One of the most striking features about the House of Commons after the 2010 election was the number of newly-elected MPs. A full 36% of the House was newly-elected, including 48% of Conservative MPs. In the past, newly elected MPs have tended to be relatively acquiescent – at least to begin with – but one of the most striking features about the behaviour of the 2010 cohort, especially on the Conservative side, is how troublesome they have been.
In absolute terms, more Conservative newbies have rebelled (46) compared to Labour ones (21) or the Lib Dems (7). In percentage terms, while 31% of new Tory MPs have now rebelled, 33% of Labour ones have done so, with the highest percentage of newbie rebels located among the Liberal Democrats: although there are only 10 newly elected Lib Dem MPs, a full 70% have defied the party whip.
But these headline figures mask an important difference in terms of dissent by the new MPs of the three main parties. Between them, the newbie Tory rebels have cast a whopping 249 rebellious votes, compared with a modest 23 for Labour, and only a slightly higher number, 27, for the Liberal Democrats.
Tory newcomers have accounted for 31% of rebellious votes cast by all Conservative MPs, compared with a tiny 5% for Labour, and 15% for the Liberal Democrats. The top Labour newbie rebel, Yasmin Qureshi, has accrued only five dissenting votes. Even the top Liberal Democrat newcomer, David Ward, can boast 11 rebellions. But the top Conservative newbie rebel, David Nuttall, has amassed 54 rebellions.
Nuttall is only the most rebellious of a rebellious cohort. The top ten Conservative new MPs are:
David Nuttall: 54
Andrew Percy: 23
Mark Reckless: 21
Zac Goldsmith: 17
Richard Drax: 12
Jacob Rees-Mogg: 11
Gordon Henderson: 10
Jason McCartney: 10
Martin Vickers: 10
Steve Baker: 9
Together, these top ten Tories account for more than seven in ten (71%) of the dissenting votes cast by Conservative newcomers; and they account for more than one in five (22%) of Conservative rebellious votes cast thus far this Parliament.
As well as trouble from the old guard – many of whom have serious doubts about the Conservative leadership – David Cameron’s whips therefore are also confronted by a hardcore of highly rebellious newcomers.