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Order, order! Why the newest Tories are a major headache for Cameron

Analysis of most rebellious MPs finds Class of 2010 defies PM more than any other
  • @NigelpMorris

More than half of the Conservative rebels who have defied David Cameron to vote against the Coalition Government were elected as MPs only last year.

The so-called "class of 2010" is playing a central role in the simmering discontent facing the Prime Minister on a range of issues, a study next month will disclose. The Government has suffered a revolt in 43 per cent of Commons divisions between the general election in May 2010 and Christmas 2011, by far the highest rate in modern times. Tories have rebelled in 31 per cent of votes. Particularly worrying for Mr Cameron is that more than half of the Conservative rebels have been "newbie" MPs, voting 340 times against their leader.

One new MP, David Nuttall, who led demands for a referendum on the terms of Britain's membership of the European Union, has voted against the Government no fewer than 63 times since he arrived in Parliament 19 months ago. Two others – Andrew Percy and Mark Reckless – have also defied the Whips on more than 20 occasions.

The study by the University of Nottingham says MPs have become more rebellious and independent-minded in recent years. The Parliaments elected in 2001 and 2005 produced record numbers of revolts, but the 2010 Parliament is already "easily outstripping" them, say Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart, who conducted the research.

They say the 43 per cent rebellion rate is "simply without parallel in the post-war era", and is even more dramatic because the Parliament is still in its early stages, when new MPs tend to be more acquiescent. "One of the most noticeable features about the 2010 cohort, especially on the Conservative side, is how troublesome they have been," the authors say.

"Over time the ranks of the rebellious new MPs will swell, unless the Government can create a raft of new jobs to keep its backbenchers occupied. We find it difficult to imagine the rate of rebellion remaining quite so high over the entire Parliament – the Whips will certainly hope not – but in parliamentary terms the Government needs to brace itself."

The most prolific rebel has been Philip Hollobone, the MP for Kettering, who has opposed the Government 87 times, or in 20 per cent of all votes. Many of the Tory revolts have been over Europe, or over constitutional policy, such as legislation for establishing fixed-term parliaments or last year's referendum on electoral reform. The scale of Liberal Democrat disquiet over wider areas of Coalition policy is also exposed by the survey.

It found that Nick Clegg's MPs have rebelled in 21 per cent of divisions. Only one of the party's "non-payroll vote" has stayed loyal at every division, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, David Laws.

Their rebellions have tended to be on social policy, with revolts against moves to raise university tuition fees, increase the rate of VAT and introduce free schools.

The class of 2010: New Tory rebels

1. David Nuttall (Bury North): Ex-solicitor who vowed to be a "strong and independent advocate for my constituents". As the most prolific new rebel, he's lived up to his words. Led the revolt for a referendum on the EU.

Acts of rebellion: 63

2. Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole): The former school teacher was a fierce critic of the decision to raise tuition fees, warning it would deter youngsters from poorer backgrounds from applying to university.

Acts of rebellion: 27

3. Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood): A former economist who led opposition to any suggestion that the UK should contribute to a bailout of the eurozone. Also voted against increasing tuition fees.

Acts of rebellion: 23

4. Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park): One of the best-known of the new intake, he is also proving a free spirit. David Cameron withdrew an offer to make him a 'green envoy' after he backed calls for a referendum on the EU.

Acts of rebellion: 19

5. Steve Baker (Wycombe): Says he is proud of his reputation as a rebel, he was among the supporters of an EU referendum. He is a strong critic of plans to build a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham.

Acts of rebellion: 15