Dramas at Westminster

Select committees and the quest for accountability

By Marc Geddes

Dramas at Westminster


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6042-3
  • Pages: 192
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: September 2021
  • BIC Category: Parliamentary & Legislative Practice, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, British Politics, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, Society & social sciences / Politics & government
  • Series: Political Ethnography


Drawing on three months of research in Westminster, and over forty-five interviews, this book focuses on the everyday practices of Members of Parliament and officials to reveal how parliamentarians perform their scrutiny roles. Some MPs become specialists while others act as lone wolves; some are there to try to defend their party while others want to learn about policy. Amongst these different styles, chairs of committees have to try to reconcile these interpretations and either act as committee-orientated catalysts or attempt to impose order as leadership-orientated chieftains. All of this pushes and pulls scrutiny in competing directions, and tells us that accountability depends on individual beliefs, everyday practices and the negotiation of dilemmas. In this way, MPs and officials create a drama or spectacle of accountability and use their performance on the parliamentary stage to hold government to account.


'Dramas at Westminster tells us a great deal about the public and hidden power of select committees at a time when scrutiny is more vital than it has ever been.'
LSE Review of Books

'Geddes's research stands in a line of powerful and important works that have begun to change our understanding of how Westminster works, what MPs do, how they behave and, most importantly, the kind of 'roles' they perform. '
Democratic Audit UK

'A lively and empathetic book.'
Parliaments, Estates and Representation


1 The quest for accountability
2 Perspectives on Parliament
3 Performing scrutiny
4 Catalysts versus chieftains
5 Hidden servants
6 Scenes of scrutiny
7 Building webs of scrutiny
8 Dramas at Westminster

Annex: Methodological reflections


Marc Geddes is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Edinburgh

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