Six MPs who missed every single vote in the Commons are named

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Indy Politics

The more famous a politician you are, the less likely you are to bother to vote in Parliament. That is the finding from a new survey of MPs' voting habits which is selling like hot cakes at Westminster as honourable members quietly check up on each other.

The more famous a politician you are, the less likely you are to bother to vote in Parliament. That is the finding from a new survey of MPs' voting habits which is selling like hot cakes at Westminster as honourable members quietly check up on each other.

The league table for the current parliamentary session, leaked to The Independent, shows that many of the biggest political names are struggling in the relegation zone. Meanwhile, at the top of the league, more obscure political animals are fighting hard for a place in the Champions League.

Tony Blair, accused by the Tories of treating Parliament with contempt, took part in only 11 per cent of the 133 Commons votes held between last November and the end of March, putting the Prime Minister in 617th place among the 653 MPs in the table.

But William Hague does not have too much to crow about: the Tory leader is in 589th place after participating in 32 per cent of the Commons divisions. Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, took part in 41 per cent.

The survey, compiled by officials in the Commons library, found several big names near the bottom of the pile. John Major, who is leaving the Commons at the next general election, is in 599th place with a 26 per cent turnout, while Sir Edward Heath, another former prime minister, who is not yet showing any signs of retiring, voted in only 6 per cent of the divisions - just below the former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine on 9 per cent.

Cabinet ministers evidently have better things to do. Although some complain that government whips waste their time by making them attend late-night Commons votes, several cabinet members are near the relegation zone: Peter Mandelson (14 per cent), Robin Cook (17 per cent), Gordon Brown (18 per cent), Mo Mowlam (26 per cent), David Blunkett (27 per cent) and Clare Short (32 per cent).

Ken Livingstone, the new Mayor of London, also had other things on his mind, taking part in only 8 per cent of Commons votes, the same score as Frank Dobson, the roundly beaten Labour candidate for the mayoralty.

The impact of devolution on Westminster is marked, with many MPs who have joined the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly making few appearances to vote in London even though they remain MPs. Rhodri Morgan, the Welsh First Secretary, voted in 5 per cent of the Commons divisions and Alun Michael, his predecessor, managed only 6 per cent. Donald Dewar, Scotland's First Minister, took part in 2 per cent of the London votes.

Two Labour members of the Welsh Assembly, Dr John Marek and Ron Davies, the former Welsh secretary who resigned after a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common, were among six MPs who did not vote at all at Westminster between November and March. The others included Tess Kingham, who became the Labour MP for Gloucester in 1997 but is considering leaving Parliament because of the difficulty of juggling its anti-social hours with family life.

Also with a "0 per cent" rating were John Hume, leader of Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party, and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the two Sinn Fein MPs who have not taken their seats at Westminster.

The top of the league is dominated by ambitious Labour MPs. Colin Pickthall, a parliamentary aide to the Home Secretary, and Dr Brian Iddon, the MP for Bolton South East, come top after participating in 98 per cent of the votes.

Pour encourager les autres, government whips are also among the most frequent voters, including Greg Pope (96 per cent), Kevin Hughes (95 per cent), Robert Ainsworth (94 per cent), Graham Allen (94 per cent) and Clive Betts (94 per cent). Other backbenchers in the top bracket include Brian Jenkins, the MP for Tamworth (95 per cent), and David Crausby, the MP for Bolton North East (94 per cent).

The officials who compiled the report said that voting rates could be affected by factors including abstentions (which do not show up in the figures), ministerial or opposition frontbench duties, visits abroad, constituency business, party duties, "pairing" - the system under which MPs from two parties agree not to vote - illness, bereavement and maternity leave.

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