MPs and their constituencies

Judge, David and Partos, Rebecca; Leston-Bandeira, Cristina and Thompson, Louise, eds. (2018) MPs and their constituencies. In: Exploring Parliament. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 264-273. ISBN 9780198788430

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MPs are often accused - especially by the popular press, populist parties and politicians, and by the Twitterati - of living in a 'Westminster bubble'. MPs themselves occasionally casually invoke the term to portray their colleagues at Westminster as insulated and isolated from the daily concerns of the rest of the UK's populace. Yet, this clichéd and caricatured picture fails to capture the routine, indeed institutionalised, representational pinpricks that perpetually puncture this bubble. Every day, MPs in acting as the representatives of their respective geographical areas inject the opinions, concerns and tribulations of their constituents into the workings of parliament. Such representational work is often overlooked or ignored by outside observers and commentators, but in the words of one ex-MP, Paul Burstow (2016), it provides a necessary 'reality check' for all MPs that links them to the lives of those they are elected to represent. Tragically it took the murder of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, while performing her constituency representative role in June 2016 to remind populists and the wider public, all too briefly, that MPs don't inhabit a Westminster-centric bubble but are in fact rooted in localities throughout the UK. This chapter examines, therefore, the dimensions of this constituency representative role: of what 'constituency' means for MPs and their local electorates; and how perceptions of locality affect the work of MPs and the expectations of constituents alike.