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Party Discipline and Parliamentary Politics
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    Eggers, Andrew C. and Spirling, Arthur 2014. Ministerial Responsiveness in Westminster Systems: Institutional Choices and House of Commons Debate, 1832-1915. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 58, Issue. 4, p. 873.

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Book description

One of the chief tasks facing political leaders is to build and maintain unity within their parties. This text examines the relationship between party leaders and Members of Parliament in Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, showing how the two sides interact and sometimes clash. Christopher J. Kam demonstrates how incentives for MPs to dissent from their parties have been amplified by a process of partisan dealignment that has created electorates of non-partisan voters who reward shows of political independence. Party leaders therefore rely on a mixture of strategies to offset these electoral pressures, from offering MPs advancement to threatening discipline, and ultimately relying on a long-run process of socialization to temper their MPs' dissension. Kam reveals the underlying structure of party unity in modern Westminster parliamentary politics, and drives home the point that social norms and socialization reinforce rather than displace appeals to MPs' self-interest.


Review of the hardback:‘Party discipline is a key element in Westminster systems and Kam makes a major step forward in formalizing our understanding of this. An exceedingly thoughtful book.’

Shaun Bowler - University of California, Riverside

Review of the hardback:‘This is a landmark text in the study of comparative parliamentary behaviour. It is the first book to develop and test a micro-level theory of internal party politics in parliaments using roll-call data from several parliaments. If Kam is right, that parliamentary parties are no-longer unitary actors and that party cohesion is fragile and conditional, this calls into question much of the established wisdom about how parliamentary government works.’

Simon Hix - Professor of European and Comparative Politics, London School of Economics and Political Science

Review of the hardback:‘This is a major work. It brings the study of dissent in Westminster-style parliaments from anecdotage to data, and from data to analysis.’

Iain McLean - Professor of Politics, Oxford University

Review of the hardback:'This well-written book combines detailed descriptions with statistical analyses, making it an asset for scholars and practitioners of legislative behaviour.'

Source: Political Studies Review

'… a very important contribution to the study of legislatures. It is also an excellent example of the recent theoretical and empirical advances in the study of parliamentary politics in the UK … Kam’s …empirical analyses are careful and convincing. His use of particular episodes of parliamentary life to test his hypotheses is particularly engaging. In addition, [his] comparative approach is one of the great strengths of his book; by harnessing evidence from various contexts, he can provide a firm footing for his theoretical arguments … [this] book fits well into [the] revival of interest in parliaments in Westminster systems and deserves to be widely read by anyone wishing to understand how legislatures work. Most importantly, the book suggests new avenues for further research into the activities of MPs and how voters respond to them.'

Markus Wagner Source: Parliamentary Affairs

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