Paul Seaward will give this year's lecture, 'Time and the Commons, or a Brief History of Parliamentary Time'.
It is no accident that the most familiar symbols of Parliament are its clock and its bell, which (with their predecessors) have marked time in central London for hundreds of years.
All institutions are defined by time, in one way or another: Government and Parliament are driven by cycles of elections, annual sessions, and the legislative timetable. But the sense of the pressure of time is especially pervasive in political assemblies. Time is the resource that Parliament spends; battles such as those over the ‘obstruction’ of the Irish party in the 1880s or resistance to Liberal reforms after 1906 underline that the opportunity both to spend it, and to stop it being spent, are the keys to control of what it does.
This lecture looks at how governments, oppositions and individual members have tried since the sixteenth century to manage or manipulate the time available, and how their efforts have been constrained and moulded by many other ways of spending (and misspending) it.
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