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By Jonathan Isaby
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It is a few days shy of exactly one year since the first Commons division of this Parliament and with MPs currently enjoying the Whitsun recess, now seems an opportune moment to take stock of how rebellious Conservative MPs have been during this first year of the Parliament.

There has been a total of 286 Commons votes in the year and the most rebellious Tory MP, Phillip Hollobone, has trooped through a division lobby without a Government whip for company on no fewer than 83 occasions.

In analysing the voting behaviour of Conservative MPs, I have two definitions of a rebellious vote:

  • Firstly, 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;
  • Secondly, a narrower definition which considers only votes on matters of substantive government policy, mainly covering government-sponsored legislation or motions – but disregarding votes on Private Member's Business, Ten Minute Rule Bills, and procedural and programme motions.


On the broad definition, the top ten rebels are:

  • 1 Philip Hollobone -  83 rebellions
  • 2 David Nuttall – 57
  • 3 Christopher Chope – 52
  • 4 Peter Bone – 49
  • 5 Philip Davies – 48
  • 6 Richard Shepherd – 44
  • 7 Bill Cash – 37
  • 8 Andrew Turner – 39
  • 9 Bernard Jenkin – 31
  • 10 Julian Lewis – 26

And considering the narrower definition, we get the following list of names:

  • 1 Philip Hollobone – 52 rebellions
  • 2 David Nuttall – 40
  • 3 Philip Davies – 36
  • 4 Andrew Turner – 29
  • 5 Peter Bone – 27
  • 6= Bill Cash – 26
  • 6= Richard Shepherd – 26
  • 8 Christopher Chope – 25
  • 9= Bernard Jenkin – 22
  • 9= Julian Lewis – 22

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that – as in February – both lists contain exactly the same decemvirate, just in a slightly different order.

So which issues have seen the biggest rebellions during this year?

On issues covered just by the broad definition (where Conservative government ministers and whips did not register a view and abstained en masse or divisions which were supposedly free votes), the number of those "rebelling" by not voting with a whip for company went into three figures on several occasions:

  • February 10th 2011: David Davis's motion opposing votes for prisoners – 166 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote
  • April 26th 2011: Dominic Raab's Ten Minute Rule Bill to prohibit strike action without majority support – 121 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote
  • October 13th 2010: Greg Knight's Ten Minute Rule Bill to relax the smoking ban – 115 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote 
  • June 15 2010: Motion to make the backbench business committee serve a Parliament – 76 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote 
  • December 3rd, 2010: Closure motion on Rebecca Harris's Private Member's Bill on Daylight Saving – 75 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote in favour when the Lib Dem government minister answering the debate voted against
  • December 3rd, 2010: Second Reading of Rebecca Harris's Private Member's Bill on Daylight Saving – 66 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote in favour when the Lib Dem government minister answering the debate voted against
  • May 4th 2011: Nadine Dorries' Ten Minute Rule Bill on sex education promoting abstinence – 65 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote 
  • February 11th, 2011: Second Reading of Harriett Baldwin's Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bil – 20 backbench Conservative MPs registered a vote in favour (with Government whips being tellers for the Noes)

On substantive issues, there have been nine divisions which attracted twenty or more rebels:

  • October 13th, 2010:  37 Tory MPs backed an amendment from Douglas Carswell to reduce the UK's EU Budget contribution
  • May 24th, 2011:  30 Tory MPs opposed Chris Heaton-Harris's amendment watering down Mark Reckless's motion opposing UK participation in Eurozone bailouts under the EFSM
  • December 15th, 2010: 27 Tory MPs backed an amendment from Douglas Carswell to the Loans to Ireland Bill to give Parliament the final say on the interest rate on the Irish loan
  • January 11th, 2011: 27 Tory MPs backed an amendment from Bill Cash to the European Union Bill reaffirming the sovreignty of the UK Parliament
  • November 11th, 2010: 25 Tory MPs opposed a motion noting European Union documents relating to co-ordination of economic policy in the EU
  • May 17th, 2011: 21 Tory MPs backed an amendment from John Stevenson to the Localism Bill to oppose electing  mayors using Supplementary Vote
  • October 25th, 2010: 20 Tory MPs backed an amendment from Charles Walker to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill to reduce the size of government in line with the reduction in the size of the Commons
  • February 1st, 2011: 20 Tory MPs backed an amendment from Peter Bone to the European Union Bill to trigger an in/out referendum if people were to vote against a transfer of competency
  • February 15th, 2011: 20 Tory MPs backed a Lords Amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill on having a 40% threshold in the AV referendum

Using that narrow definition of a rebellion, there is now a total of 83 Conservative MPs who have defied the whips at least once.

And overall, covering all 286 divisions, there are just four backbenchers who have a voting record as unblemished as a Tory whip, ie never rebelling on any substantive matters, and voting the same way as ministers and whips or abstaining on most Private Member's Business, Ten Minute Rule Bills, House of Commons Business, programme and procedural motions etc… They are:

  • Helen Grant
  • Sir Alan Haselhurst
  • Guy Opperman
  • Nicholas Soames

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