How can a government reduce the number of rebellions?


A rebellion is in effect any attitude or vote of an MP or group of MPs that the leadership of the party does not agree with. Sometimes it only becomes clear to an MP after the event that what he has said or backed is rebellious. On other occasions the MP clearly knows the official position, has no reason to think it is going to change, but wishes to express disagreement so he rebels.

The decision of a group of MPs to write to the Prime Minister backing the Select Committee Report on UK sovereignty did not intend to be  a rebellion. It was well meant advice of the kind MPs are paid to give, urging the government to a future action apparently in line with the policy of greater UK democratic control  they have set out. It only becomes a rebellion if the government condemns it out of hand  and escalates the disagreement  with counter measures tabled for votes.

A party leadership has several ways in which they can minimise the number and size of rebellions:

1. Avoid provocative decisions and requests to their MPs. A party is more likely to breed rebellion if it is trying to do things or change things. Where it wishes to do so it is best if the change is very clearly in line with the last Manifesto, or in line with the principles and values of the party. There is always more likely to be trouble where a governing party decides to do something which is against the party’s instincts and was not argued about in the previous election.

  The big past  rebellions have been over entry into the EEC and  the Maastricht Treaty on the Conservative side. This Parliament has seen large rebellions over the Syrian war, an increase in the EU budget  and Lords reform, three  things Conservatives did not want to see and were not  in the Manifesto. Conservative MPs remember Mr Cameron saying before the election that there was no consensus on Lords reform or desire to do it this Parliament. They also supported the idea of curbing public spending, so naturally wanted the EU  budget cut and an expensive new  war avoided.

2. Where the government and leadership do wish to make changes they need to seek to carry the party with them by explaining and consulting before launching the policy as a fait accompli.

3. Where backbenchers wish to amend legislation or make their own proposals in motions or bills, the government can ¬†seek to find some good in them rather than seeking to dismiss or defeat them. If a backbencher’s proposal merely seeks to take the government further in a direction it says it wishes to travel, there is a lot to be said for accepting the amendment, or proposing a counter amendment that moves some distance in the direction the backbencher seeks. Where the backbencher is against the stated policy and principles of the party then of course it needs to be voted down.

4. Allow more free votes. The Conservative MPs who voted against gay marriage were not rebels. They were exercising their conscience in a free vote in a different way to the leadership. Where an issue does not split on party lines, like gay marriage or abortion there is every reason to allow free votes to decide it.

5 Where MPs seek to put something on the agenda which the government does  not want on the government can quite often keep it off. If  there is considerable public pressure behind the MPs requesting it, and/or if events are going to force the government to come to a view and decision anyway, then the government  cannot cimply avoid it. The EU is such a perpetual issue. Public concern about EU policies on borders or energy is going to be high, and there  are endless action points thanks to the activist approach of the EU. Such matters cannot be delayed or buried. Others can.


  1. Lifelogic
    January 21, 2014

    The big past rebellions over entry into the EEC, the Maastricht Treaty, the Syrian war, an increase in the EU budget and Lords reform were surely all right. It is a shame they were not all fully successful.

    Such matters as the EU cannot, as you righly say, be buried nor even kicked into the long grass of 2017. The pro EU Tories (that Cameron chooses to surround himself with) dare not even put forward the advantages of the EU. This because first there are clearly so very few advantages and secondly they know how unpopular these are with the voting public. Instead they just make the odd idiotic of hand comment such as:- better to have a say in the rules (even if it is always ignored or outvoted), or the 3 million jobs depend on it drivel, or no Greater Switzerland on Sea, or the EU is coming round the the UKs position.

    Public concern about EU policies on borders, energy and more importantly who governs them & the whole future of democracy is indeed going to be very high. Such matters cannot be delayed or buried. Yet that is exactly what Major attempted and now Cameron is repeating this huge mistake.

    The question surely is will Cameron take the Tories over the cliff in 2015 or will he grant a referendum before or at the end of this parliament, after coming third in May 2014. With perhaps some deal UKIP.

    My money is on the Cliff and several terms of wilderness, it is probably too late now anyway, for the above to work. His earlier ratting means no one will trust him anyway. Cameron is just like, Heath, Blair, Mandelson, Patten & Major left wing, largely misguided, power seeking & pro EU in his genes. I suspect simply cannot help himself.

    Anyone who tries to buck markets with gender neutral insurance and annuity laws, wants a large increases in the minimum wage and absurd (4+ times the value) subsidies for quack green & intermittent energy, soft loan to prop up the EURO etc. is just a dam fool.

    As Powell said to Heath:-

    “Does my right hon. Friend not know that it is fatal for any Government or party or person to seek to govern in direct opposition to the principles on which they were entrusted with the right to govern? In introducing a compulsory control of wages and prices, in contravention of the deepest commitments of this party, has my right hon. Friend taken leave of his senses?”

    Question to Prime Minister Edward Heath in the House of Commons (6 November 1972).

    Perhaps Cameron at about 6 was a little too young to remember the mess that ensued?

