The Independent View: And then there was one… (Unmasked! The only backbench Lib Dem MP 100% loyal to the Coalition)

When a quarter of the parliamentary Conservative party rebels, everyone sits up and takes notice. On 24 October, 2011, 81 Conservative MPs defied a three-line whip to vote in favour of an EU referendum: cue a blaze of negative publicity for David Cameron and the Tory party whips.

But a week or so later one-quarter of Lib Dem MPs rebelled, and (almost) no one noticed. In nine separate votes on 1 and 2 November, a total of 14 Lib Dem MPs voted against various aspects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. The largest single rebellion saw 10 Lib Dem MPs vote to extend legal aid in complex cases. Exclude those in government, and as a proportion of the party’s backbench MPs, 14 rebels constitute a whopping 40%.

There have now been 86 Liberal Democrat rebellions so far this Parliament. In one session we’ve had more than twice as many Liberal Democrat rebellions as in the whole of the last Parliament. That’s a rebellion rate of 22%. Government is proving noticeably harder to handle than opposition – just as the Conservatives have also discovered.

Perhaps most worrying of all, however, for the party whips is the way the habit of rebellion has now spread. Almost everyone on the Liberal Democrat backbench has either abstained or voted against their party line (and most have done both).

The Legal Aid rebellions saw both Tom Brake and Simon Hughes finally break their ducks (Hughes had already abstained on tuition fees in December 2010). Of those who have been on the backbenches the entire parliament, the only Lib Dem who has not cast a single rebellious vote against the whip is Lorely Burt, although even she abstained on tuition fees last December.

Following the most recent rebellions, there is in fact now only one Liberal Democrat backbench MP whose voting has remained wholly loyal to the Coalition. His name is David Laws.

* Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart are at the Centre for British Politics at the University of Nottingham. They run, which analyses the voting behaviour of British MPs.

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This entry was posted in News, Parliament and The Independent View.


  • Pity they don’t get more publicity and frankly they won’t until they actually defeat the Government.

  • Will Barter 18th Nov '11 - 1:11pm

    I cannot wait for David Laws to be back in government. I had the pleasure to meet him once when he came to talk to our student group. I have never met a more intelligent politician. Add to this his sheer levels of capability, and his clear desire to serve his country (how much money did he give up by going into parliament rather than staying with his city job?), and you have a man who the country genuinely needs at the helm, helping to make the important decisions.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Nov '11 - 3:00pm

    Five LD peers voted against the government on the terrorism bill this week and at least a dozen actively abstained. But as I keep telling our people, it’s easier in the Lords because no-one pays any attention to what the Lords does – apart from one or two high profile things like the Health Bill (and 99% of that is going unnoticed).

    Tony Greaves

  • “Following the most recent rebellions, there is in fact now only one Liberal Democrat backbench MP whose voting has remained wholly loyal to the Coalition. His name is David Laws.”

    Just goes to show really that David Laws is true a conservative, how long before this shame is bought back to the front benches i wonder.

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Nov '11 - 9:15pm

    that people regard the upper house as being that irrelevent just goes to show what a token oversight it is.

    No. It just goes to show how little interest the general public have in what laws actually say. Mostly they are only concerned with what a brief summary said, accurate or not.

  • D Laws has found the perfect way to reduce the number of canvassers and deliverers.

  • Patrick Smith 19th Nov '11 - 12:38pm

    The fact that David Laws MP has been the only totally 100% loyal L/D voter for the `Coalition Agreement’ shows that although in the minority he remains a fiscally astute and prudent Liberal Democrat `Coalitionist’ who deserves to be returned to the Government benches and is,media focussed and a brilliant Constuency MP.

    David Laws was one of the main architects of this `Coalition Government’.

  • @ Patrick Smith

    It’s a bit early for April Fools isn’t it?

  • Would this be expences over claimer and disgraced David Laws?. It says it all really.

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