MPs are Poets at Heart according to Westminster Writing Quiz

Launched last month, this quiz, developed by ALCS, aimed to underline to MPs the significant role that writers play in society; a role further highlighted by the way in which readers and viewers have embraced books, films and TV series during lockdown.

Participants were asked questions on topics including their favourite writing location, predictions on their potential future writing earnings, and their activities during lockdown to reveal what type of writer they had most in common with. Even though many politicians are already published authors in the non-fiction and fiction genres or have had prior careers as journalists, poets were surprisingly the most popular result for the quiz. The quiz found that 44% would be poets if they were to change their career to become a full-time writer, compared with 19% who would be non-fiction writers and even fewer who would be journalists (11%).

Most MPs had low expectations for their potential earnings: almost half (46.58%) expected their earnings to only cover a nice meal out; while around a third (30.14%) expected it to cover a holiday. Only one in seven (15%) expected to be able to retire on the profits, and 8% thought they would be able to pay off their mortgage.

Four out of five (82%) of the Parliamentarians who participated in the quiz agreed that issues around fair pay for writers were worth raising in Parliament. Almost two-thirds (60%) supported clear structures  to ensure that writers receive a fair share of revenues from the digital marketplace.

The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) published a report last month which outlined ten recommendations for Government on how best to support writers and fairly remunerate them for their work. The report was based on a supplementary inquiry session the APWG held in November 2020 with organisations and writers across the literary field who testified as to how the pandemic had impacted on authors’ incomes and opportunities. A key recommendation from the report was to give creative organisations a clear path of engagement with the Government through a Creators Council which would address the issues around fair pay for writers that MPs from the quiz believed to be worth raising in Parliament.

Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive of ALCS, said: “We are delighted that so many MPs got involved with our first Westminster quiz, and while the result was not what we were expecting, it is great to see poets score so highly. As one of our more underrepresented genres, it is reassuring to know our MPs have a lot in common with them. Perhaps it is the years of delivering rousing speeches on the floor in the House of Commons.”

“While it was a light-hearted and entertaining way to remind MPs just how important writing is, and the vital role it has played during the pandemic, I hope it has reminded those in power that if we want to ensure that we have a steady stream of brilliant shows, films, books, inspiring textbooks and poetry then we need to think about how we can rebalance the value we put on their work.”

About the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG)

The All Party Parliamentary Writers Group was established in 2007. Its aims are: to represent the interests of all writers, to safeguard their intellectual property rights, and to ensure they receive a fair level of recognition and reward for their contribution to the economy and society as a whole. There are currently over 65 members of the cross-party group across both Houses. The Group Officers are: Giles Watling MP (Chair), Pete Wishart MP (Vice-Chair), Julie Elliott MP (Vice-Chair), Lord Clement-Jones (Vice-Chair), Baroness Benjamin (Secretary), Lord Dubs (Treasurer), Bob Stewart DSO MP (Vice Chair), Andrew Lewer MP (Vice Chair), Earl of Clancarty (Vice Chair) and Lord Balfe (Vice Chair).