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Political Leadership in Parliament: The Role of Select Committee Chairs in the UK House of Commons

Elites
Parliaments
Political Leadership
Alix Kelso
University of Southampton
Alix Kelso
University of Southampton
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Abstract

Concepts of political leadership have generally not been applied to the study of Westminster select (non-legislative) committees, where analysis has largely focused on their institutional capacity to scrutinise government and hold it to account. Yet examining committees through a political leadership lens helps illuminate the complex role of committee chairs, a role which was significantly reshaped in 2010 when procedures changed to enable chairs to be elected by the whole House. This paper explores the select committee chair role, drawing on analysis of chair behaviour in committee hearings and on the floor of the House, as well as on a series of interviews with chairs. It examines whether the term ‘leader’ can be usefully applied here, and argues that, as chairs are now far more important parliamentary and policy actors than ever before, a new understanding of parliamentary leadership capacity is required.