By Paul Goodman
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The Prime Minister says in the interview:
"If no one who ever voted against the Government [got a] ministerial office … [Iain] Duncan-Smith wouldn’t be in the Cabinet. I think politics has changed, there are people who come with more strong and independent views. It’s difficult in coalition because sometimes you’re coming forward with proposals that your coalition partners are more enthusiastic about than you are.”
Mr Cameron knows the form and is absolutely right. The record rebellion rate among Conservative MPs proves a case that I've long been arguing – namely, that MPs are gradually being transformed from distant elected representatives to local constituency champions. When pulled one way by their constituents and another by the whips, they will now tend to go with the former. (They are also being tranformed into professional politicians, as other news this morning confirms, but that's another story.)
But his bow to the inevitable (or at least to the contemporary) re-raises a huge problem for the Government Whips. There is a presumption that rebelling against the whip on an important vote that isn't a constituency matter only is a bar to promotion. If that presumption is removed or undermined, how are the Whips to stave off big revolts – especially given the culture change that Mr Cameron recognises? The Prime Minister's words were a graceful acknowledgement that there are more big revolts to come.