Ten things we know about Coalition MPs

The coalition’s first birthday has produced a series of retrospectives.  The Institute for Government recently hosted one such event, with two days of analysis and debates, with a host of speakers.

[slideshare id=8513414&doc=parliamentary-parties-1-110705095728-phpapp02]

I talked about behaviour in the parliamentary parties and the slides that accompanied this are above.  Here are my ten key findings:

1. Backbench dissent amongst government MPs is running at a historically high level – with a rebellion in almost one in every two votes in the Commons.

2. This is especially striking once you remember that this is a first session (normally relatively quiet) and even more so once you realise that this is a first session after a change of government (normally extremely quiet).

3. Nor is this just because there is dissent from two parties – the rate for Conservative MPs alone is higher than in any first session since the war, including that of John Major in 1992, when he faced all the Maastricht rebellions.

4. Most of the government rebels (just under three-quarters) are Tories, but this is not surprising given that there have been more Tory rebellions and anyway there are far more Conservative MPs.

5. Similarly, nearly all the most rebellious MPs are Conservatives.  Mike Hancock is the only Lib Dem to make it into the top ten rebels league table.  The rates of rebellion are themselves very high: Philip Hollobone in particular is rebelling at a rate of roughly one rebellion in every four votes.  This is much higher than, say, Jeremy Corbyn under Blair or Brown.

6. But rebellion is much more widespread amongst the Lib Dems.  Just about a quarter of Conservative MPs have rebelled; over half of Lib Dems have done so.  Once you factor in the size of the Lib Dem frontbench, there are now very few Lib Dem backbenchers who have not rebelled.

7. The good news for the whips is that the two wobbly wings of the coalition rarely rebel at the same time: just one in five of the rebellions to date has seen a rebellion by both Lib Dem and Conservative MPs.

8. And this is because they rebel on very different issues.  Around 70 per cent of Lib Dem rebellions are on social policy (broadly defined).  Around 70 per cent of Conservative rebellions are on constitutional policy (broadly defined).

9. Of this last category, a big chunk (one in five of all Conservative rebellions) has been on Europe.  These are double the average size of all Conservative rebellions.

10. And lastly, this is just the first session, which is normally the calm before the storm.  Wait till we get the storm.

Philip Cowley

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