    1. Hope
      January 21, 2014

      Well said LL. The short answer to JR’s title is for Cameron to do the decent thing for country and party an d to resign. The Tory MPs must now have enough evidence to draw the conclusion that he has got so much so wrong in such a short time. Poorly advised, listened to too many focus groups- who knows.

      One thing which makes him a failure is that he is not authentic, genuine and moreover no one can anyone believe a word he says. U-turns, failed promises, say one thing act in contrast and keep things secret from the public, call your supporters names and act against their interest.

      The last lot of “green crap” to come out of his mouth was about climate change and HIS link to the weather. Only weeks before he appeared to realise and understand the public’s frustration how we are paying for his (and Miliband’s) stupidity around increased energy bills because of useless wind mills and nonsensical EU CO2 emission targets instead of reliable sustainable energy to provide cheap energy for the public and business. He is the Frank Spencer of politics.

  2. margaret brandreth-j
    January 21, 2014

    The rules of individualism V party policy are something which is foreign to me.Political decisions are mostly also ethical ones. I read at University ethics/ philosophy for approx 12 years (part time student in educational , first and Masters degrees) and very rarely found in classes and literature consensus about much except the very basic values. The essential values most seem to hold were the need and the right to express themselves as an individual beings.It is simply not being true to ones self to with hold a view and go along with the flow for the sake of party. The individuals make up that party and it is the majority of views which are taken into account .The act of not speaking out about a difference of view deteriorates and makes a fraud of the true democratic decision.

    1. alan jutson
      January 21, 2014



      Speak up or shut up, but if you remain shut up, then you must accept the consequenses.

      Thus I would agree, no point in being elected for anything, if all you are going to do is blindly follow the leader with no thoughts or actions of your own.

      A good leader encourages debate, listens to the arguments, then makes a reasoned decision.
      The trick here is to listen to all sides of the argument.

      A poor leader makes decisions no matter what people say, and usually leaves chaos behind them.

      Like the usual trick of the management Consultant, who is often bought into a Company at great expense to recomend and resolve problems.

      After listening to the Directors, they then interview the shop floor managers to really find out what the problem is, and at the same time find that a solution was in house all of the time.
      Problems which had remained for years all of a sudden became resolved after the Consultants report, because the Directors who had not listened for years to their own staff, were prepared to listen to an expensive management Consultant.

      Perhaps the Government need not bring in so many expensive outside advisors/experts, if they listened to their own MP’s from time – time.

    2. Martin Ryder
      January 21, 2014

      You are absolutely right.

      MPs must be free to vote according to their consciences; providing that they are working within the framework of the manifesto that they were elected on.

      I believe that they have a duty to challenge the government if they consider that their leaders are straying off piste.

  3. Tony Leatham
    January 21, 2014

    I think something fundamental has been overlooked when considering “rebellions”

    We are supposed to have a democratic system of government in this country. I’m not going to get drawn into the many arguments that in effect, we have nothing like it and the political elite will move heaven and earth to stop that ever happening, but let’s pretend for a moment that we do live in a genuinely democratic society.

    In such a society, the electorate would elect individuals to represent their views in a body to whom the they give a mandate to govern, in the expectation that their opinions will be expressed by said representatives, and that due consideration will be given to all such views and that descisions will be taken on the basis of what will give the best outcome for the majority of the society concerned.

    Therefore, how can any elected individual ever by “rebellious” by expressing an opinion? Surely, by refusing to listen and take account of such views, surely it is the government who are being rebellious precisely because they are not listening to the views of the electorate?

    For me, anybody who talks about party loyalty, and rebellions, is in effect sticking two fingers up at us, the great unwashed, and saying “you know what, your opinion is irrelevant – the only views that matter are those of a small clique of right thinking elite and we’re pissed off because some chaps have the temerity to disagree with everything we say”

    Government used to be called “public service” i.e. people in government served the public. Not exactly like that now, is it?

    Reply In UK elections people vote for parties with governing programmes as well as for the individuals who belong to those parties. If you elected a Labour MP at a time of Labour government, and that MP spent his time trying to derail the Labour programme you wanted, you would see him as a rebel.

    1. Gary
      January 21, 2014

      well said.

      I am flummoxed that democratic dissent can be construed as rebellion.

      This speaks volumes for the state of our sham democracy.

    2. Denis Cooper
      January 21, 2014

      And if you elected a Labour MP and there was a Labour government but then the Labour programme was derailed because the previous Conservative government had rushed to sign the UK up to an international treaty partly with the intention of tying the hands of any incoming Labour government, then you might be a bit miffed about that as well and wonder whether your national democracy was still worth anything.

    3. James Sutherland
      January 21, 2014

      JR: “In UK elections people vote for parties with governing programmes as well as for the individuals who belong to those parties.”

      The key, surely, is to be democratic enough to minimise the distance between the party’s platform and that of the individuals within it? Though I am by no means a supporter, I was quite impressed by the Lib Dem conference where they voted individual policies in or out, regardless of the wishes of the leadership.

