David Cameron and Nick Clegg face opposition from their own MPs that is unprecedented in modern political times, new research revealed yesterday.
Backbench rebellions are running at far greater levels than in any parliament since the Second World War, with coalition MPs defying their whips in 44 per cent of votes since the general election.
The frequency of dissent increases the problems for David Cameron and Nick Clegg in fashioning an agenda in the Queen’s Speech that can command support on both sides of the coalition.
The analysis, by Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart of Nottingham University, discloses that Tory MPs rebelled in 28 per cent of divisions in the two-year parliamentary session that ended last week.
Liberal Democrat MPs were almost as mutinous, stepping out of line in 24 per cent of Commons votes.
The combined rate of 44 per cent outstrips previous parliaments – and will be particularly alarming for Tory and Liberal Democrat managers as, historically, MPs have tended to be more rebellious as general elections approach.
The previous post-war records for backbench revolts were 28 per cent in 2005-06 when Tony Blair faced growing hostility from restive Labour MPs and 23 per cent in 1992-93 as John Major struggled to pass the Maastricht Bill in the face of Tory Eurosceptic opposition.
Worryingly for Mr Cameron, levels of rebellion are particularly high among Conservative MPs elected for the first time in 2010.
Of the 119 Conservatives who have voted against the government, 71 are from the new intake, rebelling on 401 occasions.
One “newbie”, David Nuttall, the MP for Bury North, has voted against the whip no fewer than 74 times. The only Tory to have rebelled more often is Philip Hollobone, who voted against the government 106 times.
The biggest rebellion happened last October when 81 Conservatives demanded a referendum on British membership of the European Union.
Prof Cowley and Mr Stuart write: “The Coalition is saddled with two wobbly wings, which require careful handling, and there are plenty of issues ahead in the immediate future that will ensure continued high levels of Coalition dissent.”
They add: “Over time, the ranks of rebellious new MPs are bound to swell, unless the Government can create a whole raft of new jobs to keep its backbenchers occupied.”