5. Are There MPs with Real Career Ambitions?
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56 5. Are There MPs with Real Career Ambitions? chapter five We have been able to determine that there are MPs who have expressed an interest in more prominent positions and that they are a distinguishable group among parliamentarians. This group has what I call potential career ambition. For MPs with potential career ambition to qualify as MPs with “real” career ambitions, additional requirements must be met. According to the definition discussed in Chapter 2, it should be possible to link certain behavior to MPs career ambitions. The purpose of this chapter is therefore to put the spotlight on the MPs’ behavior. Accordingly, in the following section ambition is tested as an explanatory factor in what occurs in and around the parliament. AMBITION AND BEHAVIOR The definition of career ambition does not specify what kind of actions an MP must take for the behavior to be linked to ambition to make a career in politics. I will compare two scenarios, the first involving ambitious MPs whose strategy is to adjust to party norms in order to curry favor with party leadership, and the second involving ambitious MPs who engage in more outward-directed action in order to cultivate a distinct reputation that makes them attractive within the party. I will soon develop my argument, but first something about the state of research. Research on how ambitious MPs behave in party-centric environments is sparse. Swedish researchers have found that once MPs are no longer seeking reelection , they lose interest in their home constituencies (Esaiasson and Holmberg 1996). Lars Davidsson (2006) showed in his thesis that “vulnerable” MPs—that is, MPs at risk of losing their seats—work harder to promote regional issues. These results are interesting because they suggest that MPs assign value to their constituencies differently depending on whether they want to remain in the parliament . However, this says little about what is important to MPs who are seeking a long-term career. Research from the United States shows that politicians who want to advance from the state level to the national scene pursue broader issues to attract more voters. The American research also shows that national representatives who want to continue their political careers adapt their behavior in Congress in order to put are there mps with real career ambitions? 57 themselves in the“right”position in relation to their base (Francis and Kenny 1996, 2000; Hibbing 1986; Treul 2009; Van Der Slik and Pernacciaro 1979). A strong position in the home district is a fundamental prerequisite for American politicians who aspire to career attainment (Box-Steffensmeier et al.2003; Cain,Ferejohn,and Fiorina 1987; Feldman and Jondrow, 1984; McAdams and Johannes 1987; Parker and Parker 1985). The American research has, however, been disputed. Rebekah Herrick, whose criticism was presented in Chapter 2, has argued that American scholars cannot actually say anything about members’ ambitions because the members themselves have not been asked about their future plans. Instead, the researchers’ analyses are based on studies of the members’ behavior, with focus on their willingness to run for office. According to Herrick, much of what scholars claim about the behavior of American members, and which has been linked to ambition, may have been overestimated because the measure of ambition is flawed (Herrick 2001). Overall, one can say that research into the behavior of ambitious politicians in party-centric settings is thin and that American research on political ambition has problems with the operational indicator. In light of these two factors, I will proceed to look at the two aforementioned scenarios. Scenario One: Lie Low In the first scenario, ambitious MPs are people who make an effort to fit in and not stand out. There are recurring descriptions of how MPs picked up by the party leadership have been “spineless” and refrained from voicing their opinion when the party leadership so demanded. One such description can be read in Per Gahrton ’s 1983 thesis, Inside the Riksdag: A Study of Parliamentary Paralysis in Response to a Society in Crisis. Gahrton made a much-discussed attempt to use his notes to systematize impressions of life inside the party during his own tenure in the parliament.1 He argued that total alignment with prevailing party norms was the royal road for those seeking status (1983:68). Gahrton’s work has been criticized for being too speculative (see, e.g., Hagevi 1995). In my search for how the MPs themselves describe the situation in the parliament, however, I have seen...