In this afternoon’s defeat on the amendment intended to prevent prorogation of Parliament, 17 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government, while several ministers did not vote. One minister – Margot James – resigned after rebelling. The Government lost by 315-274.
Here are the 17 rebels:
James’s resignation adds one to the tally of the ‘awkward squad’ a new Prime Minister will have to tackle – and it is that factor, and how it erodes the Government’s majority, which raises the chances of a General Election, more than an obstacle to prorogation in itself.
One Labour MP, Kate Hoey, rebelled to vote with the Government. Ian Austin, a former Labour MP sitting as an independent, voted the same way.
As ever, we must be careful in how we report on those who do not vote. Not voting is not necessarily a deliberate abstention. Sometimes MPs are ill or absent with family crises, ministers in particular often have aspects of their jobs that take them away from Westminster or out of the country without permission, and so on.
There are at least two such examples today. Karen Bradley didn’t vote, but she is in Northern Ireland on a planned trip. Jeremy Hunt didn’t vote either, but he reportedly has official permission from the Whips due to the leadership contest (Boris Johnson has this permission too, but he did vote with the Government nonetheless). [Update: it now seems Hunt did not have permission, but in fact did not.]
However, we do know that some Cabinet ministers are willing to deliberately defy the whip, and openly snub collective responsibility. I warned when they first did so back in March that allowing it to pass without consequence would simply lead to further breaches, and it seems almost certain that this is what has happened.
Of those senior ministers who defied the whip in March, David Mundell and Amber Rudd fell into line and obeyed it today, while Greg Clark and David Gauke repeated their stand and did not vote. They were joined in their absence by Alan Duncan, Rory Stewart, and, most outrageously of all, Philip Hammond.
It’s hard to imagine a starker illustration of the utter dysfunction the May era has wrought than a Chancellor of the Exchequer junking collective responsibility while hanging onto office for as long as possible. Strangely the Prime Minister’s ‘final speech’ yesterday on the topic of “the state of politics” did not reflect on her own contribution to the problem.