A very loyal opposition

One nugget that we spotted, when going through our end-of-session calculations last year, was the extent to which the Conservative frontbench voted against a mere four bills at Second or Third Reading in the last session — just 15% of government legislation. This is part of a parliament-on-parliament decline since 1997. We provide the details in this very short briefing note (pdf).

The note’s been written up in today’s Times. The Conservative explanation is that this is all Gordon Brown’s fault: “He wants to manoeuvre us into a position where we are seen to be voting against motherhood and apple pie. So rather than vote against the Bill as a whole we try to change it later. There is a lot in the Equality Bill that we did not like at all, but they would have loved it had we been put in a position where we were opposing equality. Brown has also been trying to get us to oppose the 50p tax rate. But we won’t play his game.”

We think there’s something in this. But, as our note shows, the decline began before Gordon Brown became Prime Minister: the Conservatives opposed just 21 and 22 percent of legislation in the 2005 and 2006 sessions of this parliament, when Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. So there’s also something else going on.