Embargoed until 00.

01 3 June 2014


Introductory text from:


The four year itch


Or: Dissension amongst the
Coalition’s Parliamentary Parties,
2013-2014:
A Data Handbook





Philip Cowley




And
Mark Stuart
2

Introduction

The third session of the 2010 Parliament lasted from 8 May 2013 to 14 May 2014. In
that time there were some 280 divisions (votes) in the House of Commons. Of these,
there were rebellions by Coalition MPs in 88 divisions, covering a wide range of issues
and bills, from Europe (repeatedly) to High Speed Rail, from lobbying to tobacco, and
from Syria to the badger cull.

In absolute terms, a figure of 88 rebellions by government MPs might seem low. It
certainly pales by comparison with the first session of this parliament, which saw some
239 rebellions by Coalition MPs. But the comparison is not valid. In order to
accommodate the changes to a fixed-term Parliament, the first session of the 2010
Parliament lasted two years, a full 290 sitting days, longer than any session since 1945.
More relevantly, it is an increase on the last session (some 61 rebellions) and in longer
perspective a figure of 88 rebellions looks relatively high. Out of the 68 post-war
sessions before the 2013-14 session there were just six that saw a larger number of
rebellions by government MPs.

A more useful measure is the relative rate of rebellion, to take into account the number
of divisions that occur in a session. As a percentage of divisions, the 88 rebellions in the
2013-14 session constitute a rebellion by coalition MPs in 31% of divisions. Again, whilst
a clear drop from the 44% witnessed in the first session of this Parliament, this is
marginally up on the last session (27%); and seen in a longer historical perspective a
figure of 31% is relatively high for the post-war period. It tops the comparable figure for
all but five post-war sessions. The session of 2010-12 aside, only one Conservative
Prime Minister has experienced a session with a higher level of dissent (that is, Edward
Heath), and he only experienced it for one session (between 1971-72). David Cameron
and his whips have now experienced roughly this level of dissent or worse for four years.

If we break down the overall figure of 31% into its two component parts, Conservative
MPs have broken ranks in 24% of divisions (up from 19% in the last session, but still
lower than the 28% in the 2010-12 session), Lib Dem MPs have done so in 17%
(marginally up from 15% in the last session, and still down from 24% in the 2010-12
session). These two figures sum to more than 31%, because of some votes in which
both parties have seen dissent (something considered further below).

Even these separate figures are still relatively high if compared to the overall post-war
period. The figure of 24% for the Conservatives alone is higher than for all but 11
sessions between 1945 and 2010. It is, for example, higher than John Major faced in any
session and higher than Margaret Thatcher faced during her premiership save for the
1981-2 sessions; and it is higher than the levels of rebellion faced at any point by
Churchill, Eden, Macmillan or Home. Edward Heath faced a higher rate of rebellion in two
of his four sessions in government, but overall the rate for the 1970 Parliament was 19%.
In other words, even the figure for the Conservatives alone is relatively high compared
to most periods of previous Conservative government.

Even the Lib Dem rate of 17% is still higher than that seen by government MPs in the
majority of post-war sessions, although slightly low compared to most of the last decade
or so; you have to go to 2003-4 to find government MPs rebelling at a rate as low as a
rebellion in 17% of divisions.
1


The bad news for the government whips therefore is that we can report a slight increase
in the level of backbench dissent on the Coalition side. Rebellion rates may not be on a

1
It is also higher than the rate of rebellion seen by Lib Dems in any session before 2010
for which we have data, going back to 1992-93 when the rate of rebellion was at 9%.
3

par with those at the beginning of the Parliament – between September 2010 and
February 2011 the rate of dissent consistently exceeded 50%, with divisions more likely
to see a revolt than not – but they are slightly up on the last session and viewed in a
longer historical perspective the rates of rebellion amongst Coalition MPs remain very
high.

As a result, the Parliament remains on course to be the most rebellious since 1945. The
rate for the Parliament as a whole (that is, 2010-14) now stands at a rebellion in 37% of
divisions, easily topping the 28% seen in the 2005 Parliament which currently holds the
record for the most rebellious post-war parliament. If rebellion in the final session
continues at the rate seen in this session (and assuming around 200 divisions in the final
session), we can project the total for the Parliament to be around 36% by its end.
Indeed, even in the very unlikely event that the rate of rebellion drops off to nothing in
the remaining session (again assuming around 200 divisions) we would expect the
overall total for the Parliament to be 31%, still enough to make it the most rebellious in
the post-war era.

