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Abstract only
Marc Geddes

This chapter revolves around fundamental debates about the role of politicians in the twenty-first century and the kind of politicians required for effective accountability of government. It situates the chapter in broader debates about the role of MPs before then examining the ‘scrutiny role’ of parliamentarians. The chapter finds that MPs have contrasting and competing visions for scrutiny and enact those roles through a variety of performance styles: specialists and experts, lone wolves, constituency champions, learners, party helpers or absentees. The chapter juxtaposes these interpretations with the pressures that MPs face more generally, such as time pressure, building expertise and multiple loyalties. All of these have a bearing on how MPs subsequently approach their scrutiny work. This chapter gives us new ways to think about the role of MP in the House of Commons, and sparks debates about the effectiveness of accountability in Parliament.

in Dramas at Westminster
Marc Geddes

This chapter offers a unique analysis of the wider literature on parliaments, in order to examine the different approaches that scholars have taken to understand the way that legislatures operate. It identifies lots of different ways, including old institutionalist, historical, rational choice, sociological and interpretive/constructivist. They have shaped the study of parliaments, and inform this book. The chapter argues that the interpretive approach is particularly instructive, and so the remainder of the chapter develops its philosophical foundations and core analytical principles. There are a number of key concepts, including beliefs, practices, traditions and dilemmas, all of which are important for understanding the behaviour of political actors. The chapter also uses insights from dramaturgy to construct an analytical framework around these concepts. The chapter closes with an outline of methods.

in Dramas at Westminster
Marc Geddes

This chapter places the book in its wider context through an introductory discussion of the changing pattern of representative democracy and the place of the UK Parliament in British politics. This chapter identifies key debates about accountability for parliaments and the particular challenges that legislatures face, such as the growing and already widespread distrust of politicians and political institutions. The chapter also outlines how Parliament has traditionally held government to account by focusing on the history of select committees since 1979. It shows that, while committees have a long history, much has changed and especially since 2010, when reforms were introduced. This chapter also sets out the main argument and structure of all subsequent chapters.

in Dramas at Westminster
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Marc Geddes

This chapter brings many of the elements of the previous chapters together to examine how different interpretations of scrutiny affect the evidence-gathering process. In other words, it looks at how an inquiry is ‘performed’. It looks, first, at ‘the backstage’ or preparations for inquiries. This demonstrates the strategic role of chair as well as the briefing that goes on behind the scenes. Second, the chapter will analyse how scrutiny plays out on ‘the front stage’. This analyses committee hearings as a piece of theatre: the chair becomes the lead actor; the committee members are the supporting cast; the staff act as various backstage support and stage directors; briefing papers act as loose scripts; the public become spectators; and, the committee rooms act as a stage where it all happens. The aim here is to illustrate the often symbolic value of representation and accountability and the impact that this has.

in Dramas at Westminster
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The politics of modernisation and manipulation
Author: Timothy Heppell

This book provides a new and distinctive interpretation on the political strategy of David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Rather than offering a chronological overview of his leadership, or a policy-based approach, the book assesses Cameronism via two themes – modernisation and manipulation. In terms of the modernisation the book will examine the following. First, how Cameron attempted to detoxify the negative image of the Conservatives. Second, how Cameron sought to delegitimise Labour as a party of government by deflecting the blame on austerity onto the legacy of Labour in office. Third, how Cameron used the Big Society narrative as a means of reducing the perceived responsibilities of the state. In terms of manipulation the book will evaluate Cameronism in relation to coalition government, and the exploitation of the Liberal Democrats will be examined, notably in relation to austerity, tuition fees and electoral reform. Cameronism will also be examined in relation the challenges to the existing political order by considering the demands for Scottish independence, and the rise of UKIP and the case for a referendum on continued European Union membership. Through this dual emphasis on modernisation and manipulation the book will provide an exploration of the key events and issues that defined the premiership of David Cameron, and a clear overview of his successes and failures as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. The book will be essential reading to those interested in British party politics and prime ministerial leadership.

