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Scandal, Protection, and Recovery in the Cabinet

  • TORUN DEWAN (a1) and DAVID P. MYATT (a2)

Empirical evidence suggests that a prime minister benefits from firing ministers who are involved in political scandals. We explore a model in which scandals are positively related to policy activism, so that a prime minister may wish to protect a minister from resignation calls. We find that protection can sometimes discourage activism: it enhances the value of a minister's career and hence encourages him to “sit tight” by moderating his activities. On the other hand, an exogenous increase in exposure to scandals may lead a minister to “live for today” by pursuing controversial policies. The prime minister's ability to protect ministers is limited by her short-term incentive to fire. She may, however, enhance her credibility by building a collective reputation with the cabinet; the heterogeneity of cabinet membership plays an important role.

Corresponding author
Torun Dewan is Lecturer, Department of Government, London School of Economics, London WC2 2AE, United Kingdom (
David P. Myatt is Senior Research Fellow, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3UQ, United Kingdom (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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