***

A total of 201 Coalition MPs have voted against their whip thus far during the Parliament.
Most (159) of these are Conservatives, but this is not surprising, given that there have
been more Conservative rebellions and there are anyway more Conservative MPs. Of
the top ten most rebellious Coalition MPs, nine are Conservatives, headed by Philip
Hollobone, with 153 rebellious votes since the election in 2010 (including 24 in the 2013-
14 session). The most rebellious Coalition MP of the session was Philip Davies (35
rebellious votes in the 2013-14 session). But in all three sessions of the Parliament so
far the three most rebellious MPs have been Hollobone, Nuttall and Davies; all that
changed in the last session was the rank order. The most rebellious Liberal Democrat
MP so far is Andrew George who has rebelled on 56 occasions, including 12 in the last
session, making him (joint-)ninth on the list.

Of these 201 MPs, 127 rebelled during the 2013-14 session, and there was a strong
relationship between behaviour in the earlier sessions of the Parliament. The correlation
between rebellions in the 2013-14 session and in the first two sessions was 0.82. The
majority of the 201 MPs had rebelled in the first session of the parliament; they were
then joined by 33 new MPs in the 2012-13 session, and another 16 new rebels in the
2013-14 session. The most rebellious of these new rebels were Cheryl Gillan, Bill Wiggin
and Nick Harvey, all of whom found departure from government liberating.

One of the most striking features of 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
some 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 noticeable features
about the 2010 cohort, especially on the Conservative side, is how troublesome they
have been. Of the 159 Conservative rebels, 91 (or six in ten) are from the new intake.
Of the new intake some 62% have rebelled at least once, and of those who have been
on the backbenches throughout the Parliament the figure rises to 85%.

Yet whilst numerically smaller, rebellion is much more widespread amongst the Lib Dems.
Whereas just over half (52%) of Conservative MPs have rebelled, a total of 42 Lib Dems,
or 72% of the parliamentary party, have now done so.
2
Indeed, 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

2
This figure – and the equivalent for the Conservatives – is the percentage of those
who have been in the parliamentary party at any point during the Parliament.
4

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.

***

Whilst the frequency of backbench rebellion may have been (relatively) high, its size was
not. The mean average Coalition rebellion during 2013-14 was only eight MPs (a median
of four) (only marginally down on last year’s figures of nine and five respectively). (The
mean Conservative rebellion was six, the mean Lib Dem rebellion just two MPs). There
were only 24 rebellions out of the 88 that saw more than ten Coalition MPs rebel against
their whips.

For all the rebellions in the first session of this Parliament, they generated no defeats.
3

The Parliament’s early rebellions might, conceivably, have been dismissed therefore as
mostly sound and fury. This is not a view that we took – nor, we suspect, one that was
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. The
rebellions in the 2012-13 session proved more consequential, generating both outright
defeats along with retreats more substantial than those in the preceding session. The
same was true of the 2013-14 session.

The largest Coalition rebellion of the 2013-14 session occurred in August 2013 over
possible military action in Syria. Having recalled Parliament to debate the situation in
Syria, the government whips discovered such deep unhappiness amongst a large
number of its MPs over the possibility of military action that the government retreated,
promising that no action would take place without a further vote – which left it in the
curious position of having recalled Parliament to have a vote that would not achieve
anything even had it been passed. But still, 39 Coalition MPs – 30 Conservatives, nine
Liberal Democrats – voted against a Government motion condemning the use of
chemical weapons in Syria and planning for a further vote on the use of military force in
the country. Others abstained. The government was defeated by 283 to 270, a majority
against the Government of 13. This rebellion was relatively small in scale compared to
some of those seen previously in the Parliament, but its effect was not, the government
abandoning all plans to intervene militarily in Syria.
4
The crucial factor in distinguishing
this vote from previous votes on military engagement – such as Iraq – was the behavior
of the Official Opposition, who opposed the government on such votes for the first time
since Suez. But Labour opposition is a necessary but not sufficient condition for defeat;
defeat also required the rebellion by a sufficient number of government MPs. No British
government has lost a comparable vote over matters of defence or military involvement
since at least the mid-19th century. The fact that the only comparable votes involve Lord
Palmerston, Lord Aberdeen and even Lord North is a sign of how far back in time you
have to search, and just how significant the vote was an indicator of the Commons’
developing independence.