      Not perfect, of course, but enough that rather than “rebellion”, the outcome is either a dissenting minority or a democratic change of party policy. Ultimately, do you want a party which answers to its leader, or vice versa?

    4. waramess
      January 21, 2014

      Reply to reply. this view may give you some comfort and it is true that tribalism does indeed rule however, by accepting the Whip you gain access to the parties finances when the election is held and, it is this financial support that assures you of re-election.

      The fact is that by accepting this poison chalice you subjugate your own views to te views of the party and its then leader and, should you from time to time forget this the party will quickly remind you.

      Shame on all politicians who have dared drink from this poison chalice because in doing so they have denigrated democracy.

      The electorate have become tribal only because they are offered little else, particularly when the fnancial strength of the political parties effectively exclude alternatives.

      Reply I joined a party so I can campaign on a common platform that has a good chance of b eing implemented. You cannot achieve anything with just one vote in the Commons! You have to work with others.

    5. Tony Leatham
      January 21, 2014

      I’ve heard this canard before – “you get your one shot at democracy every five years, and in between, don’t you worry your little heads, leave it to us to get on with things, you’ve given us the power to make any decision we damn well like and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it”

      There are so many funadmental things wrong with that approach. For a start, the party manifesto, which the electorate take to be a contract of “if you vote for us, this is what we will do” is to the party nothing more than a marketing document designed to return them to power. So, when we vote you each five years, and you tear up the manifesto (as all governments always do), you have in effect lost that mandate to govern.

      Next, five years is a bloody long time – think of all the hugely significant events that have happened in the last five years. It is therefore 100% impossible for any manifesto to cover any and all eventualities.

      People do not vote for a party system – they vote on policies and choose the least worst combination. To specifically prevent any further input into the political process as you clearly do from you comments, you disenfranchise the whole of the electorate whom you are elected to serve.

      Further, the electorate have no say in this country who is chosen to represent a party in the election process. Also, once installed, an MP cannot be removed if he proves to be useless.

      I’m a former member of the Conservative Party – I tried desperately hard to find a way to engage in debate with party policy makers on matters of concern to me. My local chairman was very helpful but after receiving the most breathtakingly crass email from a flunky in Sayeeda Warsi’s office, I resigned from the party.

      What the muppet said was that if I wanted to discuss with the Tory party any matters of policy, the only route open to me was to discuss with my MP, even if said MP was representing the Labour party. Essentially, what I was being told was: no way are we *EVER* going to listen to you, little man, your opinions are worthless.

      No doubt the bars of the House of Commons are propped up by MPs wondering why people don’t engage in politics – or perhaps they just raise their glasses to a system that prevents this from happening?

      So I’m sorry, but the concentration of power into the hands of a very few individuals that is the consequence of your statement here is an anathema to any right thinking person and that in my opinion, your attitude here (and I’ve heard it before from several others) is appalling and the fact that you express it says much, none of it good.

      1. bigneil
        January 21, 2014

        very well put.

        and to actually read it from a person who was a party member – -bloody scary – as you said -we are in power now – stuff the electorate -while we stuff our pockets.

        what %age of the population can find any need for the HS2 – but a few people are hell bent on spending billions

        what %age wants (some ed) people (com)ing here to sit on our benefits – but the same few – who are not affected – allow them to pile here

        what %age want the foreign criminals walking our streets while we pay them to be here – the same few allow them – again – unaffected by their own actions- – as somebody said a few days ago


  4. Mike Stallard
    January 21, 2014

    Good thoughts! No 10 Downing Street seems an awful long way from either the house of Commons or indeed reality. We are returning to the Blairite world of spin and mirrors and, yes, hypocrisy. (The row about groping peers).

    What I think you are missing, Mr Redwood, is that you are already facing a huge rebellion led by a charismatic leader, backed by some very experienced and knowledgeable people. It is called UKIP. At the moment, the media is still in the “OOOER…what a load of crackpots” stage. When they wake up to the real threat they will force the Conservative leadership into some sort of reaction.

    2015 is now just a few months away.

    1. BobE
      January 21, 2014

      May 2014 will be the first test. It will be fascinating to watch.

  5. zorro
    January 21, 2014

    ‘Such matters cannot be delayed or buried’… Perhaps some traction problems in persuading William Hague or Cast Elastic. Any titbits dropped from the table yet on concrete proposals for renegotiation? The trouble is that as each day draws closer, the Tories are bleeding support, members and votes. When does it become critical?


    1. lifelogic
      January 21, 2014

      When does it become critical? I suspect it is already terminal and for several terms. Conservative overall majority betting circa 7/2 so a nice return, if you really think they have a chance.

      The Libdems rather amusingly tearing themselves apart over to groping (or not groping) they are not likely to be in coalition with the Tories nor even to have many seats.

      1. stred
        January 21, 2014

        I would like to know how big a ‘personal space’ is so that no embarrassing invasions occur. Is it an inch, a foot or more and does it vary depending on how much the other person likes or dislikes you? LibDummy really needs to sort this out.

