ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Disorder in the British House of Commons, 1990 – 2010

Faith Armitage
University of Manchester
Faith Armitage
University of Manchester
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper is concerned with the incidence and significance of disruption by Members of Parliament in the House of Commons chamber. The focus is on disorder occurring between 1990 and 2010. While disorder in the Conservative ‘Thatcherite’ parliaments of the 1980s has been the subject of parliamentary and academic investigation, no one has sought to quantify, characterise or explain legislative disorder in the 1990s and 2000s, decades in which New Labour dominated parliament. Three categories of disorder are identified: (1) individual disorder by MPs that is NOT tolerated; (2) collective disorder by groups of MPs that is NOT tolerated; (3) individual and collective disorder by groups of MPs that IS tolerated. The first two types have been relatively rare between 1990 and 2010, compared to itself in the 1980s and compared to other legislatures. The latter is the commonplace disruption for which the House of Commons is known – when seated MPs shout, heckle and interrupt the MP who has the floor to prevent him/her from speaking – and is arguably more important in understanding the nature of the lower chamber. MPs from all parties engage in this type of disorder. Labour MPs are more likely than MPs from other parties to be ejected from the chamber for disorder – i.e. to engage in disorder that is NOT tolerated. While opinions vary about the desirability of tolerated disorder, this paper accepts the argument that it is a symptom of bigger, deeper problems with the British governing tradition and will persist unless and until those problems are addressed.