3
The only Commons defeat in the first session came in December 2011 on the motion
that the House had considered the economy – as a result of an old fashioned Labour
ambush, with Labour MPs hiding until enough Conservative MPs had gone home.
Defeats caused by such tactical manoeuvres are embarrassing for any government but
they do not represent a systematic problem.
4
As the Prime Minister put it, immediately after the vote: ‘I strongly believe in the need
for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the
will of this House of Commons. It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not
passed a motion, the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does
not want to see British military action. I get that, and the Government will act
accordingly’ (HC Debs, 29 Aug 2013, cc.1555-6).
5

The largest rebellions by Conservative MPs during the session numbered 33 MPs, on
European matters (twice) and over the Second Reading of the High Speed Rail (London-
West Midlands) Bill, or HS2 as it was more commonly known. The former has been a
hardy perennial of Conservative rebellions during this and other parliaments, the latter
affected the constituencies of many Conservative MPs. During the session, there were
eight votes when more than 20 Conservative MPs rebelled; all eight took place on votes
over Syria, HS2, or Europe.

Indeed, the session had begun with a threatened rebellion over a referendum on EU
membership – this time an amendment to the motion on the Queen’s Speech. Faced
with the possibility of a very large rebellion, the Conservatives promised support for a
private members’ bill on the subject (although, as a result of Lib Dem opposition, such
support did not extend to any government time). Despite this, the rebels pushed ahead
with their amendment, and faced with what would have been an enormous rebellion, the
Conservatives allowed a partial free vote on the issue: Ministers would abstain,
backbenchers could do what they liked. More than 110 Conservative MPs went on to
vote for an amendment ‘regretting’ the absence of a referendum bill from the Queen’s
speech. The amendment was defeated, as a result of Labour and Lib Dem votes, by 130
to 277. It was another vote – like that over boundary changes in the previous session –
where the Coalition parties ended up in different lobbies. Technically, this was not a
‘rebellion’, because it was a (partial) free vote. But it had been made a free vote
because the government knew they faced an enormous rebellion. The size of the vote
was a reminder of the scale of Conservative divisions over Europe, but the most striking
feature was that this was on the Queen’s Speech. Rebellions on motions on the Queen’s
Speech are extremely rare.
5
Even more rare – we cannot find a precedent – are
occasions where the government (or at least the largest party of the government)
abstain over the Queen’s Speech. David Cameron declared himself ‘relaxed’ about the
outcome, which is a curious position for a Prime Minister to take over a vote on the
government’s legislative programme, if an acceptance of the political realities.

A similar stance occurred over an amendment to the Immigration Bill, moved by
backbencher Domninic Raab, in January 2014. Raab’s amendment would have given the
Home Secretary rather than the courts the final say on whether an offender’s family links
were strong enough to allow them to avoid deportation. Faced with a very large
potential rebellion, the Conservatives allowed a free vote on the legislation for
backbenchers, and whipped ministers to abstain. The Raab amendment was not merely
declaratory like the motion on the Queen’s speech (or those votes on backbench
business where the Conservatives also now regularly allow free votes); this was an
amendment to a bill. And whilst it is common to see governments – of all colours – say
they are disinterested in particular votes on pieces of legislation by allowing free votes,
this was an amendment which the government had previously said was unworkable.
Parties in government do not usually declare themselves disinterested in unworkable
legislation. Yet with no idea how Labour would vote (Labour’s opposition to the
amendment was only made clear very late in the day), they feared a defeat – and
reasoned (correctly, we think) that defeats generate worse media coverage than
capitulations. The Conservative MPs who went on to back the Raab amendment may not
have been ‘rebelling’ in a formal sense, but of the 87 (including two tellers) who did so,
all but eight have rebelled on whipped votes before; almost certainly, had there been a
whip most would have chosen to defy it.


5
One aspect of this vote to which insufficient attention was paid at the time was the role
of the Speaker in granting the Conservative backbench amendment. As Mark D’Arcy
noted on his BBC blog, ‘the Speaker was stretching the rules to accommodate a new
multi-party politics’. He continued: ‘Behind the scenes, the government was seething.
And continues to seethe’ (‘Speaker cornered?’, 12 November 2013).
6

One aspect of both votes – as with the votes in the preceding parliament on boundary
changes - was that there was no coherent government position. The Conservative
frontbench may have decided to abstain, but the Liberal Democrats were whipped to
vote down the amendments, and joined Labour in doing so on both occasions. The
Coalition agreement explicitly allowed for the two parties to behave differently on certain
issues – nuclear power and student fees – but they have more recently done so on other
votes, and this was yet another example. What exactly was the position of Her
Majesty’s Government on the Queen’s speech or the Raab amendment? Answer: it
depends which bit of Her Majesty’s Government you talk to.

