"...the 2005-2010 Parliament easily goes down as the most rebellious in the post-war period..."
The 2005 Parliament which was prorogued this week – formal dissolution comes next week – will probably be remembered as the expenses parliament. But it holds one other distinction: as the most rebellious parliament of the post-war period.
The session that just ended, that of 2009-10, saw a total of 48 Labour rebellions, out of 135 divisions, a rate of 36%. In itself, this is the third highest final session since 1945, beaten only by the 39% achieved in 2004-05 session and the 36% (but marginally higher once you examine the decimals places) of the 1978-9 session.
But when you add those 48 revolts to the 300+ that had occurred in the preceding four sessions, it means that the 2005-2010 Parliament easily goes down as the most rebellious in the post-war period, whether measured in absolute or relative terms. In absolute terms, there were 365 Labour revolts between 2005 and 2010, more than in any other parliament since 1945, and easily more than what had been the record (the 309 between February 1974 and 1979). In relative terms – a more meaningful comparison, given that the parliament was shorter – there were Labour rebellions in some 28% of divisions. Again this easily tops the 21% achieved in the second Blair Parliament, 2001-2005 (and recorded here, in loving detail), which was itself a post-war record. There were also, just for the record, more Labour rebellions in this parliament than in 1997-2001 and 2001-2005 combined.
The most rebellious Labour MP was Jeremy Corbyn (with a total of 216 votes against the party whip). He was also the most rebellious between 1997-2001 and 2001-2005. He was closely followed by John McDonnell (192), Alan Simpson (144) and Kelvin Hopkins (131). More surprising are some of the names at the bottom of the list. The 2009-10 session saw Megg Munn, James Purnell, Eric Joyce and Tom Watson defy their whips, all for the first time. Who would have expected those names? Taken as a whole, 174 Labour MPs rebelled in the Parliament, 142 of them under Gordon Brown’s leadership. Between them, they cast a total of 3318 votes against their whips.
We’ve recorded all of them – plus the thousands in the 1997 and 2001 parliament – as part of a long-running research project, which is now coming to an end. The first ever rebellion of the New Labour era came in November 1997, when Jamie Cann was the only MP to defy the whips, over the Second Reading of the European Parliamentary Elections Bill. A total of 13 years and 719 rebellions later, the last one we monitored came over the Digital Economy Bill, just a day before Parliament prorogued.
Professor Philip Cowley