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Political behaviour in the United Kingdom: An examination of Members of Parliament and Voters

Leslie, Patrick (2018) Political behaviour in the United Kingdom: An examination of Members of Parliament and Voters. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis builds on quantitative British politics scholarship with four papers unified by a strong emphasis on positivist theory, research design and cutting edge statistical methodology. I examine political behaviour among representatives in the UK's House of Commons and voting behaviour in the 2016 EU Referendum. I show that the UK parliamentary system's reliance on strong party discipline has important adverse consequences for public approval. Firstly, I show how high-salience debates such Prime Minister's Questions bring out the worst behaviours in MPs. As parties' access to the floor (ability to make speeches) is reduced, MP behaviour becomes more aggressive. Secondly, with co-authors, I examine the conditions under which ideologically extreme MPs are more likely to vote against their party. We find that the impact of such behaviour affects party unity more often when in government, meaning that parties are more likely to appear united until they elected, at which point party divides become more apparent once again. Thirdly, I show that career progression in the House of Commons rewards 'insider' behaviour such as increased attendance and participation in House of Commons debate and a focus on national rather than local issues. The power political parties have over the future of political leadership tends to centralise power and reward party politicians to whom the general public feels no strong affinity. In the final paper, we analyse voting behaviour during the 2016 EU Referendum assessing the potential effect of rainfall on the referendum result. We find that if the referendum had occurred on a sunny day, the likely result would have widened the margin of victory for Vote Leave. In the most comprehensive statistical analysis of the referendum to date, we concur with earlier analyses that that the surprise result was driven by strong Brexit support in districts of economic and social deprivation, particularly in rural and suburban locations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: PMQs parliament british politics quantitative careers MPs brexit voting speech debate rebellion
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Patrick Leslie
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2018 12:37
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2018 12:37
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/22109

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