Labour 'yes men' in short supply

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair is running out of "yes men" and "yes women" to bring into the Government - because MPs are not as obedient as they used to be.

As he plots his reshuffle, possibly this week, Mr Blair may be forced topromote MPs who have shown less than 100 per cent loyalty to him.

Academics at Nottingham University have conducted a study of the voting records of all 40 Labour MPs who won their seats in the 2001 general election. More than half have defied the whips on important issues, such as major pieces of legislation, or when the Commons was voting on whether to go war with Iraq.

Their records contrast with those of Labour MPs first elected in 1997. When they had been in Parliament for two years, fewer than one in five had defied a three-line whip.

Other MPs have committed the lesser offence of going against the Prime Minister's known wishes when voting on reform of the House of Lords or House of Commons.

Only five out of the 40 - David Cairns, Tony Cunningham, James Purnell, Siôn Simon and Tom Watson - have what the whips would regard as clean voting records.

The figure suggests a problem is building up, according to Philip Cowley, who headed up the Nottingham study. "If there is a diktat that people who rebel never get a job, then ... you have got nothing to lose. Most of the new MPs have safe seats and are going to be there for 20 years," he said.