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Crime and Punishment the British way: Accountability Channels Following the MPs’ Expenses Scandal


  • Valentino Larcinese
  • Indraneel Sircar


Does democracy make politicians accountable? The UK expenses scandal of May 2009 constitutes an ideal setting to answer this question, since it allows credible ceteris paribus comparisons. We show that scandal-related press coverage significantly increased the probability of an MP to retire, reduced vote shares of standing MPs, but did not decrease their re-election probability. We also show that punishment was directed to individual MPs involved in the scandal rather than their parties. An objective monetary measure of malfeasance from an official report explains press coverage but has no independent effect on MPs’ retirement or vote shares. We show that voters perceive co-partisan MPs to be less involved than other MPs. Finally we analyse coverage of the scandal by seven national newspapers and conclude that the press worked as a watchdog by focussing on the government and on frontbenchers of the main opposition party, with little role for ideological leanings. Our study also uncovers a substantial gender bias: ceteris paribus, female MPs received more media attention and, for the same level of media attention, were more likely to stand down.

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  • Valentino Larcinese & Indraneel Sircar, 2014. "Crime and Punishment the British way: Accountability Channels Following the MPs’ Expenses Scandal," Working Papers 517, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:517

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Crime and punishment the British way: how the expenses scandal affected the 2010 general election
      by Joel Suss in British Politics and Policy at LSE on 2015-04-13 20:00:08


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    1. Niklas Potrafke & Felix Rösel, 2016. "A Banana Republic? Trust in Electoral Institutions in Western Democracies - Evidence from a Presidential Election in Austria," CESifo Working Paper Series 6254, CESifo Group Munich.

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