        1. lifelogic
          January 22, 2014

          Clearly it does depends greatly on how much the other person likes or dislikes you that day, or perhaps even how they feel a few days later. Anyway it will certainly have to be measured in metric units by law – as it is the Libdems.

    2. APL
      January 21, 2014

      zorro: “Any titbits dropped from the table yet on concrete proposals for renegotiation?”

      Renegotiation? Of what?

      Our government – not the puppet show in Westminster, but in Brussels, doesn’t want, has made it plain it doesn’t want, to renegotiate anything. It is quite happy with the direction of travel.

      People, MPs or otherwise, who tell us any different are either; sadly deluded, or lying.

  6. Nick
    January 21, 2014

    There speaks someone with a true dictatoral streak. It’s all about dictating in this case to MPs, rather than allowing them to vote.

    That’s why representational democracy is screwed. It’s a fraud. A small number of people, chosen by a select few in the selection committees who then control the party in Westminster dictate to the population.

    Remember when MP can’t pay their 9 trillion debt, that you are not responsible. It’s MPs who have taken your money.

  7. John E
    January 21, 2014

    I imagine most of your readers prefer MPs who are able to form and articulate opinions of their own. The move towards MPs being constituency social workers who turn up to the Commons to vote as they have been told is to be strongly resisted. It subverts any notion of democracy.

    That being said, if you don’t even know when you are being rebellious, that highlights serious shortcomings in the clarity of your leadership.

    Reply No it does not. A backbencher may initiate a new idea. The leadership has to decide if that is helpful, desirable, or to be condemned.

  8. Chris S
    January 21, 2014

    I agree with most of what you say.

    David Cameron has had a difficult time with back benchers but only part of the problem is of his own making.

    The problem is that Conservative back bench members seem to be in denial over the fact that they are in a coalition and that the party simply does not have a majority in the house to drive through most of the things that I, you and your colleagues want to see.

    Unfortunately, the PM has done little to help himself . He has not worked to maintain his relationships with his party in the country or back benchers, he has annoyed many by pushing through extremely contentious issues like Gay Marriage which was not even discussed during the election campaign, let alone in the manifesto. Vote blue go green may have won over a few votes but the reality of our financial position surely should have led to the Chancellor calling for at least a 5 year postponement of expensive energy measures ?

    Nevertheless, whatever the outcome of the general election, I think we will eventually look back on this Government as a considerable success.

    Try putting yourself into David Cameron’s position for a moment :

    Trying to govern the country while having to work with Clegg and Cable and keep every one broadly onside must be about as frustrating as it’s possible to be !

    1. lifelogic
      January 22, 2014

      Yes but Cameron’s incompetence is the only reason we have to suffer Clegg and Cable. Anyway he is clearly a bit of a Clegg/Cable/Huhne/Davey himself on the size of government, green crap, the EU, HS2, loans to PIGIS and all the daft subsidies.

  9. Douglas Carter
    January 21, 2014

    You mention ‘manifesto’ Mr. Redwood and for many that’s something of a major contention.

    Not so recently a solicitor acting on behalf of Gordon Brown elicited the quite shocking classic line ‘Manifesto commitments are not subject to legitimate expectation’. I’m not too interested in the very strictest legal definition of that claim – in context it was concocted specifically to justify Labour’s refusal to hold a Referendum over the Lisbon Treaty. It appears that only the tiny extremist pro-EU fundamentalist religious cult in the UK now believe that the Treaty and the earlier Constitution were different phenomena and such a figure as Keith Vaz speaking during the debate on the Referendum Lock legislation in the HoC three years ago made clear that there had never been any intentions to hold a referendum in any event. Whether on the Lisbon Constitreaty twins, or on the single currency.

    At that point the quote was released, Parliamentary sanction – endorsement – was effectively made manifest that an electorate could expect to be presented with an essentially fraudulent agenda by a Government, and that there was nothing they could do about it. In the run-up Campaign to the last General Election at a public meeting, I asked a figure from your party who is now a senior member of the Cabinet specifically the question ‘Are manifesto promises subject to legitimate expectation’? And to general disapproving murmurs in the audience, that individual ignored the question and immediately moved to ask a question of a different member of the audience. That, is not good enough. I expect better from your party.

    Over Maastricht, Major used the highly limp excuse that his manifesto indicated words to the effect of ‘We will be positive towards Europe’.

    Where a manifesto is clearly a falsified agenda, where it is so vague that it presents essentially a blank cheque in all but name, and where – as seems to be occurring towards the next election (Miliband’s ‘I will under-promise and over-deliver’) we begin to see parties intentionally withdrawing the facility of an advance opportunity to scrutinise future intentions, that electorate would have a legitimate right to wonder whether what they are presented with can be referred to as ‘Democracy’.

    Those tools have been used in the recent and not-so-recent past to intentionally dispossess MPs of respective parties of the powers of advance scrutiny, and to essentially sterilise a debate before it reaches critical mass. I recall Portillo on Andrew Neil’s BBC roundup of 2010 happily confirming he’d advised Cameron to go into the election with as few clear commitments and promises as possible. If true, that’s an extraordinary level of cynicism – and I don’t appreciate the democratic process being hijacked against the interests of the electorate in favour of the ambitions of the parties themselves.

