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

Listed author(s):
  • 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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Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 517.

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Date of creation: 2014
Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:517
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  1. Larcinese, Valentino & Puglisi, Riccardo & Snyder, James M., 2011. "Partisan bias in economic news: Evidence on the agenda-setting behavior of U.S. newspapers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1178-1189.
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  12. Oliver Latham, 2015. "Lame Ducks and the Media," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(589), pages 1918-1951, December.
  13. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan, 2008. "Exposing Corrupt Politicians: The Effects of Brazil's Publicly Released Audits on Electoral Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 703-745.
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  26. Charles Pattie & Ron Johnston, 2012. "The Electoral Impact of the UK 2009 MPs' Expenses Scandal," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 60(4), pages 730-750, December.
  27. repec:cup:apsrev:v:74:y:1980:i:03:p:697-708_16 is not listed on IDEAS
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