restricted access 4. Which MPs Aspire to High Positions?
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37 4. Which MPs Aspire to High Positions? chapter four A number of MPs report that they would personally like to have more prominent political positions. At this stage of the study, we could say that these individuals are “potentially ambitious” MPs. In this chapter I will bring greater clarity to the question of whether there is any substance to the MPs’ answers in order to assess the strength of this potential. One way to discover whether the MPs meant something beyond that the position (s) seemed intriguing when they ticked the boxes next to the more prominent positions on the survey is to look for any systematic classification in the material. There is no clear-cut way to perform such a search or any particular way that is best. My approach to the problem is to ask if there are any common attributes among the potentially ambitious MPs.By common attributes I mean circumstances connected to factors earlier in the parliamentarians’ lives. Expressed in statistical terminology, you might say that I am looking for determinants that make it possible to predict which MPs have potential career ambitions. If a connection is found between potentially ambitious MPs and their previous experiences, it will be considered evidence that efforts to attain influential positions are related to more fundamental factors among the MPs and that the MPs who reported interest in future positions are expressing more than a passing fancy for a particular job. If we return to the model presented in Chapter 1 for how career ambition will be studied, ambition is regarded as a dependent variable in this part of the analysis. CAREER AMBITION AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION The point of departure for this chapter is that ambition can be seen as a form of political participation—at a high political level. Studies of and surrounding political participation are in most cases undertaken at the citizen level and apply to which citizens are interested in or already participating in various political activities (voting, protesting, party membership, etc.; see, e.g., Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995). In this case, we are studying the interest of the political elite in participating at the highest political level. 38 chapter four So, which MPs aspire to the most prominent positions in our political system? What I want to know is whether we can take the insights gained into civil political participation in general and find corresponding patterns among citizens at the elite level—our members of parliament. Civil political participation is closely correlated to socioeconomic conditions. The connection between political participation and socioeconomic status is one of the most stable political science has to offer and is a firmly established field of social science research. Studies that highlighted the relationship between social position and political participation had already been undertaken by early in the twentiethcentury (Siegfried 1913; Sorokin 1927; Tingsten 1937). Among current researchers preoccupied with political participation, pointing out the strong correlation between socioeconomic conditions and people who are politically engaged has become something of a truism: “If we look for natural laws in the social sciences , the positive correlation between citizens’ social and economic position and their political participation comes immediately to mind” (Gilljam 2003:203). It is, in other words, more likely that a politically engaged person will be highly educated and work at a high-paying job than the opposite—a correlation that recurs regardless of which part of the world we are studying (Norris 1996). One of the things research has been able to show thus far concerning career ambition and its prerequisites is that ambitious politicians are more likely to run in elections where they can avoid an incumbent opponent, and also in electoral districts with professional organizations and a constituency that favors their party (see, e.g., Black 1972; Eulau and Prewitt 1973; Kazee 1994; Moncrief, Squire, and Jewell 2001; Rohde 1979; Stone and Maisel 2003). From this perspective, politicians should primarily be understood as strategic actors whose ambitions are manifested under favorable circumstances.1 In a world of self-interested and rational actors, ambition is merely an expression of when it is strategically right to make a play for career advancement. My thinking, however, is that if there is a connection between the MPs’ resources and ambitions, it would imply that the connection is affected by factors related to more than merely strategic decisions. This would in turn have repercussions on the validity of the survey. In the event that there is a pattern between...