Conceptual Controversies in Parliament— ‘Politics’ in the House of Commons

This section illustrates the central conceptual cluster of our book, namely, controversies over ‘politics’ presented in Chapter 2. The first example (see 4.2.1) is an analysis of uses of concepts as historical and controversial entities, which are not necessarily problematicised explicitly in the debate, but which still mark central dividing lines. Reinhart Koselleck (1996) called such concepts ‘pivots’, around which the disputes turn. The second case study (4.2.2) focuses on one of the four aspects of politics, namely the use of ‘politicking’.

Our analytical scheme for the use of politics in specific debates is sketched out in Chapter 1 as a typology of four aspects of politics. In this section it is first developed further for the purpose of using it in the analysis of the parliamentary debates.

The debates analysed here, as in the Section 4.1, are those of the British parliament, as available in the Hansard debates from 1803 to 2005. The first case study focuses on a thematic concept, the constitutional debates of the post-war era under the Labour government of Clement Attlee, and includes an analysis of the different polit-words, with the main focus on the epithets for the adjective ‘political’, offering a sample of the spectrum of the conceptual horizons of what is ‘political’ in that period and in that type of debate. Whereas we use the concept of politicking in a purely formal manner in the scheme of Chapter 1, the most common usage in the British everyday language has been pejorative, and this holds also for the debates among the MPs. The period studied in that section encompasses the period from 1945 to 2005, as documented in the Hansard. The analyses are focused on the nuances and deviations from the pejorative usage of politicking, on the willingness of MPs to adopt it to their usage, and whereby politicking is shown to express something important for the understanding of politics.

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