Party Discipline and Parliamentary Politics

Party Discipline and Parliamentary Politics

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Christopher J. Kam
Cambridge University Press, 3/26/2009
EAN 9780521518291, ISBN10: 0521518296

Hardcover, 278 pages, 22.8 x 15.2 x 1.9 cm
Language: English

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.

1. Introduction
2. A model of intra-party politics
3. Patterns of backbench dissent in four Westminster parliamentary systems, 1945–2005
4. Policy preferences and backbench dissent in Great Britain and Canada
5. Dissent, constituency service, and the personal vote in Great Britain and New Zealand
6. The cost of dissent to the party
7. Demotion and dissent in the Canadian Liberal Party, 1991–7
8. Discipline and dissent in the Australian Coalition, 1996–8
9. Career trajectories, socialization, and backbench dissent in the British House of Commons
10. Conclusion
Appendix 1. Comparative statics and proofs
Appendix 2. Content and construction of ideological scales
Appendix 3. Sampling and coding of media dissent and discipline
Appendix 4. Demotion and the parliamentary careers of Canadian MPs

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