Members of Parliament have a dual but not necessarily incompatible existence. They are in most cases elected under a party label. As we saw in Chapter 10, parties fulfil the role of general representation, aggregating the views of large sections of the population. As such, this form of representation transcends individual constituencies. MPs, as party members, are part of a body that links them with like-minded members, and they generally operate as a collective entity. However, each MP is also elected to represent a particular constituency. Members thus fulfil the role of specific representation, defending and pursuing the interests of individuals and groups within their constituencies. (They may, and do, promote the interests of groups unconnected with, or not confined to, their constituencies, and we shall address this in the next chapter.) Our concern in this chapter is the representation of constituents, which is generally an individual rather than a collective exercise, though MPs from constituencies with a shared interest may work together to defend and promote that interest. Over the years, demands made of members by constituents have changed in nature and increased in volume. Members have sought to meet those demands and have done so in various ways.
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