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The most and least rebellious Conservative backbenchers

By Jonathan Isaby

Since the demise of Philip Cowley's excellent Revolts website, limited attention has been has been paid to the regularity with which backbench MPs have demonstrated their capacity to be independent-minded - or rebellious as the Government Whips Office would consider it.

ConHome has noted significant acts of rebellion by Tory MPs since the Coalition Government came into being, but we are now going to make more of a conscious effort to track backbench behaviour.

Since the new Parliament convened after the general election, there has been a grand total of 95 divisions in the House of Commons and I have been analysing them to establish which Conservative MPs have been voting exactly the way the Whips want - and who has been letting their conscience be overridden by their party loyalty or sense of ambition.

My definition of a rebellious vote is as follows: when an MP votes in a division lobby and not a single government Whip or Minister joins them in the lobby to vote the same way.

Some will argue that this definition is somewhat loose, but since the whipping arrangements are never formally announced, the best way in which an observer can judge the "party line to take" is how the payroll vote (of Ministers, Whips and PPSs) behaves.

The Whips may claim that certain divisions are free votes - on House of Commons matters or occasionally on 10-Minute Rule or Private Member's Bills - but as anyone in Westminster knows, some free votes are more free than others. As such, if the payroll vote has acted in unison in entering one division lobby, I have regarded that as how the Whips wanted MPs to vote and that voting in the other lobby was a rebellious vote.

  • So on this basis, the largest rebellion by Tory MPs thus far was on October 13th, on the 10-Minute Rule Bill introduced by David Nuttall to relax the smoking ban (as covered here on ConHome). Not a single one of the 77 Conservative Ministers or Whips in the House of Commons participated in the division, suggesting that the Whips wanted Tory MPs to sit on their hands and abstain. In the event, 77 voted for the Bill and 38 actively opposed it, notching up 115 acts of rebellion.
  • Also on this basis, the second biggest rebellion was on June 15th when an amendment was tabled proposing that the members of the Commons' backbench business committee should serve for a full Parliament (rather than just one Session). 76 Tories backed the amendment, but the Tellers for the Noes were both Government Whips and all frontbenchers voting in the division voted against the amendment.
  • The third biggest rebellion to date was again on October 13th, when 37 Conservatives were in the division lobby to back Douglas Carswell's amendment calling on the Government to reduce Britain’s EU budget contribution (covered here on ConHome). A further twelve MPs had signed the Carswell amendment but were either unavoidably away from the Westminster at the time of the vote or opted not to back it after being leant on by the Whips.

I gather that in the wake of that rebellion the Chief Whip had a pep talk with members of the new intake to warn them against erring from the party line in future for the good of their careers. This hardly chimes with the message David Cameron put out on February 8th this year when, in a speech entitled "Rebuilding trust in politics", he lamented:

"The Bill gets sent to the House of Commons where it’s debated without diligence – because automatic guillotines cut time short. It’s passed without proper scrutiny – because standing committees for Public Bills are stuffed with puppets of the Government. And it’s voted through without much of a whisper – because MPs have been whipped to follow the party line. We’ve got to give Parliament its teeth back so that people can have pride in it again – so they can look at it and say ‘yes: those MPs we elect – they’re holding the government to account on my behalf’."

Anyhow, here are a few statistics about the most and least rebellious Conservative MPs since the general election.

The most rebellious Tory MPs are (number of rebellious votes in brackets):



  • 1. Philip Hollobone (28)
  • 2. Peter Bone (17)
  • 3. Christopher Chope (15)
  • 3. Philip Davies (15)
  • 3. David Nuttall (15)
  • 6. Bill Cash (13)
  • 7. David Davis (10)
  • 7. Richard Shepherd (10)
  • 9. Bernard Jenkin (9)
  • 10. Douglas Carswell (7)
  • 10. Mark Field (7)
  • 10. Julian Lewis (7)
  • 10. Andrew Turner (7)
  • 10. Charles Walker (7)

The most rebellious of the 2010 intake are...



  • 1. David Nuttall (15)
  • 2. Andrew Percy (6)*
  • 3. Mark Reckless (6)
  • 4. Jacob Rees-Mogg (4)**
  • 5. Karl McCartney (4)
  • 5. Bob Stewart (4)

* Has also twice registered what is effectively a positive abstention by voting in both the Aye and No lobbies.
** Has also registered one positive abstention as described above.

And the following 43 MPs are those who are neither Ministers, Whips, PPSs or party vice-chairmen who have only ever entered a division lobby in the company of the Government Whips. Members of the 2010 intake are marked with an asterisk:

  1. Tony Baldry
  2. Jake Berry*
  3. Karen Bradley*
  4. Dan Byles*
  5. Alun Cairns*
  6. Neil Carmichael*
  7. Tracey Crouch*
  8. Stephen Dorrell
  9. Nadine Dorries
  10. Richard Drax*
  11. Michael Ellis*
  12. Lorraine Fullbrook*
  13. Roger Gale
  14. John Glen*
  15. Richard Graham*
  16. Helen Grant*
  17. Simon Hart*
  18. Sir Alan Haselhurst
  19. Oliver Heald
  20. Kris Hopkins*
  21. Andrew Jones*
  22. Brandon Lewis*
  23. Jonathan Lord*
  24. Stephen McPartland*
  25. Esther McVey*
  26. Sarah Newton*
  27. Jesse Norman*
  28. Guy Opperman*
  29. Mark Pawsey*
  30. Claire Perry*
  31. Mark Pritchard
  32. Dominic Raab*
  33. Sir Malcolm Rifkind
  34. David Ruffley
  35. David Rutley*
  36. Laura Sandys*
  37. Nicholas Soames
  38. Mark Spencer*
  39. Gary Streeter
  40. Julian Sturdy*
  41. David Tredinnick
  42. Heather Wheeler*
  43. Nadhim Zahawi*

> On ConservativeHome tomorrow, Paul Goodman's exclusive and revelatory interview with Government Chief Whip, Patrick McLoughlin MP


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