Edward Leigh’s amendment to a Government programme motion for the Protection of Freedoms Bill on 10 October triggered the largest Conservative rebellion of the Parliament thus far. It saw 41 Conservative MPs (together with two Liberal Democrat and eight Labour MPs) support his move to allow time to debate the abolition of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which would have removed all references to offences based on insulting words or behaviour. (One Labour MP – Paul Flynn – voted no as the Labour frontbench abstained).
As well as the largest rebellion so far this Parliament, it also significantly expanded the pool of Conservative rebels to 99. The new rebels were Peter Aldous, Alun Cairns, Tracey Crouch, Ben Gummer, Simon Hart, Greg Knight, Jeremy Lefroy, Laura Sandys, Nicholas Soames, Robert Walter and James Wharton. All except Knight, Soames and Walter come from the new intake.
Eight new MPs breaking their duck just before Monday’s vote on a referendum on EU membership could not have come at a worse time for the whips; having rebelled now, rebellion then won’t be such a big deal. There is more analysis of Monday’s vote at Nottingham University’s Ballots and Bullets blog.