By Matthew Barrett
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Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart of the University of Nottingham have released a new pamplet - "The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions", which documents the 239 backbench rebellions so far in this Parliament, in which 544 votes have been held.
The pamplet takes us from the first rebellion, on the government’s control of time in the Commons, to the last, on Sunday Trading during the Olympics. This Parliament has seen more rebellions by government MPs than in any other session in the post-war era. As "The Bumper Book" says, "It comfortably beats the previous record of 128, held by Conservative MPs in the 1971-72 session. Indeed, a figure of 239 is higher than all but three entire post-war parliaments."
In fact, there were more rebellions in the last two years than there were between 1945 and 1966 – a period which saw six Prime Ministers and six parliaments. On a different measure, the "relative rate of rebellion", this session's 239 rebellions constitute a rebellion by Coalition MPs in 44% of divisions, which is a record in post-war parliaments. The 44% figure can be broken down further: Conservative MPs have rebelled in 28% of votes, while Lib Dems have rebelled in 24% of votes.
It is also notable how much of a contrast there is between the 2010-12 session and most first sessions in a parliament. As the pamplet says: "The rebellion rate for coalition MPs collectively is way above all other first sessions in the post-war era (the previous record was 28%, for Labour MPs in the 2005-6 session, as the party entered its third, and most troublesome, parliament under Tony Blair)".
Another stark figure from the pamphlet is that 153 Coalition MPs – 119 Conservatives – have rebelled, and eight of the top ten rebels are Conservatives. The most rebellious backbencher is Philip Hollobone, who rebels every five votes. The pamplet says: "This is a much higher rate than, say, Jeremy Corbyn or Dennis Skinner, during the Blair or Brown premierships, and represents a serious fracture from the party leadership." A promising note for those who value independent parliamentarians is that the future is bright: 60% of Conservative rebels are from the new intake.
While "The Bumper Book" reminds us that the largest rebellion of Conservative MPs took place on the issue of a referendum late last year, it's also worth noting that the largest Lib Dem rebellion – over the issue of university tuition fees – constituted a larger rebellion than for the Tories over Europe, and in the session as a whole, 60% of Lib Dem MPs have rebelled.
The fact that the Government has yet to be seriously threatened by rebellions is explained by the fact that the average Conservative rebellion consists of just eight MPs. It could also be explained by the fact that nearly half (49%) of Conservative rebellions are on constitutional policy – including 18% on Europe – rather than the key issues like the economy.
Perhaps the most interesting thing of note for students of the parliamentary Conservative Party is a list of the MPs who have rebelled most frequently. I have listed those with more than ten rebellions below:
It should be noted that the five most rebellious MPs – Hollobone, Bone, Chope, Davies and Nuttall are precisely the same give Jonathan Isaby identified in October 2010.
The full "The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions" can be read here.