The Price of Conscience

The Electoral Correlates and Consequences of Free Votes and Rebellions in the British House of Commons, 1987–92

Charles Pattie, Edward Fieldhouse, R. J. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Conventional accounts of British politics play down the electoral importance of MPs' actions in the House of Commons. Party, it is assumed, is the key feature in shaping voters' preferences: few voters are aware of how their local representative voted on a particular issue, and in any case most MPs vote along party lines. On occasion, however, MPs do vote against the party line. Where the issue involved commands considerable public interest, this may raise an individual MP's profile with his or her constituents, with consequent effects upon future electoral prospects. This article investigates the connection between MPs' votes on a series of free votes and rebellions during the 1987 Parliament and their share of the vote in the 1992 general election. Generally, Conservative MPs' actions in the Commons had no effect on their subsequent share of the popular vote. However where an issue was of marked public interest, such as capital punishment or the poll tax, how the MPs voted did exert a small but discernible effect on the support that they received in 1992.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-380
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1994

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