Ok Ok, you got me, I made a click-bait title that includes both Bill Gates and a timely reference to Easter. But the content is good if you’re a political nerd, so hold on.
One of the great things about Hansard Online, the online record of everything said within both the House of Commons and House of Lords, is the fantastic search interface. It even comes with a useful graph of mentions of the search term across time – which can further be used to filter the results. So, a little fun thought came to my head – who is talked about more within Parliament, the 12 disciples of tech, or the son of God himself?
The test was quite easy, I did a simple keyword search for prominent figures in the world of technology and noted them down by year – from 2000 to the current date. Then I did the same for Jesus. I had to include some qualifiers course: If the person was mentioned multiple times by the same person in the speech, then that only counted once. I also only included each mention if their name was used in relation to the person themselves, not organisations or places named after them. For example, “Jesus College” didn’t count.
The people included in the search was:
Bill Gates – co-founder of Microsoft
Satya Nadella – Current CEO Microsoft
Jeff Bezos – Amazon
Jack Dorsey – Twitter & Squarespace
Elon Musk – Tesla & SpaceX
Susan Wojcicki – YouTube
Tim Cook – Apple
Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
Larry Page & Sergey Brin – Google
Marc Benioff – Salesforce
Steve Huffman – Reddit
And of course, Jesus – Son of God
Unsurprisingly, Jesus came out as the most mentioned person in Parliament over the two-decade period covering 2000 to 2020. With a total of 317 mentions. Initially, I thought that the majority of these mentions would be due to the House of Lords, whereby a 26 Bishops (or Lords Spirituals) from the Church of England sit. However, 50.6% of all mentions of Jesus come from the House of Commons.
While I didn’t count which MPs mentioned Jesus, some names did pop up time and time again. Jim Shannon MP, for instance, accounted for 14 mentions of Jesus in the Commons. Two such examples can be seen in the Tributes to the Speaker’s Chaplain, and a debate on Human Rights. Similarly, other well-known Christian MPs were seen time and time again, often in reference to the teachings of the Bible.
The second most mentioned person, and first of the tech disciples was Bill Gates, who was mentioned a total of 122 times. And despite stepping back from being CEO of Microsoft in 2000, has had remarkable staying power in the minds of MPs. An insightful demonstration of the cultural power of Bill Gates from the 1990s. Indeed, in the latter half of the data period collected, he was mentioned more times than the first half. (77 mentions in 2010-2020, compared to 46 times from 2000 to 2009).
So why so many mentions? Firstly seems to be MPs using his wealth as a demonstratable point, for instance, in the below example by Eric Pickles in 2000 on a debate related to the Child Support Act 1991.
“I am sure that Mr. Bill Gates of Microsoft leads a blameless life and that he would never shirk his responsibilities. However, let us suppose that he did, and that the CSA came after him. Mr. Gates is worth £53 billion a year. According to the formula that the Government seek to impose, if he had two children they would receive £10.6 billion by way of child maintenance. The House will be aware that the gross national product of Luxembourg is £8.9 billion. That is an illustration that the formula goes beyond maintenance and that it does not make sense.”
Other examples include his charitable work, which is oft-quotes by MPs as a good use of wealth.
After that comes Mark Zuckerberg who got 37 mentions, of which 23 came in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. This is followed by Jeff Bezos (9 mentions); Elon Musk (7 mentions); Both Tim Cook and Sergey Brin had 4 mentions; Larry Page (3 mentions); Satya Nadella (2 mentions); Jack Dorsey, Susan Wojcicki had 1 mention each; and Marc Benioff and Steve Huffman being relative no names with zero mentions.
What does this suggest? Well firstly, MPs might not concern themselves with matters of the tech world or save these debates for outside the Parliament. But there is a greater level of evidence that MPs’s don’t concern themselves with who is running each company, and instead talk about organisations themselves. For instance, mentions of Twitter (1,758 mentions); Facebook (1,922 mentions); and Google (1,707 mentions) dwarf those of the people most closely associated with them.
But personally, I have a belief that MPs stick to referring the figures or companies that they know. They’ll be sure to know of Facebook, Twitter, and Google due to them using them. But not necessarily who runs or founded them. Supporting this is the sudden growth of mentions of Instagram – around the same time it become more well used by MPs. Oddly, in the same patterns of uptake (i.e large-scale adoption around election periods) I first noted on Twitter back in 2016. Furthermore, some other popular UK social media websites, Such as Reddit which is fifth most visited UK website (Alexa – to desktop centric) only got 2 mentions. Notably, a platform which most MPs have yet to find any electoral utility for.
So is Bill Gates the second coming? While it seems Bill Gates is most MPs first point of call when it comes to using figures as an illustrative demonstration of wealth or technology – I don’t think he’s got the staying power when compared to baby Jesus. Who due to a combination of cultural relevance, even amongst the non-religious, and by a small (but committed) number of MPs who seek to frame Parliamentary debates in lessons from the bible, will stay at the top (at-least, for now).
It’s also interesting to see which tech figures are mentioned the most, which anecdotally seem to correlate to media presence, rather than say the importance of their platform.
But as shown by the massive amount of mentions of tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, it shows that Christianity is not important overall to what’s debated in Parliament.
But what is the real Easter lesson from all of this? Well, it’s that Hansard Online is awesome, and you should go check it out at https://hansard.parliament.uk/
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