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Ideology, Grandstanding, and Strategic Party Disloyalty in the British Parliament

  • JONATHAN B. SLAPIN (a1), JUSTIN H. KIRKLAND (a2), JOSEPH A. LAZZARO (a2), PATRICK A. LESLIE (a1) and TOM O’GRADY (a3)...

Abstract

Strong party discipline is a core feature of Westminster parliamentary systems. Parties typically compel members of Parliament (MPs) to support the party regardless of MPs’ individual preferences. Rebellion, however, does occur. Using an original dataset of MP votes and speeches in the British House of Commons from 1992 to 2015, coupled with new estimations of MPs’ ideological positions within their party, we find evidence that MPs use rebellion strategically to differentiate themselves from their party. The strategy that MPs employ is contingent upon an interaction of ideological extremity with party control of government. Extremists are loyal when their party is in the opposition, but these same extremists become more likely to rebel when their party controls government. Additionally, they emphasize their rebellion through speeches. Existing models of rebellion and party discipline do not account for government agenda control and do not explain these patterns.

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Corresponding author

Jonathan B. Slapin is Professor of Government and Director of the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom (jslapin@essex.ac.uk).
Justin H. Kirkland is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Houston, 3551 Cullen Boulevard Room 447, Houston, TX 77204-3011, USA (jhkirkland@uh.edu).
Joseph A. Lazzaro is Graduate Student, Department of Political Science, University of Houston, 3551 Cullen Boulevard Room 447, Houston, TX 77204-3011, USA (jlazzaro@Central.uh.edu).
Patrick A. Leslie is PhD Candidate, Department of Government, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom (palesl@essex.ac.uk).
Tom O’Grady is Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University College London, 29-31 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9QU, United Kingdom (tom.d.ogrady@gmail.com).

Footnotes

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Earlier versions of this article were presented at University College, Dublin, Hertie School of Governance, University of Essex, and the London School of Economics as well as several conferences. We thank the participants at these various events for their very helpful comments. In particular, we thank Shane Martin, Jack Blumenau, and Raphael Heuwieser for their careful reading of the article, and Raphael Heuwieser for sharing data on free votes. Lastly, we are very grateful to the reviewers and editors at the APSR for their helpful advice, which has substantially improved the article. Full replication code and data available is available on the APSR dataverse site.

Footnotes

References

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Ideology, Grandstanding, and Strategic Party Disloyalty in the British Parliament

  • JONATHAN B. SLAPIN (a1), JUSTIN H. KIRKLAND (a2), JOSEPH A. LAZZARO (a2), PATRICK A. LESLIE (a1) and TOM O’GRADY (a3)...

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