Justin Kirkland—The Sound of Rebellion: Voting Dissent and Legislative Speech in the UK House of Commons

Justin KirklandNovember 14
Gibson 296

Justin Kirkland, UVA Politics

Using data gathered on the content of all debate associated with divisions (votes) in the UK House of Commons from 1992-2015, this paper examines how government party MPs employ language in legislative speech when they vote against the party line. We first identify words used with higher relative frequency among rebellious MPs. We then predict general rebellion patterns based on MPs’ word usage in debates. We find a robust statistical association between the use of first person pronouns, simpler language, speech length and dissent on votes, indicating that speeches associated with rebellious MPs are marked by a focus on the the MP themselves (over their party), and use language of less technical (and thus, more easily understood by constituents) nature.
Coauthored by Jonathan Slapin (University of Essex).