    A clear, unambiguous manifesto which a party can approve and an electorate can consider, may be a difficult thing to negotiate, but it will save an awful lot of future grief. A stitch in time, as they say.

    1. Douglas Carter
      January 21, 2014

      Apologies – but a good example can be found in today’s Telegraph –

      ‘Government told Airports Commission not to report until after General Election’

      …’The Airports Commission could have recommended where to build Britain‚Äôs next runway before the 2015 General Election but was told to delay its findings by the Coalition, MPs have been told.

      Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the commission, said on Monday that he was asked by the Government not to deliver his findings earlier, although it would have been possible to conduct an inquiry according to a shorter timetable.’…

      In current context if this headline, and thereby if Sir Howard Davies has been quoted correctly – I don’t really care if there could be a very good reason for the delay. It’s such a clumsy manner in which to proceed I don’t believe the Government deserve the benefit of the doubt. I suspect neither will those parts of the electorate who stand to be affected by the information.

      Reply Both the coalition parties promised not to build or initiate a new Heathrow runway this Parliament, so they cannot do so. They are free to offer a different approach in the 2015 election.

      1. lifelogic
        January 21, 2014

        Both the coalition parties promised not to build or initiate a new Heathrow runway this Parliament, so they cannot do so.

        Well they both promised a say on the EU too and the Libdems no tuition fees.

        This is something they clearly should have ratted on or better still not made the absurd promise in the first place. A Heathwick of at least 5 runways hub was needed about 5 years ago.

        Reply Indded – and Conservatives are backing a Referendum Bill, despite the opposition of Lib/Lab. Conservatives did not offer a referendum in the 2010 manifesto.

        1. Hope
          January 23, 2014

          Both promised early legislation for right to recall and then abstained from voting. No promise for gay marriage but that happened. JR, your remarks are desperate and do you a disservice. Perhaps Oborne is right that the Tory HQ is helping the Lb Dems as they see it as the only way to get another coalitionan back into office. I suspect there are many people like me who would say no thanks I would prefer Milipede rather than that. It also provide at he excuse tot heir respective manifestos, not that they need any because with all the U- turns Andy ailed promises by Cameron no one can believe a word he says, and that is the main problem with your reply.

  10. Tony Dalton
    January 21, 2014

    Which is all very well but Cameron did not get that mandate from the people in the first place. His destruction of the UK is completely undemocratic. The backbenchers should use this fact more often IMO to get the people on side.

    1. Chris S
      January 21, 2014

      Just exactly what do you mean by “destruction of the UK !”

      The last Labour government did a pretty good job in that respect and David Cameron and George Osborne are having to work pretty hard to put the right all the damage done by Gordon Brown over the 11 years in which he deliberately allowed spending to get completely out of control. ( In his first two years he sensibly followed Conservative spending plans and things went well )

      Alex Salmon is now doing his best to try and break up the UK and if he gets a chance he will make Brown’s disastrous financial management look positively Prudent. It’s the Government in Westminster which is trying to hold it together.

      We have seen that trying to bribe the Scots to remain within the UK with English money doesn’t work, they just get more and more demanding.

      You have a pretty perverse view of the political situation. !

      1. uanime5
        January 21, 2014

        The last Labour government did a pretty good job in that respect and David Cameron and George Osborne are having to work pretty hard to put the right all the damage done by Gordon Brown over the 11 years in which he deliberately allowed spending to get completely out of control.

        Firstly the 2008 recession was caused by the banks running out of money due to lax regulations, not due to Labour.

        Secondly given that Cameron and Osborne’s plans have resulted in years of high borrowing and stagnation they haven’t put anything right.

        Thirdly the Conservatives current plans are very similar to Labour’s plans, such as the “help-to-buy” scheme which is causing a housing bubble.

        We have seen that trying to bribe the Scots to remain within the UK with English money doesn’t work, they just get more and more demanding.

        Given Scotland’s high GVA it’s clear that the Scots are contributing more to the UK than they get from it.

        Reply Labour increased the volume of regualtions on banks, completely changing the regulatory system in the late 1990s. Unfortunately their new system and more regs did not work. Surely that makes them to blame? If that had been the Conservatives in government I suspect you would be blaming them.

      2. bigneil
        January 21, 2014

        so we are bribing the scots to be part of the UK? – -so is it a “cunning plan” of camerons that we are bribing the EU with ¬£53m a day to be part of us?

        1. Chris S
          January 22, 2014

          No, quite the opposite.

          Successive stupid governments voluntarily signed up to the ridiculously one sided EU budget system that means we get back £1 for every £3 we put in!

          At least a certain lady won us a rebate only for Blair to stupidly sign a big part of it away in return for the French being prepared to “consider” ways of cutting the farm subsidies That was always going to be Precisely Nothing.

