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By Jonathan Isaby

I haven't done an overall audit of Tory backbench rebellions since before Christmas – two months ago – so with the Commons having broken up for its half-term recess yesterday, now seems a timely moment to take stock.

For a while my friends in the Government Whips' Office have been taking issue with my definition of what constitutes a rebellion: I have been using a broad definition taking into account every division and regarding a rebellious vote as any where an MP walks through a division lobby without a single government minister or whip for company. They say that this is unfair for several reasons, including the fact that backbenchers vote on ten minute rule bills, whereas ministers do not; and that including votes on House of Commons business and other areas where backbenchers technically have a free vote also clouds the figures.

So from now on I will provide two league tables:

  • One covering a narrower definition of rebellions, only considering votes on substantive issues of government policy, i.e. excluding private member's bills, ten minute rule bills, programme and closure motions, money resolutions and free votes.
  • A second using my traditional broad definition, covering all divisions.

Since my last post on the matter, the biggest backbench rebellions have been:

  • December 15th 2010 – 27 MPs voted for Douglas Carswell's amendment to the Loans to Ireland Bill give Parliament the final say on the interest rate on the Irish loan.
  • January 11th 2011 – 27 MPs voted for Bill Cash's amendment to the European Union Bill reaffirming the sovreignty of the UK Parliament.
  • February 1st 2011 – 20 MPs voted for Peter Bone's amendment to the European Union Bill to trigger an in/out referendum if people vote against a transfer of competency.
  • February 11th 2011 – 20 MPs voted for the Second Reading of Harriett Baldwin's Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill, a Private Member's Bill where Government Whips acted as tellers for the Noes.
  • February 15th and 16th 2011 – 20 MPs, then 18 MPs, voted to agree with the Lords Amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill on having a 40% threshold in the AV referendum.
  • February 9th 2011 – 19 MPs voted (in a deferred division, ie a vote by ballot rather than trooping through the lobbies) against a motion noting an EU document establishing a European financial stabilisation mechanism.
  • January 24th 2011 – 18 MPs voted for James Clappison's amendment to the European Union Bill to make Parliament decide when a transfer of power to the EU requires a referendum

So where does this leave the running totals of who is being most rebellious?

On the narrow definition:

  • 1 Philip Hollobone – 45 rebellious votes
  • 2 David Nuttall – 34
  • 3= Philip Davies – 27
  • 3= Andrew Turner – 27
  • 5= Peter Bone – 24
  • 5= Richard Shepherd – 24
  • 7 Christopher Chope – 23
  • 8 Bill Cash – 22
  • 9= Bernard Jenkin – 20
  • 9= Julian Lewis – 20

On the broad definition (with positions compared with my December 15th table):

  • 1 (-) Philip Hollobone – 68 rebellious votes
  • 2 (-) David Nuttall – 46
  • 3 (+2) Christopher Chope – 45
  • 4 (+2) Richard Shepherd – 41
  • 5 (-1) Peter Bone – 39
  • 6 (-3) Philip Davies – 38
  • 7 (-1) Andrew Turner – 31
  • 8 (-) Bill Cash – 30
  • 9 (-) Bernard Jenkin – 27
  • 10 (New) Julian Lewis – 23

You will note that this is exactly the same ten MPs, just in a slightly different order.

Outside of the top ten, there are a few names who appear to have become more rebellious of late for whatever reason. Using the narrow definition, since Christmas:

  • James Clappison has cast eight votes against the Government, when he had rebelled just four times in the first seven months of the Parliament.
  • Anne Main has cast eight votes against the Government, when she had rebelled just three times in the first seven months of the Parliament.
  • Richard Drax has cast five votes against the Government, when he had rebelled just twice in the first seven months of the Parliament.
  • John Whittingdale has cast four votes against the Government, when he had rebelled just twice in the first seven months of the Parliament.
  • Andrew Bridgen has cast three votes against the Government, when he had rebelled just twice in the first seven months of the Parliament.
  • Sarah Wollaston has cast two votes against the Government (in the last week in fact, on AV thresholds), when she had rebelled just twice in the first seven months of the Parliament. She wrote a piece for the Guardian just a week ago explaining that she refused a job as a PPS in order to stop herself from being gagged as part of the payroll vote.
  • The Cornish triumverate of George Eustice, Sheryll Murray and Sarah Newton all cast two votes against the Government last week on the issue of variation of the quota or constituency size, in an effort to stop a constituency being created that crosses the Devon-Cornwall border. In all three cases their only previous rebellion was on the same issue back in November. 
  • Chris Kelly, Mark Pritchard and Sir John Stanley have all cast their first votes against the Government.

Since the general election, a total of 78 backbench Conservative MPs have now rebelled against the Government at least once on matters of substantive government policy.

Taking the broader definition, there are now just nine Conservative MPs outside the payroll vote (which includes PPSs) whose voting record is identlcal to that of a minister, ie never voting in a division lobby without a minister or whip for company and abstaining on issues such as votes for prisoners and ten minute rule bills etc. They are:

  • Helen Grant
  • Sir Alan Haselhurst
  • Kris Hopkins
  • Jonathan Lord
  • Stephen McPartland
  • Jesse Norman
  • Guy Opperman
  • Nicholas Soames
  • Mark Spencer

13 comments for: An audit of rebelliousness on the Tory backbenches since Christmas

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