Crime and Punishment the British Way: Accountability Channels Following the MPs' Expenses Scandal
47 Pages Posted: 8 May 2013
Date Written: 2012
The scandal that erupted in the UK in May 2009 - concerning MPs' abuses of the expenses allowance system - constitutes an ideal setting to study mechanisms of democratic accountability. We show that scandal-related press coverage significantly increased the probability of an MP to retire, reduced vote shares of standing MPs but not their re-election probability. Punishment was directed to individual MPs involved in the scandal rather than their parties. A monetary measure of malfeasance contributes to explain press coverage but has no independent effect on MPs' retirement or vote shares. Survey data help us uncover several patterns on individual perceptions of the scandal and on voting behaviour. An analysis of newspapers' coverage of the scandal reveal that it focussed on the government and on frontbenchers of the main opposition party, with little role for ideological leanings. We provide evidence that female MPs have been more vulnerable during the scandal.
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