      3. Tony Dalton
        January 23, 2014

        I have a perverse view of the situation? I’m afraid you do. I am not Labour but pro Britain and call incompetence when I see it.
        Wait for the crash in the next couple of years and we will reevaluate your opinion.
        P.s.I saw the first crash coming.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    January 21, 2014

    JR: “A rebellion is in effect any attitude or vote of an MP or group of MPs that the leadership of the party does not agree with.”
    We already knew but thank you for confirming that Cameron does not agree with much of what he is talking about regarding the EU. As you told us yesterday:
    “24 October 2011 David Nuttall proposed a referendum at a time when it was not official Conservative policy. The 81 Conservatives who voted for his proposal helped make it Conservative policy later to hold a referendum.
    31 October 2012 Mark Reckless proposed a cut in the EU budget and helped defeat the government”
    Perhaps that is why you and we are still waiting for clarification of his aims for renegotiating EU membership? Membership which he is determined to maintain. The Telegraph reported 18 January that: “The Prime Minister is set a deadline for detailing his EU reform plan as rebel Conservatives warn they could consider a leadership coup if the party is “hammered” in the Euro elections in May”. Too little, too late springs to mind.

  12. ChrisS
    January 21, 2014

    I think the Eurosceptic Tory MPs behind the recent open letter to the PM would have been better off simply making it plain that they wish the UK to leave the EU, rather than requesting veto powers over EU legislation (which is never going to happen.)

    The EU is moving toward ever closer monetary and political union. You are either in or out!

    Reply The MPs were backing a unanimous report of the elect Committee. The Select Committee does not have a majority to leave the EU. This is about numbers as well as about arguments.

  13. Richard
    January 21, 2014

    I think all HOC votes should be free votes.

    If a government cannot collect enough votes from its own side to pass a particular legislation then so be it.

    At the same time I think it is a nonsense that every MP from the opposition is expected to vote automatically against all government proposed legislation.

    Reply In order to run a consistent and sensible government you need some whipping aorund a common programme.

    1. BobE
      January 21, 2014

      The whip is dishonest. Party members should be convinced not forced. The whip is anti democratic.

    2. lifelogic
      January 21, 2014

      “some whipping around a common programme” would be rather easier if Cameron has a programme based on sensible conservative principles of self determination, efficient government, low taxes, sound money, less regulation, less waste and working with (rather than directly against) the markets – in energy, insurance, transport, agriculture, fishing, employment ……..

  14. John Wrake
    January 21, 2014

    Mr. Redwood,

    Your lectures on Parliamentary procedure and the nature of back-benchers actions are fascinating – but they are irrelevant to the current situation.

    When you are facing a man with a machine-gun, knowledge of the finer points of fencing do not help the situation.

    You and those who agree with your views have to do something more than analyse your votes to see if they amount to rebellion.

    Current government policy and action is unconstitutional. Many like me are fed up to the back teeth with constant analysis of this failure and who should bear the blame for our woes. We deplore the inter-Party wrangling between three Parties all wedded to continuing the same unconstitutional actions – AND we begin to doubt the stance of those who claim to disagree with this wrongdoing but continue to support those who are responsible.

    Magna Carta, that great charter of our liberties, made reference to lawful rebellion – the right of the people to refuse loyalty when authority misrules.

    When will so-called Tory rebels accept that loyalty to this nation trumps Party loyalty and loyalty to a corrupted administration.

    John Wrake.

    Reply The wholesale giving away of our powers of self governemnt, mainly by the last Labour government was as lawful as it was regrettable.

    1. APL
      January 21, 2014

      JR: “mainly by the last Labour government ”

      If you refuse to identify the correct cause of a problem, you have no hope of putting it right!

  15. Sean O'Hare
    January 21, 2014

    Conservative MPs remember Mr Cameron saying before the election that there was no consensus on Lords reform or desire to do it this Parliament.

    Once a liar always a liar eh?

    Reply: NO – he is coalition, and it was the Lib dems who wanted it, tried to achieve consensus and failed

    1. lifelogic
      January 21, 2014

      Lies, lies, lies?

      What about the IHT threshold promise, which he now has ratted on, even in the unlikely event of him having a majority after May 2015 – we will never get it.

      I do not remember him mentioning no Greater Switzerland and his pro EU Heart and soul when he was pretending to be an EU sceptic in order to become leader. Nor him explaining (at the time), that a treaty was magically some how “no longer a treaty” once ratified so his cast rubber promise was a worthless clear deception too.

    2. uanime5
      January 21, 2014

      Reply: NO ‚Äď he is coalition, and it was the Lib dems who wanted it, tried to achieve consensus and failed

      Given that the second reading passed with a majority of over 300 I’d say there was consensus for the Lords being reformed.

      Reply Do try to understand modern politics. The lack of consensus was with the Lords! The issue was what to do once the Lords had defeated the Bill which they disliked greatly. Can you sue the Parliament Act to remove the Lords? Some think that would be a step too far in the Commons as well as in the Lords. NO consensus on that.

  16. acorn
    January 21, 2014

    You mention the word “party” nine times, you are rebelling against a party. The party basically owns you; voters at the blue end of your constituency had no choice, the blue rosette came with you attached, courtesy of CCHQ. No disrespect but, in Wokingham, anything with a blue rosette would get elected!