The largest Lib Dem rebellions of the 2013-14 session comprised 16 MPs in June 2013
during the Report Stage of the Energy Bill over decarbonisation targets. The largest
Liberal Democrat rebellions of the Parliament remains that in December 2010 over the
issue of university tuition fees, when 21 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against their whip,
and a further five Lib Dem MPs abstained.

***

In our two previous reports on backbench behaviour since 2010 we have noted that the
Coalition’s two groups of rebels rarely coalesce, with the two wobbly wings of the
Coalition mostly not rebelling at the same time. This continues to be broadly true.
Some 47% of rebellions have seen Conservative MPs rebel alone; 25% have seen Lib
Dem MPs rebel alone. Just 28% have seen a rebellion by both Lib Dem and
Conservative MPs. This last figure is marginally down on that in the preceding session
(30%). Whilst up on the first session (when just 18% of rebellions saw rebellions
involving MPs from both parties), such cross-party revolts remain very much a minority
of the rebellions to occur.

This is because the two groups generally rebel on different issues. More than half (57%)
of Lib Dem rebellions in the session were on social policy (broadly defined), such as
opposition to the Immigration Bill, provision of health and social care and probation
reforms. The equivalent figure for the Conservatives was just 35%. Nearly half of
Conservative rebellions (42%) were on constitutional issues such as the Lobbying Bill
and Europe, and most of these (27% of the total) were on Europe. Rebellions on other
issues come and go; the legislation is passed, or falls, tempers calm, the poison drains.
But Europe seems to be a chronic ailment to the Conservative body politic; there is
always a summit, a treaty amendment, a budget, to cause the fever to return. The split
of twenty years ago – between ‘pro-Europeans’ and ‘eurosceptics’ (the labels are crude,
ugly, and contested, but necessary) are now largely over; the new battle lines for the
Conservatives are now just between gradations of scepticism, between hard and soft
sceptics (or between sceptics and better-off-outers). In this session, Europe accounted
for just 12% of Conservative rebellions but 25% of all the rebellious votes cast by
Conservative MPs.
6


Perhaps because it is the result of a coalition between two parties, the size of the
Government’s majority is often not appreciated. Even its formal majority of 80 is a
substantial majority. This is not quite of landslide proportions, but it is bigger than that
enjoyed by Churchill after 1951, or by Eden, or by Wilson (except between 1966-70), or
by Heath, or by Callaghan, or by Thatcher (in her first term, 1979-1983) or by Major
(after 1992), or indeed by Blair and Brown (after 2005). Moreover, once you note that
the eight DUP MPs usually (though not always) vote with the government, the paper
majority is even larger.


6
Almost equally important was HS2 which accounted for more than one in five of all
Conservative rebellious votes cast in the session.
7

Because of divisions in which Labour vote with the government or abstain, the (mean)
average majority in this session was 102, the median was 68.
7
In the majority of votes
(some 190 votes in this session), Labour oppose the government, and when they do the
government’s average majority has been 67 (with a median of 65). But when Labour
abstain (23 votes), the majority has averaged 247 (median: 259); and when Labour
supports the government (14 votes), the average majority rises to 348 (median: 362).
The overall majorities achieved in this session remain around the same level as in the
preceding session (the mean average in the last session was 101, now 102). In its first
24 months in power, the Government’s majority in the Commons only fell below 50 on
22 occasions (out of some 544 votes). In the 2012-13 session, it fell below 50 on 17
occasions (out of some 201 votes), including two defeats. The former represents 4% of
votes, the latter 9%. In the most recent session, it fell below 50 on 21 occasions (out of
some 227 votes), that is 9%, including one defeat. In other words, relatively close votes
remain slightly more common than at the beginning of the parliament, but are still rare.

