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Policy Representation by Party Leaders and Followers: What Drives UK Prime Minister’s Questions?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 July 2015


This article demonstrates how party leaders (frontbenchers) and backbenchers use their access to UK Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) to represent the policy agenda. Building on comparative research on parliamentary questions and agenda-setting as well as taking account of the particular context of PMQs, we argue that party leaders and followers draw attention to different kinds of policy topics with the express purpose of influencing the government. Based on a content analysis of over 9,000 questions between 1997 and 2008, we demonstrate how the posing of questions affects subsequent agenda, varying according to whether questions come from the front or backbench, from government and opposition and from different parties. The findings demonstrate that PMQs helps both the opposition and backbenchers draw attention to issues that the government and opposition party leadership does not always wish to attend to.

Copyright © The Author(s). Published by Government and Opposition Limited and Cambridge University Press 2015 

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Shaun Bevan is Lecturer in Quantitative Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. Contact email:

Peter John is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at University College London. Contact email:


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