A crisis of parliament

Judge, David; Richards, David and Smith, Martin and Hay, Colin, eds. (2014) A crisis of parliament. In: Institutional Crisis in 21st Century Britain. Understanding Governance (1st). Palgrave, London, pp. 81-100. ISBN 9781137334381

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In this chapter the institution of Parliament is located within the broader ideational frames of parliamentarism and parliamentary democracy in order to examine the contestability of the notion of parliamentary crisis in the UK. Various dimensions of crisis are analysed: a ‘crisis of public confidence’ in the institution of parliament; a ‘crisis of parliamentarism’ as a system of government posed by governance theories, and a ‘crisis of parliamentary representation’ rooted in attitudinal changes and reappraisals of political representation which assert the democratic legitimacy of nonelectoral representation and representative claim making. The concepts of legitimacy and legitimation are threaded through the analysis: as both are central to any understanding of the institutional purpose and standing of parliament, as well as to a conceptualisation of crisis. The argument is advanced that if there is a parliamentary crisis, or a series of interconnected crises, then it might well be that what the UK is witnessing is a conceptual crisis: a crisis that stems from the counter-positioning of established notions of representative democracy and legitimacy derived from electoral processes against countervailing conceptions of governance, democratic representation and representative claims which are not focused upon, or do not privilege, the institutional form of parliament or electoral representation.