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The leaders' place in the Westminster system


This paper aims at examining to what extent breaking the rules constitutes a strategy for leaders to “find their place” in the Westminster system during parliamentary debates and more specifically during PMQs. In the context of Westminster politics, place can be understood in several ways. Place can be undertsood in its dialectical relationship between the physical and political dimension with parties occupying a specific place in the Commons placing them on the political spectrum from right to left. More interestingly, Westminster in a sort of metonymical process embodies UK’s politics. The leaders of major parties participate in the debates in the House of Commons. Whether it is the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition or the leader of the the third largest party, all are engaged in high profile debates during PMQs. The confrontational and adversarial style of politics characterizing the House debates is a system (M. Crozier, E. Friedberg) with specific rules ; F.G Bailey would call it a game with normative and pragmatic rules. Each leader tries to enhance their political reputation (leadership) by exhibiting their abilities to undermine their opponents’ credibility and legitimacy. In this zero sum game the winner is the one who is perceived to have performed best. This begs the questions of how some leaders win the game while some others are the losers of the debate. This paper will explore how breaking the rules is part of a strategy (S. Harris) to increase one’s leadership capital (M. Bennister, B. Worthy, P. t’Hart). Leaders will be more or less prone to breaching some of the parliamentary rules, however, they will do so within the boundary of what is acceptable for the audience. Some will want to change some of the rules of the game but nobody seems willing to put the game in jeopardy. Others though try to get out of the game (Ian Blakford for example). The attitude of leaders towards the game is indicative of their place in the Westminster system thereby reflecting their ideological and political position. I will use unparliamentary language as a focus to analyse the leaders’ effort to position themselves in the game and their effort to boost their leadership in such a context.
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Dates et versions

hal-03341903 , version 1 (17-09-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-03341903 , version 1


Stéphane Revillet. The leaders' place in the Westminster system. JUC PAC CONFERENCE 2021 How Place Matetrs? Leadership, Governance and Public administration, Sep 2021, Leicester UK, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-03341903⟩


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