Cambo Chained

cover_2013We’ve been producing end-of session reports on the behaviour of government MPs at Westminster for almost a decade. Last year’s was a record-breaker: Coalition MPs rebelling more often than MPs in any other session since 1945. This morning we’ve launched the report on the 2012-13 session. It tells a more nuanced story, but with plenty to concern the party whips:

1.    A rebellion in 27% of divisions, down from the 44% in the last session. But still relatively high for the post-war period.

2.    Conservative MPs have broken ranks in 19% of divisions (down from 28% in the 2010-12 session), Lib Dem MPs have done so in 15% (down from 24% in the 2010-12 session). So the decline in rebelliousness has been equal (down nine points for the Conservatives and nine for the Lib Dems) for both parts of the Coalition. The figure for the Conservatives alone is still higher than for all but seven sessions of Conservative government during the post-war era.

3.    And the Parliament still remains on course to be the most rebellious since 1945. Even if the rate of rebellion drops again by half – down to a rate of around 13% – in the remaining two sessions, we would expect the overall total for the Parliament to be 29%, still (just) enough to make it the most rebellious in the post-war era.

4.    Why’s it down? Several reasons, but a key one was the withdrawal – under fire – of House of Lords reform. This had the effect of removing considerable combustible material from the Government’s legislative programme. Had (somehow) that Bill gone ahead, past Second Reading, we would be reporting a considerably higher number of rebellions.

5.    A total of 185 Coalition MPs have voted against their whip so far during the Parliament. Most (148) of these are Conservatives; the most rebellious nine Coalition rebels are Conservatives, headed by Philip Hollobone, who was also the most rebellious in the last session. He has now voted against his whip 129 times since the election in 2010.

6.    Of these 185 MPs, 144 rebelled during the 2012-13 session, and there was a very strong (0.79) relationship between behaviour in the two sessions of the Parliament.

7.    Of the 148 Conservative rebels, 90 (or six in ten) are from the 2010 intake, and of Conservative members of the 2010 intake who have been on the backbenches throughout the Parliament some 85% have now rebelled.

8.    And on the Lib Dem side of the Coalition once you exclude those Lib Dem MPs who are or were at some point members of the payroll vote, either as ministers or parliamentary private secretaries, and thus expected to remain loyal to the government, there is now not a single Lib Dem MP who has been on the backbenches throughout the Parliament and who has remained loyal to the party whip.

9.    The government still win most votes easily – the median majority in whipped votes this sesson was 71. But close run things are becoming slightly more common (in its first 24 months in power the government’s majority only fell below 50 on 22 occasions; in the last twelve months it has fallen below 50 on 17 occasions).

10.    And, crucially, David Cameron has now joined the list of Prime Ministers defeated in the House of Commons as a result of their own MPs rebelling, a line which dates back unbroken to Edward Heath.

Download the full report.

Philip Cowley

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