An opportunity to make a real difference to how politics works

In this crucial time for UK politics, we want to do what mySociety does best: bring transparency to how Parliament operates.

Starting in the Autumn after the election, WhoFundsThem is our new project looking into MPs’ and APPGs’ financial interests.

With your help, we’ll answer a set of important questions for all MPs, then publish what we find in a clear and accessible way on TheyWorkForYou, and as a spreadsheet, for anyone to reuse.

TheyWorkForYou started twenty years ago as a volunteer project, when a bunch of people got together to make Parliament more transparent. We don’t have to wait for a better politics to be given to us – we can work together to make it happen now.

Watch Julia explain the project in 60 seconds, then scroll down for more information about how to get involved.

This is an example of one of mySociety’s innovative projects. To support this and other similar work you can donate below.

Support with your time

We need volunteers who are passionate about transparency in politics to help help us uncover the information. Volunteering a few hours a month could make this possible — and no expertise is required, so long as you’re happy with basic searches and data entry!

Read the volunteer pack for more information, and then use the volunteer sign up form.

Support with a donation

What we’re going to do

This project has two main threads: one focused on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and the others on All Party Parliamentary Groups.

The Register of Members’ Financial Interests

Rather than ban outside sources of income, MPs have opted for a system where outside income and interests have to be declared in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. However this register is not always straightforward to understand – and the questions it asks do not always lead directly to the information people are most interested in.

Building on our previous work opening up the register, we’re going to turn this around. Through number-crunching and working with volunteers, we’re going to answer a set of questions for every MP. Using volunteers and working on a case-by-case basis allows us to use information not in the published register to add context, and check for errors or inconsistencies in the raw data.

To ensure that the data we release is as accurate as possible, MPs will have the right of reply to accompany or challenge our conclusions.

APPG Information

All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are self-selecting groups of MPs and Lords with an interest in a particular policy area. Understanding these groups helps to indicate what MPs are interested in. They can be legitimate avenues for policy discussion, but can also be a backdoor for outside interests to access MPs and Parliament without a great deal of transparency.

The rules on APPGs and the information they have to disclose has recently changed, at least in part due to issues of legitimacy and transparency. However, most of this new information is not required to be published, it’s only disclosed on request. We’re going to ask all APPGs for all of the information they have to provide – and make it available through TheyWorkForYou and as a spreadsheet to enable wider scrutiny of this information.

What we want to achieve

Through this project we want to see:

  • Better behaviour from MPs and increased public trust
  • Better quality information through improved reporting

The ultimate goal is to shift the behaviour of MPs towards that which is more accepted by the public, through creating more effective public visibility and infrastructure for accountability. Success may initially mean more stories of conflicts of interests, and an obvious gap between what some MPs do and what the public want – but in the long run, we want this project to help close that gap between MP behaviour and public expectations. We’re trying to create a future where public trust is reinforced through MPs meeting public expectations, rather than through poor transparency concealing scandals.

As part of this process, we want to influence and inspire better data publication. Parliamentary publishing is often focused on internal stakeholders (e.g. MPs) rather than the public. Through our service, TheyWorkForYou, we work to correct this by making transparent data available and applying pressure for Parliamentary publishing to better match what we provide. We have a good track record here, ongoing improvements to financial interests data reflect both the impact of our work, and the capacity and desire within Parliament to produce better information.

Through this project we want to model how the data can go further to make it possible to answer important questions about MPs outside interests. Ultimately, we want to see MPs and Parliament producing more effective disclosure processes to better meet the needs of citizens. They can create the conditions for a future where increased transparency improves, rather than diminishes, public trust in our democracy.


Keep in touch

We are grateful to the JRSST Charitable Trust, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and Porticus UK for their support of aspects of this project.

Disclaimer: donations from individuals to mySociety are classified as unrestricted for accounting purposes unless otherwise specified by the donor.