And whilst the whips’ cushion (or safety net, depending on your metaphor) has got
smaller, it is still sizeable. There are plenty of issues on which 40 or so Conservative
MPs might rebel, but there are fewer on which the Labour party would be willing to join
them. Overall this session, 31% of Coalition rebellions occurred when Labour was not
voting against the government – and when there was therefore no chance of a defeat.
But that figures rises to 40% of Conservative-only rebellions. The rebellions that do
occur are also larger when there is no chance of defeating the government. The median
Coalition rebellion on votes where Labour either abstained or voted with the government
was ten; the median for those votes where Labour was voting against the government
was just three.
8


***

This volume is a record of all the occasions which separated members of the Coalition’s
parliamentary parties from their leadership. It provides brief details of all 88 rebellions
by Coalition backbenchers between 8 May 2013 and 14 May 2014, along with full lists of
every MP to participate in each of those rebellions. It is unlikely to be the most exciting
volume you will ever read in your life. But it is not meant to be exciting. It is meant as a
reference work, something to be checked occasionally for relevant information, and then
put back on the shelf, or deleted from the PC.

We hope it might be useful for those voters who want to know what their MP did (or
didn’t do) during the last session, as well as for those – researchers, academics,
lobbyists, journalists – who want to know about the behaviour of the Coalition during the
period. We do not pretend that this is the story of the 2013-14 session – the full story is,
thankfully, far more interesting than this – but it is at least some of the raw material of
that story, and is here for others to use, in the future, however they want.

We list here every occasion during the 2013-14 session when a Coalition MP voted
against his or her whip. This is a deceptively simple statement – but there are a handful
of important caveats which need to be understood if the data are to make sense.


7
This is the average in the 227 whipped votes to have taken place during the session;
we have excluded the occasions when at least some Coalition MPs were given a free
vote.
8
In part, this will be because Conservative rebels (of whom there are more) are more
likely to take part in one type of vote, but the relationship also holds (indeed, is even
stronger) for those votes in which only Conservative MPs rebelled: Conservative-only
rebellions when Labour was abstaining or voting with the government had a median size
of 16; those when Labour was voting against the government had a median size of just
two.
8

The first is that we have excluded ‘free votes’, those occasions on which the party
managers, the whips, did not issue instructions to their MPs. That means, for instance
that in this particular session, as explained above, we have not included the votes on the
Queen’s Speech or the Raab amendment. But similarly we do not include a series of
votes on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to banning smoking in cars when
children are present, the mandatory installation of smoke alarms in privately rented
accommodation and the prohibition of unpaid internships. All these experienced
significant party splits but they are matters where the whips did not interfere.
9


This volume is therefore not a record of every occasion when a Coalition MP deviated
from the rest of his or her party; it is a record of every occasion when Coalition MPs
defied the whip to do so.
10
This differentiates this data source from some of the
(otherwise excellent) web-based search engines that are available (such as
publicwhip.org.uk or theyworkforyou.com), which record all occasions when a party’s
MPs are not 100% united.
11
Our interest here is on matters of dissent, on those
occasions where MPs defy their party leadership. For one thing, there is a qualitative
difference between voting against your party when the whip is on, and doing so when it
is not. Not differentiating whipped from unwhipped votes can thus lead to strange
conclusions about an MP’s behaviour.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish definitively between whipped and genuinely free
votes – hence the problem that the websites have - and there is a tricky middle ground,
where the vote may not be officially whipped but where it is quite clear what the party
hierarchy want their MPs to do. As one whip put it: there are ‘free votes and free votes’.
And on occasion, the whip will only apply to some of the parliamentary party (as in the
vote on the Queen’s Speech and Raab amendment, noted above). In addition whilst the
Coalition Agreement allows the Liberal Democrats to abstain on certain issues (tuition
fees, nuclear power) even when Conservative MPs are whipped to support, the nature of
the Coalition has become more flexible than that, with the parties taking different
stances on some issues.

But based both on contacts with MPs and with whips, we believe that we have identified
all those occasions when Coalition MPs defied the official instructions of their whips. The
result is that, if anything, we are understating the level of Coalition backbench division in
this session.

