Party discipline parliamentary politics

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National Library of Australia. Search the catalogue for collection items held by the National Library of Australia. Kam, Christopher J. Party discipline and parliamentary politics. Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. To learn more about how to request items watch this short online video. You can view this on the NLA website. Login Register. Advanced search Search history.

Browse titles authors subjects uniform titles series callnumbers dewey numbers starting from optional. See what's been added to the collection in the current 1 2 3 4 5 6 weeks months years. Your reader barcode: Your last name:. Variance in the frequency of these dissenting divisions is evident, and it raises a host of interesting questions: why do Canadian and British MPs dissent so much more frequently than Australian and New Zealand MPs; why do Australian Coalition senators dissent more than Coalition representatives?

Even this cursory look at the data should convince the reader that the raw material for extensive and rewarding research — interesting questions and variance in the dependent variable — is at hand. The significance of backbench dissent Of course, much is hidden by Table 1. At the end of the day, parliamentary government, whatever its precise form, requires a high degree of party unity.

A division is free, on the other hand, whenever party leaders allow their backbenchers to vote as they wish. So, for example, the British Conservatives participated in 16, divisions between and and experienced dissent on 1, of those divisions.


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See also: Hobby ; Cowley and Norton ; Cowley et al. The Australian statistics have been estimated to some extent by sampling 3, Senate divisions and 1, House divisions. The same is true of the Canadian figures for the period —, for which I sampled divisions. This last aspect is worthy of immediate attention because it might be assumed that dissent is trivial unless it actually results in the government falling.

This position ignores a number of facts and deserves a strong rebuttal. Second, dissension can have pernicious electoral effects on a party even if it does not immediately alter legisla- tive outcomes Franks , p.

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Kam Excerpt More information Introduction 9 sense, it ignites a simmering collective action problem in the party Docherty , pp. There is empirical support for this effect: regres- sing the percentage of dissenting divisions that the parties in Table 1. In other words, a 1 per cent increase in dissenting divisions is associated with a 0.

Questions can be raised about cause and effect here, but those questions recommend further study rather than dismis- sal of the topic as trivial. The bill sought to permit adop- tions by homosexual couples, and wishing to present the Conservative Party as the defender of the traditional family, Duncan Smith ordered Conservative MPs to oppose it. A number of Conservative MPs refused, and in the face of this pressure Duncan Smith half-relented, granting permission for Conservative MPs to absent themselves from the House should they not wish to vote against the bill Daily Telegraph, 2 November The climb-down was widely interpreted as a sign of weakness and incompetence The Times, 5 November , and when several prominent Conservatives, including heavyweights such as John Bercow, Michael Portillo, and Kenneth Clarke, nevertheless ignored the party whip and voted for the bill, it was also seen as the beginning of the end for Duncan Smith The Economist, 7 November Without doubt, however, the rebellion on the Adoption and Children Bill was the turning- point in his leadership.

A more general if less dramatic result is provided by Kam and Indridason , who show that surges in parliamentary dissent among govern- ing parties is a leading indicator of cabinet reshuffles. Indeed, sometimes the mere appearance of dissent is sufficient to create instability. Several Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand MPs with whom I spoke talked of a tip-of-the-iceberg phenomenon where for every MP who votes against the party or speaks out in the media, ten more unhappy MPs are believed to exist.

Politics of Canada

Perhaps because of these effects, the threat of dissent sometimes leads party leaders to compromise on policy Butt , chapters 6—8. Dissent is important, then, because it may lead to organizational tension, the amendment of government bills, electoral misfortune, or the replacement of one set of leaders with another. The above arguments are quite valid, but they should not be taken to extremes. The vast majority of the time, parliamentary parties are highly cohesive, and the intention here is not to suggest that leaders are constantly being toppled, legislation altered, or elections lost because of dissent.

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Discipline versus Democracy

To see the book this way is to mistake its purpose. The aim is to examine how parliamentary parties come to be so cohe- sive. The Reform Party changed its name prior to the election as part of an attempt to rebrand the party and encourage a merger with the Progressive Conservative Party. The two parties merged formally into the Conservative Party of Canada in Related Papers. By Christopher Kam and Indridi Indridason. By Giacomo Benedetto. By Brian Williams. When does the personal vote matter? Party discipline under candidate-centered electoral systems.

MPs may escape sanction if they have widespread support within the party, or if elements of the leadership have sympathy for their actions. Minority governments are faced with an acute challenge in disciplining MPs — simultaneously relying heavily on party loyalty, while lacking the numbers to sustain sanctions such as removal of the whip.

Two Conservative MPs, Charlie Elphicke and Andrew Griffiths, who had had the whip removed over misconduct allegations, had the whip restored in January to allow them to vote in a vote of confidence in Theresa May as party leader. It is relatively rare, but Brexit has put significant pressure on party discipline.

Party Discipline and Parliamentary Politics

Three-line whips have also been defied outside of the Brexit context, with 91 Conservative MPs voting against the Government on House of Lords reform in In some cases, MPs have been accused of being conveniently absent from votes that have been whipped against their presumed voting intentions — preventing them having to choose whether to ignore the whip. This means the vote is not whipped, and MPs may vote as they wish. Free votes are one of the few occasions when members of the Government — usually bound to support the government position by the convention of collective cabinet responsibility — can express their independent opinion in the Commons.

Traditionally, free votes have been held on matters of conscience, such as fox hunting, assisted dying and military intervention, when it is accepted that MPs of the same party may have different views. In some circumstances, free votes can be used as a way of managing internal party politics — particularly when there are strongly held and competing views amongst the party leadership. In such cases, allowing a free vote can prevent an embarrassing government defeat or party rebellion.

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