Library Dissertation Showcase

A change of heart? Political party switching among MPs in the British House of Commons, 1997-2019

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2021

This dissertation examines the public statements of British MPs who left or switched their political party in the Parliaments from 1997-2019. Statements, articles and interviews from after MPs switched were gathered and analysed, using the literature to categorise reasons given for switching while adding additional categories that emerged during the process of analysis. The literature identifies reelection, office and policy benefits as the three main reasons legislators switch parties. Heller and Mershon use these goals in ambition theory to argue that politicians are ambitious and will leave or switch parties based on what makes it most likely for them to achieve their objectives. However, the findings suggest that reelection and office benefits were not of as great importance to switchers as ideology and the internal culture of their former parties. In some cases, switchers took actions that appear counterintuitive when using ambition theory, such as switching or leaving parties with the intention of stepping down at the next election. The existing literature thus appears to fall short when explaining the reasons for legislative party switching.

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