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Five more things about the boundaries vote

revoltstitle2The media caravan has already moved on, but for the record here are five more observations about the boundaries vote, in increasing order of importance.

1. Not that it really matters but we think the Commons authorities have miscounted.  The result was announced as 334 noes (to which need to be added the two tellers), but we count 335 in the noe lobby (plus two tellers).

2. At 98%, overall turnout of MPs was very high, as you’d expect on a vote that was expected to be close (even if, in practice, it turned out to be less close than rumoured).  All 57 Liberal Democrat MPs turned out to vote against the Conservatives and there was a very healthy turnout of the minor parties (only the DUP were understrength, with six of their eight MPs), and all bar one of these, the Alliance’s Naomi Long, voted against the Government. There was an almost full Labour turnout.  Conservative turnout was marginally lower, suggesting both a handful of abstentions and that not every minister was called back to vote. The latter, in particular, indicates that the whips would have known they were going to lose.

3. There were four Conservative MPs voting with Labour: John Baron, David Davis, Philip Davies and Sir Richard Shepherd.  Rumours that there would be a Full House of the four Conservative Davis/Davies (Davii?) proved unfounded, as David Davies voted with his whips, although Glyn Davies was one of those not to vote.

4. One of the curiosities of this Parliament has been the high level of rebellions seen on both the Lib Dem and Conservative benches. In one sense, this is easily to explain but one aspect of coalition governments is supposed to be that they increase the cohesion of parliamentarians.  After all, if two parties do a deal, but they cannot control their backbenchers to deliver on the deal, what’s the point of the deal?  The Parliament’s early rebellions might, conceivably, have been dismissed as mostly sound and fury, given that none resulted in a defeat. This is not a view that we took – nor, we suspect, one that would have been taken by many of the party whips – because once MPs have developed a habit of rebelling on minor matters they find it much easier to rebel on major ones too, just as they are now doing.  All of this has occurred because of backbench behaviour, because Conservative MPs were not willing to follow their party line in the votes over Lords reform.

5. Part of the point of the Coalition – from the Liberal Democrats’ perspective, at least – was to try to show that hung parliaments were not a bad thing, to get the British used to minority and coalition government.  Liberal Democrats would routinely point out that much of Europe manages perfectly well with coalitions.  True, but in most (all?) of those coalitions, a coalition partner voting against the government and defeating something that was in the coalition agreement would have signalled the end of the coalition.  That we appear to have just carried on, almost as if nothing has happened, indicates that we may still be some way away from having got used to coalition government.

Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart

Published inBritish PoliticsRevolts


  1. Stephen Smith Stephen Smith

    2 thoughts:

    1. I’m struck that Naomi Long voted with the Conservatives. As the one Alliance MP in the party’s history I had expected her to sit with the LibDems, given the two party’s long term alliance, and indeed peers from the Alliance taking the LibDem whip in the Lords. However, she doesn’t and sits on the opposition benches. The one time that the LibDems vote en masse against the Conservatives is the one time that she votes with the Conservatives. Just seems a bit odd.

    2. Doesn’t the carrying-on-as-before despite the split in the coalition on this issue show that the country, or at least the parliamentary system, has adapted very well to coalition. First we were told that coalition would never work at all, then that any form of public difference would lead to the coalition splitting. Whilst they can maintain an agree to disagree attitude towards such differences without impacting on the core of the coalition strategy, doesn’t it illustrate that the model of one party that wins everything, always, isn’t the only form of governance model that can operate in the UK?

    • 1. Agree.
      2. Don’t agree. This isn’t a point about the desirability of one party government but about having a proper coalition.

  2. Reasons I love blogs and twitter. I write something in the morning, and within an hour or so the Labour whips office (@labourwhips) are in touch to explain that Labour, in fact, had 100% turnout of those eligible to vote (254/254). Katy Clark couldn’t vote, because she had chaired the Committee of the Whole House. The same applies to David Amess, Lee Scott & Mike Weir.

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