Thomas Däubler
National policy for local reasons: how MPs represent party and geographical constituency through initiatives on social security

Acta Politica, 2020: 55, issue 3, pp. 472–491
ISSN: 0001-6810 (print); 1741-1416 (online)

In parliamentary systems of government, dyadic representation between MP and geographical constituency is considered to be of secondary importance and is typically understood as work related to particularised issues (e.g. constituency service, “pork” allocation and local matters). This paper argues that personal representation need not be particularistic. It may also come in the form of attention to national policy for local reasons, when issue salience varies across geographical constituencies due to the number of affected people or problem severity. The specific focus of the study lies on private members’ bills related to social security (pensions, unemployment, welfare). These three policies differ, among other things, in their alignment with class divisions and their link to the economic left–right dimension. They therefore allow for studying how both the party constituency and the geographical constituency shape MPs’ legislative work. The article develops specific predictions regarding how left–right position, electoral support among the affected group, and district-level recipient numbers affect legislative activity in the three policy fields. The empirical analysis uses data from Belgium (1999–2007). The results suggest that Belgian MPs represent party and geographical constituency in the case of pensions and unemployment benefits, but not in the same way as when it comes to social welfare.