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Panel 4 – Accountability, Deliberation and Democratization

Prof Joni Lovenduski

Title: Gender and Ritual in the House of Commons


Prime Ministers Questions (PMQ) at Westminster is a clash between party leaders conducted according to conventions that are quite theatrical, that not only amplify the differences between government and opposition but also determines the responses available to MPs which include exaggerated outrage, unwarranted laughter, braying and other noisy heckling the choreography of which was refined over decades. The style of the performances including those of the audience is reminiscent of Edwardian music halls and still found at British Christmas pantomimes. It is a set piece of parliamentary life that affects the reputations of its performers and is closely followed by the various political media, attended by other government ministers and backbench MPs. This political ritual is gendered, and is part of the apparatus whereby the Westminster gender regime is maintained, albeit to less effect than previously. The paper explores differences between women and men in parliament and the electorate in terms of their attitudes to and experiences of PMQ. It uses new survey evidence and interview data collected in the course of the Leverhulme GCRP programme and reanalyses previous interviews of parliamentarians to map the gendered dimensions of this famous Westminster ritual.

Victoria Ann Hasson

Title: Proceduralising the Plenary as a Public Sphere: the Role of Private Member’s Motions in the Parliament of South Africa 1970—2009


Taking a deliberative approach to the study of parliament draws attention to the practices and procedures that underpin parliamentary deliberation. It also draws attention to the importance of the plenary as a deliberative forum that enables members to engage with one another on key social issues on an open and inclusive basis, and contribute to the way parliament lives up to its liberal constitutional role within a democracy. The aim of this paper is to examine the role and development of private members’ motions as a traditional and proceduralised mechanism for deliberation in the parliament of South Africa from 1970 – 2009. The paper finds that there has been a significant change to the way this traditional deliberative mechanism has since 1994 been proceduralised and practised in the parliament of the new South Africa, with implications for both the inclusivity of the plenary as a deliberative forum and the extent to which the institution lives up to it’s constitutional role as a platform for public consideration of issues.


Dr Carole Spary

Title: Disrupting Deliberation? Comparing Repertoires of Parliamentary Representation

Co-authored Dr Faith Armitage and Dr Rachel Johnson


Disruptive performances by legislators during parliamentary debates raise pertinent questions for theorists of deliberation, representation and democratic politics. Disruption highlights the tension representatives may experience between formal proceduralism, conventional norms of deliberation, and a more agonistic, agitated form of political representation. Disruptive performances in the debating chamber illustrate how MPs both resist and negotiate institutional pressure to conform to these formally ritualised norms and rules of debate. Yet, this paper shows that just as legislative norms of debate vary across these national settings and over time, so do the norms, narratives and justifications of disruption, as well as the dominant form disruptive performances take. Disruptions to debates in the chamber by MPs have occurred in one form or another in the parliaments of India, South Africa, and the UK, but vary significantly in their severity, frequency, the form they take, the institutional responses they generate, and the power struggles they symbolise. Comparing institutional manifestations of disruptive acts across legislatures raises broader questions of why are more disruptive forms of protest tolerated in some legislatives contexts but not in others; and how and why do they emerge in the first place. Analysing disruptive performances of representation can tell us about the power configurations within particular legislative institutions as well as how institutionally (in)appropriate repertoires of performing representation have developed historically, and also how they may change over time as a result of broader shifts in democratic politics.