Philip Cowley, Professor of Parliamentary Government at the University of Nottingham, has been studying what the public want from their MPs. One important attribute is independence from the party line, as demonstrated by their tendency to rebel in parliamentary votes. Through survey experiments, he has found that:
- the public like MPs who have “rebelled in 10% of votes”, and
- the public do not like MPs who are “loyal in 90% of votes”.
Two solid truths, derived from sound survey data, that are mutually contradictory: those who rebel 10% of the time are of course loyal 90% of the time. These occasionally rebellious MPs are simultaneously liked and hated by the same people for the same behaviour. The consequences, in terms of their re-election prospects, could be profound.
MPs need to choose their truths carefully on the doorstep.