The second caveat is that we have excluded from our list of rebels those occasions when
MPs vote twice. One of the most common reasons for this happening is to register an
abstention. The procedures of the House of Commons give MPs just two formal options:
to vote aye or no on whatever question is before them. MPs occasionally get around this
by voting in both lobbies. This practice – which was deprecated by the Speaker – is
known by some Labour MPs as ‘Skinner abstentions’, after the veteran Labour MP, and
frequent rebel, Dennis Skinner. It is a curious nomenclature. Skinner is by inclination not
the abstaining type – and (as far as we are aware) has never voted in both lobbies to

9
On occasions, these votes could demonstrate large differences between the Coalition
parties. On the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, 118 Conservatives
voted in favour and 129 against (with seven voting in both lobbies) whereas just four Lib
Dems voted against, whilst 44 voted in favour.
10
Our data also do not include the voting of MPs for any period when they were outwith
their party’s whip.
11
There is one other problem with the various web-based sources on MPs’ voting. When
a party’s official line is to abstain, they fail to detect MPs who are breaking their whip to
vote on an issue (either for or against). This is usually less of a problem for the
government – since it is extremely rare for the government to be neutral on an issue –
but it can be a much more serious problem when analysing the behaviour of MPs from
opposition parties. And it can prove a problem with government MPs too.
9

register an abstention. It would be much more sensible to call them ‘Taylor abstentions’
after the former Labour MP for Leicestershire North West, David Taylor, who began to
engage in the practice fairly regularly as a way of casting what he called a ‘positive
abstention’ (and which he continued to do so until his death in 2009).
12
We do not
include such MPs in our lists of rebels – or in our overall figures - but we have recorded
their presence in notes each time it has occurred.

MPs also sometimes vote in both lobbies as a way of correcting an initial vote cast in
error, rushing back through the other lobby once they realise their mistake. As the
Labour MP Paul Flynn notes in his wonderful book, Commons Knowledge, ‘outsiders
guffaw at the possibility of MPs voting the wrong way. After all the choice is simple, yes
or no’. But with around 200-300 votes each year, MPs do not know all the details about
each vote they cast, especially on the more arcane amendments; so, as Flynn puts it,
they are ‘grateful for the sheepdog herding of the Whips who direct them safely into the
lobby of righteousness and truth’.
13
But sometimes the herding breaks down, and the
MP gets directed into the wrong lobby.
14
Voting can be a particular problem for MPs from
minor parties because they often lack the sight of masses of their colleagues flooding
into one lobby, but it happens to MPs of all parties.

Lastly, there are also those occasions when Hansard – the official record of
parliamentary debates – simply mis-records an MP’s vote. Again, where, with the help
of the MPs concerned, we have been able to identify such mis-recorded votes we have
excluded them from the data.
15


Perhaps most importantly of all, however, we are not able to record all the occasions
when MPs defy their whips by abstaining, rather than voting against. Because the House
of Commons does not allow MPs to register abstentions – other than, as discussed above,
by voting twice – it is not possible to read anything into absences. The whips may have
formally sanctioned an absence from a vote; it may be accidental; or it may be
deliberate. There is no information on the record that allows us to establish, at least not
systematically, the causes of absences. Where the information is available, we do
provide a note of the numbers believed to be abstaining in any particular vote. But even
here, we are not able to read anything into the behaviour of those who were absent from
votes.

***

We are very grateful for the MPs who helped us with the research, research of which this
volume is just one part. MPs get bombarded with academic requests for assistance –
from school children, students, and academics – and yet nearly all of them took the time
to help clear up, or explain, what had taken place on a particular vote. We are also
grateful for the assistance of the government whips’ office, for similar help in

12
On whipped votes this session, 12 Conservative MPs cast a total of 16 deliberate
abstentions, with the most regular being Andrew Percy (who did so four times). Lib Dem
MPs were far less keen on this device than in the last session, with just one Lib Dem
casting a deliberate abstention (Paul Burstow on the Syria vote)
13
Paul Flynn, Commons Knowledge, Seren, 1997, p. 16.
14
An example, from the Labour MP Tom Watson, in December 2013, when he voted the
wrong way on a deferred division, on a report into report into Fixed Odds Betting
Terminals: ‘my head said put the cross in the ‘no’ box but my hand put the cross in the
‘yes’ box’. As he noted, on his blog, this was not just any issue, it was one on which he
had been running a long-running campaign: ‘So basically, this was about the most
embarrassing vote I could make a mistake on’.
15
Such as the vote that recorded Hugh Robertson, the Foreign Office Minister, voting in
favour of a Labour amendment to the Care Bill, whilst he was on official business in
Rabat.
10

determining the whipping arrangements on some votes. Many MPs helped further, by
granting interviews, the material from which we intend to use in further (more
interesting) publications.

The research reported here was conducted as part of a research project, which is
currently funded by the University of Nottingham, where the authors are based, and we
are grateful for their support.

11