Arthur Spirling (Government)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS Knafel 354 (

 Arthur Spirling is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, in the Department of Government at Harvard University where he also directs the Program on Text Research.

Professor Spirling's talk is entitled Party Cohesion in Westminster Systems: Inducements, Replacement and Discipline in the House of Commons, 1836--1910.


We consider the historical development of a characteristic crucial for the functioning
and normative appeal of Westminster systems: cohesive legislative parties. To do this,
we gather the universe of the twenty thousand parliamentary divisions that took place
between 1836 and 1910 in the British House of Commons, construct a voting record for
every Member of Parliament serving during this time, and carry out analysis that aims
to both describe and explain the development of cohesive party voting. In line with
previous work, we show that|with the exception of a chaotic period in the 1840s and
1850s|median discipline was always high and increased throughout the century, with
an obvious uptick around 1868. We use novel methods to show that much of the rise in
cohesion results from the elimination of a rebellious `left tail' from the 1860s onwards,
rather than central tendency shifts. In explaining the aggregate trends, we use panel
data techniques to show that there is scant evidence for `replacement' explanations
that involve new intakes of members behaving in more disciplined ways than those
leaving the chamber. We oer evidence that more loyal MPs were more likely to obtain
ministerial posts, and speculate that this and other `inducement'-based accounts oer

more promising explanations of increasingly cohesive parties.

You can download the associated paper below, or find it on Professor Spirling's website:

cohesion.pdf391.5 KB