Limiting Liberal Democrat influence
Timothy Heppell

Chapter 5 evaluates the dynamics of the coalition government from the perspective of agenda control. With an emphasis on how the Liberal Democrats were marginalised the chapter will focus on (a) policy and (b) personnel. On policy, the chapter will identify how although the Liberal Democrats secured some concessions in terms of the NHS, education, pensioners and social care, the Conservatives protected their red lines in terms of the budget deficit; defence; immigration; Europe; crime; policing; immigration and justice. The chapter will then identify how whatever concessions the Liberal Democrats did secure were limited, because of the following: (a) tuition fees was a policy area with a real capacity to hurt them; and (b) the coalition agreement made it clear that the trajectory of social policy would be subordinated to deficit reduction. On personnel, the chapter will identify how the Liberal Democrats did well out of the coalition negotiations in terms of the number of ministerial positions secured, but that the Conservatives retained control of the departments that were central to their agenda and identify. Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats were marginalised by the Conservatives in terms of portfolio allocation, which would undermine their ability to influence the trajectory of policy.

in Cameron
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Timothy Heppell

The introduction identifies the significance of the political leadership of David Cameron to our understanding of contemporary British politics. It will argue that the politics of Cameronism can be seen through the dual lens of political modernisation and manipulation. In terms of political modernisation, the introduction will identify the importance of the following: first, how Cameron sought to detoxify the negative image of the Conservative Party and promote a more socially liberal brand of modern Conservatism; second, how Cameron sought to apportion blame for the economic crash on the Labour Party to delegitimise them; and third, how Cameron sought to utilise perceptions of economic and social decline to make the case for a shift from Big Government and towards a new narrative of the Big Society – which amounted to a form of depoliticisation. In terms of political manipulation the introduction will identify how understanding Cameronism requires an examination of the coalition relations in terms of policy, personnel and legislative behaviour. It will also identify the challenges facing Cameron caused by the rise of multi-party politics – i.e. the Liberal Democrats and electoral reform, the Scottish National Party and Scottish independence, and UKIP and continued membership of the European Union.

in Cameron
The rise of multi-party politics
Timothy Heppell

The aim of chapter 7 is to consider how Cameron responded to the challenges to the existing political order. Focusing in on the rise of multi-party politics, the chapter identifies how the increasing electoral support for the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and UKIP threatened the existing dimensionality through which British politics operated. The chapter considers the reasons why Cameron decided to offer a referendum on electoral reform and explains why he was successful at nullifying this threat. The chapter examines why Cameron was forced to offer a referendum on Scottish independence, and explores how it failed to quell the tide of Scottish nationalism, but it did create an electoral advantage for the Conservatives given the collapse of Scottish Labour. The third case study of the chapter identifies why Cameron had to offer a referendum on continued membership of the European Union. The chapter focuses in on how the electoral threat from UKIP, and the infighting within his own parliamentary ranks, could have been overcome with a comfortable remain vote. The reason why Cameron failed is attributed to the weakness of the renegotiated terms of membership, and his misplaced assumption that economic security would trump concerns about immigration.

in Cameron
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Coalition unity and the exploitation of the Liberal Democrats
Timothy Heppell

Chapter 6 considers how the Liberal Democrats were exploited in legislative terms within the coalition. The chapter provides an overview of the coalition in terms of legislative cohesion. Having identifying the high rate of dissent, and the issues that provoked dissent, the chapter will explore how despite this it made little impact upon the credibility of Cameron as Prime Minister – i.e. perceptions differed for him as a coalition Prime Minister experiencing rebellion. The chapter will also provide an overview of the consequences for the Liberal Democrats of binding themselves legislatively to the Conservatives. The chapter will highlight the issue of austerity being in the national interest and not ideologically driven and tuition fees, as examples of how the distinctiveness of the Liberal Democrats was undermined by being in coalition. Having evaluated the conundrum of providing unity to the government versus maintaining their own distinctiveness for electoral reasons, the chapter considers the limited evidence of the Liberal Democrats being seen to have influence within the coalition. The chapter identifies how this amounted to a success for Cameron as evidenced from the gains made by the Conservatives, at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, at the 2015 General Election.

in Cameron
Apportioning blame and establishing risk
Timothy Heppell

Chapter 3 will consider how Conservative strategy towards opposing and undermining Labour evolved during the Cameron era. The chapter will demonstrate how initially when in opposition, the Conservatives set about nullifying the ‘investment under Labour or cuts under the Conservatives’ narrative, which had been so successful for New Labour and Blair in the era of economic prosperity between 1997 and 2007. It will then identify how, in the aftermath of the financial crash, Cameron abandoned this strategy of converging on Labour to neutralise the economy as an electoral issue. The chapter will then explore how the Conservatives set about establishing their narrative of the financial crash – i.e. it was the fault of a profligate Labour government. Apportioning blame was thus central to electoral strategy in 2010, and establishing risk about Labour regaining power was central to electoral strategy in 2015. The chapter will also identify how, alongside emphasising perceptions of economic competence, Conservative strategy also came to revolve around emphasising perceptions of leadership credibility, as Cameron was seen by voters as a more credible political leader than either Brown or Miliband.

in Cameron