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What are UK Members of Parliament like?

The views of what UK Members of Parliament are like, or if they’re perceived to be any good, will be influenced by a number of factors.

Being able to satisfy their political party

MPs are almost always elected under a party political label. This raises certain expectations.

The members of a political party in a constituency choose a candidate to stand in the general election. They expect that, if elected, they will follow the policies of that party in Parliamentary votes.  The Conservatives broke with this practice in 2010 with open primaries in two constituencies in which all voters are able to choose the candidate from a shortlist chosen by the local party. This is seen as involving more voters and may lead to different sorts of candidates being chosen.

People can vote for the party not the person

The voters have rarely chosen Independent candidates but vote for a party. Once an MP is elected and becomes known there is generally an incumbency factor. This means they receive a personal vote on top of the support they gain as a representative of a party.

MPs may not have a huge support base

As we have a first past the post system, several parties stand in elections and not everyone votes. An MP may be voted in by a fairly small proportion of the electorate. In Norwich South in 2010 there was a closely fought contest between the three main parties and the Green Candidate.  The winning Liberal Democrat MP had the support of 29% of those who voted. Since only 69% voted, he received the votes of 19% of the electorate.

MPs take seriously the idea that once elected they do represent all of the people that live in their constituency. They try to deal with any issue or problem that constituents make them aware of. MPs also raise issues that affect the constituency as a whole in Parliament.

MPs can’t represent everyone’s views

MPs are able to represent all of their constituents with their individual problems. They can take up issues such as a proposed factory closure or local flooding where there is general agreement that something should be done.

However, they cannot possibly represent everyone when it comes to many policy issues.  For example, in a mixed rural and small town constituency local farmers will support a badger cull because they believe badgers cause TB in cattle. Many other people will be opposed as a matter of principle or because they have been convinced that the evidence for the benefits of a cull are sketchy.

In policy areas where there is not really any room for compromise the MP will have to decide which view to take.