Given the depth and breadth of dissent by backbench Labour MPs during the last ten years, and especially given the problems the issue has caused for previous Labour leaders, it is something of a surprise to discover that the issue of Europe did not produce any large-scale Labour rebellions during the Blair era. At least on the Labour benches, Europe has been very much the dog that didn’t bark.
Now, however, there is talk of a possible significant Labour revolt on the subject. The Scottish Labour MP Ian Davidson is claiming to have the support of more than 120 fellow Labour MPs in calling for a referendum on the latest European Treaty. This short briefing paper looks at the rebellions over the last decade, along with the identity of the rebels, and considers the possibility of Prime Minister Brown encountering a large backbench revolt over the European treaty.
Its conclusion is simple: if Ian Davidson has secured 120 MPs prepared to defy their whips, then he must have secured the backing of an awful lot of Labour backbenchers who have previously not expressed any misgivings about the issue of Europe.