Despite being described by the Guardian’s Backbencher as ‘punishing’, most of our Christmas quiz questions caused no difficulties. The Labour MP who has rebelled most often since 2001 is Jeremy Corbyn (Q1); the Commons whip who has served in the same post since 1997 is Tommy McAvoy (Q3); the two Labour members of the 2001 intake now serving in the Whips’ office are James Purnell and Tom Watson (Q4); the Labour MP who makes a habit of voting in both lobbies to register an abstention is David Taylor (Q5); the two Conservative MPs who abstained on the Second Reading of the Higher Education Bill were Peter Duncan and Ian Taylor (Q7); and the issue which recently saw all three party leaders voting in the losing division lobby as well as splitting the Lib Dems right down the middle was fox hunting (Q10).
Some (normally very clever) people couldn’t work out the identity of the MP who said, after attending one of Charles Clarke’s seminars on top-up fees: ‘I now appreciate a little better how Maoist re-education worked all those years ago’ (Q2). The answer is John Grogan. (Try going to the Parliament search engine and typing in ‘Maoist re-education’…). More problematic were the most rebellious Conservative and Lib Dem MPs, with plenty of people going for Ann Widdecombe and Lembit Opik respectively, almost certainly because that’s who the Public Whip lists. But we asked for the most rebellious MPs, whereas (for all its excellent qualities) what the Public Whip provides is a record of those occasions when MPs have deviated from the majority of their party – which is something else altogether. As a brief glance at either of their voting records will confirm, most of the occasions when Opik or Widdecombe have deviated from the majority of their colleagues have been on free votes, most obviously (and repeatedly) over hunting in both cases. The most rebellious Conservative MP since the 2001 election has in fact been Douglas Hogg (Q6); the most rebellious Lib Dem is Mike Hancock (Q9).
More difficult still was Q8: how many Conservative MPs voted against their party whip over ID cards? Nearly everyone went for 10, which was the number to support Douglas Hogg’s Reasoned Amendment at Second Reading of the Bill, and then to vote against the Bill’s Second Reading itself. But, as we explained in our briefing paper on the vote, one other Conservative – Henry Bellingham – defied his frontbench to vote in the aye lobby, in favour of the Bill, and against the Reasoned Amendment, when his frontbench were abstaining. The total number to vote against their party whip therefore was 11, not 10.
Feel free to write in and complain, accusing us of mind-numbing pedantry. It won’t make any difference to the result – judge’s decision is final and all of that – but it might make you feel better.