P102 ?party . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P580 ?start . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P2715 ?election . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P582 ?end . }
 OPTIONAL { ?positionStatement pq:P1534 ?cause . }
 SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language 'en' }
}
ORDER BY ?start

Try it!


A more detailed set of samples is available at Wikidata:WikiProject British Politicians/Sample Queries, including some unusual examples - chains of MPs known to be parent and child (current record is ten), or MPs who sat for several different constituencies in their career (current record is seven).


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 we anticipate that data on terms of office will be 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.