Credible Governance? Transparency, Political Control, the Personal Vote, and British Quangos

Political Studies, Forthcoming

39 Pages Posted: 16 May 2007

See all articles by Anthony M. Bertelli

Anthony M. Bertelli

Pennsylvania State University; Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals - IBEI


This paper claims that special purpose independent agencies such as quangos provide an avenue for understanding the personal vote and political control of administrative policymaking in Britain. Quangos make policies that directly influence particularistic concerns in an MP's constituency, generating incentives for MPs to meddle with their independence in order to capture the personal vote. A division of labor within the governing party relies on backbench MPs to sound fire alarms (McCubbins and Schwartz 1984) when their constituents find fault with quango activities. Once the alarms are sounded, the government has the incentive to manipulate quangos' independence, for example, by making their decisionmaking transparent to provide information for the fire alarm mechanism in the future. This manipulation draws from the government's stock of political capital gained from a supportive electorate. Statistical analysis of transparency in British executive non-departmental public bodies from 2002-2005, suggests that increases in backbench salience (personal vote) and public satisfaction with government (government strength) increase the transparency by which quangos make decisions, thus decreasing their independence. Public satisfaction with the status quo of public service provision, by contrast, decreases transparency, increasing independence. These results suggest that far from being independent, quasigovernmental organizations are subject to political control.

Keywords: independent agencies, credible commitments, agency, governance, british politics, political control

JEL Classification: H11, L51

Suggested Citation

Bertelli, Anthony M., Credible Governance? Transparency, Political Control, the Personal Vote, and British Quangos. Political Studies, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Anthony M. Bertelli (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park, PA 16802-3306
United States


Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals - IBEI ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005

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