Welcome to Parliament

Chapter 2: The Partisans

The variety of these descriptions was compounded by a third group of MPs that went beyond the trustee/delegate or national/local divisions to emphasize an additional purpose: representing the views of one’s political party. Even so, each described this obligation differently.

Some felt the party and the constituents were the primary groups to balance. “The purpose [of an MP] is to be a leader from your community in the national affairs of the country. On the one hand, you should be listening to the people you represent, and that means whoever is in the community and not just the people who voted for you... [One the other hand], you’ve campaigned on your party’s programs and issues and so you also have an obligation to that,” said one MP.

Others felt that their role was to balance the interests of the country with those of the political party. “I can give you the canned thing of why they tell us we’re there and I can share with you what I believe is the truth. In a nutshell, we’re there to adopt national policy for the betterment of all in the country. The truth is, you’re there to develop policy that is beneficial to your party in order to keep you in power and get you re-elected. That national premise is, kind of, always there, but there is politics involved in everything,” the MP said.

An understanding that re-election was also part of the role was echoed more broadly in other MPs’ remarks as well. “You want to win your seat, [because] if your party wins enough seats, it will be asked to form the government,” said one. “You have to do what you have to do to get re-elected,” said another.

"You have to do what you have to do to get re-elected."

Others described a different balance still, framing the role as one that required navigating among obligations to one’s constituents, political party and party leader. One described it as a hierarchy, “[An MP’s] first purpose is to serve his constituents... Second, whether you like it or not, you belong to a team. I think your loyalty to the values and principles of that political entity [are important]. Third, I think, is loyalty to the leader,” the MP said. For others, it was more straightforward. “You have a mandate to try and implement the things [your party] ran on,” declared another MP.