Making ‘politics’ relevant: How constituents and a Member of Parliament raise political topics at constituency surgeries

2018-08-14T11:30:58Z (GMT) by Emily Hofstetter Elizabeth Stokoe
This paper investigates an area of political discourse that has hitherto existed in an analytic ‘black box’: the constituency office. We focus on the interactions between ordinary British people as they engage directly in ‘political’ discussions with their Member of Parliament. While the majority of surgery talk surrounds complaints about services, we focus on sequences of talk in which either citizens or the MP make ‘political’ topics relevant. Eighty consultations were video-recorded, anonymized and transcribed, and the data analysed using conversation analysis. We found that MP-initiated political comments portray the government as aligned with constituents’ needs, whereas constituents use political comments largely to criticize the government. Constituents privilege the interactional contingencies over other issues. Overall, the paper contributes to our understanding of how constituents navigate interactional and political contingencies in interactions with their representative.