    As I outlined in my replies yesterday, say you had a top two or a unified primary election in Wokingham. Say there were five or six candidates, two of which stated they had a preference for a Conservative type ideology. (They may or may not have any connection with the official Conservative party at this primary stage.) One of these two conservative inclined primary election candidates is a eurosceptic, the other is a europhile.

    Wokingham Conservative voters now have a choice they have not had before, assuming they were unlikely ever to vote for a red rosette eurosceptic or europhile or any other colour rosette come to that.

    The top two voted primary election candidates go forward to the general election. Party affiliation or preference play no part in the result of this primary, it appoints individuals not party fodder, unless you want known party fodder; your choice. The top two could have the same preference assuming they had one at all.

    So is Wokingham more eurosceptic than conservative or is it the other way around. Would all Wokingham voters, not just the blue ones, put JR and a fellow eurosceptic UKIPer forward to make sure they definitely had a eurosceptic going to Westminster at the GE in 2015. I would just love to know Wokingham!

    1. alan jutson
      January 21, 2014


      I am very happy with JR as a candidate, have voted for him in the past and will do so again.

      I vote first for the candidate who I think represents best, most of my views.

      I vote second for the candidate who’s Party best represents my views.

      I vote third for a candidate who I think will serve the local community best.

      JR fits the bill with his track record on the first and third.

      At the last election I was convinced he also represented the right Party as well, although recent performances of the Party have been a massive disapointment, although the alternatives are even worse.

      My problem now, is will a vote for JR be taken by DC as support him and his present policies, as that is the last thing I would want.

      So JR scores 2 out of 3.

      Enough info ?.

      Reply I seem to have been of a different view to Mr Cameron on the referendum, Eu budget, war in Syria and migration.

      1. lifelogic
        January 22, 2014

        But on the referendum, the EU budget, the war in Syria and controlled migration why on earth does Cameron have such daft views?

        1. zorro
          January 23, 2014

          But LL, what does he have sensible views on?


      2. acorn
        January 22, 2014

        Thanks Alan. Statistically you have maximised your “utility” in the election but you have some “regret” at having to accept a party profile / leader you wouldn’t choose. (A Bayesian Regret Index as its called, can be calculated for a “single winner” election. The “unified primary election” I proposed, gets far fewer regrets among voters when the winner is declared, than the plurality system (FPTP) we use now.)

      3. alan jutson
        January 22, 2014


        Very aware your views are different from Mr Cameron on a number of things.

        The problem is John, most people in this country seem to vote for party before Individuals, I do not, that is why you get my vote.
        But the last thing I want is for Mr Cameron (not you) to think because I vote for you, I automatically love his type of Conservative Party, and am endorsing his policies.

  17. Roy Grainger
    January 21, 2014

    But you do not mention the key point that this is a coalition government – should Conservative MPs really rebel against coalition policy which by definition must contain elements they don’t like ? They can’t have it both ways, being both in government only via a coalition and then voting against parts of government policy set by the coalition partners and written in the coalition agreement. Were the LibDems right to “rebel” on the boundary change proposals ?

  18. John Wrake
    January 21, 2014

    Reply to your reply at 10.38: “Reply The wholesale giving away of our powers of self governemnt, mainly by the last Labour government was as lawful as it was regrettable.”

    Once again you concentrate on which party was the biggest wrongdoer and dodge the issue of unconstitutional action.

    The giving away of our powers of self-government was not lawful, because it is contrary to our Constitution. Which Party instituted treasonous legislation to justify their actions is academic, since Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians have done nothing to separate themselves from this treason. All are guilty. Their attempt to justify their actions by treaty legislation, itself unlawful, carries no weight, for by definition, unlawfulness cannot be law.

    Parliament’s continuing attempts to amend the Constitution to justify lawbreaking is getting more and more obvious to the electorate. Ordinary people have a capacity for seeing through the lies and spin eventually. They know that things are not right at present and they expect their representatives to sort it out.

    That politician’s phrase to describe prevarication -“kicking the matter into the long grass” reflects a policy decision which is only of value if you don’t have to face the tiger hidden there to get your ball back.

    John Wrake.

  19. Max Dunbar
    January 21, 2014

    Of course there are going to be rebellions but your title is rather misleading because these rebellions are really within the Conservative Party which is not quite the same thing. Correct me if I am wrong on this point please.
    And the pressure can only increase on Cameron as he proved that he is not a conservative at all by supporting Gay Marriage and claiming that it would strengthen the institution of marriage. That sounded as plausible as Lord Robertson’s assertion that devolution to Scotland would kill nationalism stone dead. Although Gay Marriage may not seem to be a very important issue for many people, it nevertheless illustrated clearly Cameron’s attitude and direction, and confirmed the fears of many erstwhile Tory supporters and voters.

