For all that backbench behaviour has changed over the post-war era – with MPs becoming more rebellious, less willing to be lobby fodder – there has been one constant: rebellion has always remained the exception, cohesion the norm. Whilst the exact rate of rebellion has varied from year to year and parliament to parliament, the majority of divisions (votes) in the Commons have seen complete unity amongst Government backbenchers.
Yet so far this Parliament the opposite has been true: rebellion has become the norm, cohesion the exception. Out of the first 110 divisions in the Commons since Parliament resumed, there have been rebellions by government MPs in 59. That is a rate of rebellion of 54%, simply without parallel in the post-war era. This briefing note (pdf, 128k) explains the composition of those rebellions and puts them into some historical context.