  20. Denis Cooper
    January 21, 2014

    “Where backbenchers wish to amend legislation or make their own proposals in motions or bills, the government can seek to find some good in them rather than seeking to dismiss or defeat them. If a backbencher‚Äôs proposal merely seeks to take the government further in a direction it says it wishes to travel, there is a lot to be said for accepting the amendment … ”

    So if the Commons happen to be considering a Bill about the EU and what is called our “relationship with the EU”, and for the removal of any possible doubt which may be growing in anyone’s mind – be they a judge, or the counsel for the government in a court case, or an MP, or just a member of the general public – a backbencher puts forward an amendment like this:

    “The sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament in relation to EU law is hereby reaffirmed.”

    what do you think the government should do – accept it, or seek to defeat it?

    Actually there’s no need for you to answer that, JR, because I see here:

    that you were one of the 39 MPs who voted for that amendment, in defiance of the Tory party whip that was obeyed by most of your colleagues.

    1. lifelogic
      January 22, 2014

      Just 39!

  21. Antisthenes
    January 21, 2014

    The lords reform rebellion was counter productive. Agreed Cleggs ideas on what that reform should entail was daft and wrong. However I believe of more importance was the boundary reforms and that rebellion scuppered that. Labour has enough electoral advantage especially in the number and ways the boundaries are defined now. The next rebellion to be considered should be the implementation of an English parliament or at the least barring any MP who does not represent an English constituency from debating or voting on matters that are exclusively about England. Devolved parliaments and an all UK parliament would be my idea of reform as the lords would become the latter.

    Reply Boundaries were nthing to do with Lords reform. The deal was AV referendum for boundaries. The Lib dems overturned on the deal.

    1. Antisthenes
      January 21, 2014

      I agree in essence with your reply however the lords rebellion was the perfect excuse for the lib-dims to stop the boundary changes as no doubt it was not in their interest for it go ahead. Without that excuse it would have been almost impossible for them to renege on the boundary changes agreement. However it is one of those times when good intentions did not good consequences make and perhaps could not have been anticipated although I believe the threat was made in time to roll back the rebellion. No doubt future historians will debate whether what happens in our future their past had a major impact on events for good or ill.

  22. Atlas
    January 21, 2014

    Quote: “Where MPs seek to put something on the agenda which the government does not want on the government can quite often keep it off.”

    John, when you use the word ‘government’ do you mean the Ministers or the Civil Servants? I find it usually the Civil Servants who do not like their cosy little stich-ups challenged – especially those arrived at with their EU counterparts. As an example consider the proposed Analogue Radio shut down. This was one of the few occasions where UK political forces have temporarily defeated EU civil service forces (The EU has a grand plan to switch off Analogue).

    Reply Ministers are ultimately responsible.

    1. zorro
      January 23, 2014

      Civil servants advise, Ministers decide…….although weak/lazy Ministers are easily swayed.


  23. Leslie Singleton
    January 21, 2014

    Every now and again I make some effort at believing what is said about the Economy; but I often do not succeed. For instance, does anybody have any understanding, because I don’t, why we keep hearing in the censorious way that we do that UK GDP is still below its pre-crisis peak? We went through a problem and we are arguably getting back on track in terms of annual growth but what’s that to the point? There is similarity with the factual comment that young people are staying longer with their parents. Of course they are. Where is it written that it should not be so? In fact it is arguably a good thing given the pressure on housing. Think of the height of a plant that is chopped down but still alive and growing.

  24. Denis Cooper
    January 21, 2014

    Government still struggling over the Mills amendment to the Immigration Bill:

    1. bigneil
      January 21, 2014

      only one question needing an answer – will the island be full with 800 million – or – 900 million immigrants?

  25. petermartin2001
    January 22, 2014

    Its a pity there aren’t more independent MPs and then the question of rebellion wouldn’t be such an issue.
    Many people’s views don’t fit neatly into the existing party structure. I’d be to the left on some issues like racial equality, the principle of equality of opportunity (as far a reasonably possible but not necessarily of outcome), the involvement of employees in the workplace as more than just hired labour, but to the right on others such as the EU (anti) , Nuclear Power (pro) , concern about the growth of a welfare dependent sub -working class.
    So its good to see MPs tell it like they see it, even if I don’t necessarily agree.

  26. Mike Wilson
    January 22, 2014

    …and Lords reform, three things Conservatives did not want to see …

    So, the Conservative party is happy with an arrangement where the Prime Minister of the day can pack the House of Lords with ‘supporters’ of their own party – and with a system that allows them to ‘clock in’, stay for 5 minutes and claim ¬£300 a day attendance fee.

    And you wonder why so few people bother to vote. Your party is all words and no action. You want to reform the House of Commons – but not the Lords. An incoherent proposition. We are told – by your party – there are too many MPs. But not, it seems, too many Lords.

    It’s pathetic.

    Repyl There are reforms of the Lords many of us do want – a retirement age or single limited term of membership, a use it or lose it requirement so there is a minimum attendance obligation etc Mr Clegg had the job of finding a package that provided a consensus but failed to achieve this. The Beith proposals, for example, were popular with soem Conservatives but not with his Leader.

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