Leading article: In praise of MPs who refuse to be told what to do

The current Parliament is the most mutinous in 50 years, with new entrants the most unruly of all

Share
Related Topics

After the disgraceful revelations of MPs' expenses, the gloomier political commentators warned of damage to Parliament's reputation that might take generations to repair. Instead, the scandal has cleared the way for a new generation of MPs who appear to be motivated less by their party whips than by their own consciences. And there are even signs that the mood is spreading.

When it comes to breaking with the tarnished past, the current Parliament benefits most obviously from brute force of numbers. Some 228 people were elected for the first time in 2010, more than a third of the House of Commons total and the biggest new intake since Tony Blair's first landslide in 1997. Add in the unstable dynamic of the first coalition since the Second World War, and the stage is set for an invigorated body politic. And so it is proving. The current crop of MPs is the most mutinous in more than 50 years, and the new entrants the most unruly of all.

In part, such fractiousness is a natural consequence of coalition. Proportionally speaking, the most rebellious cohort of all is Liberal Democrat: all but one of the 33 Liberal Democrat MPs not in the Government has defied the whip since the election, and the single ultra-loyalist is David Laws, who has hopes of returning to the Cabinet.

More interesting, however, is the level of defiance in the Conservative Party. That the Coalition has faced a revolt in 43 per cent of votes is one thing. That nearly a third of the time the rebels included Tories, and more than half of them were newcomers to Parliament, is another story altogether. Collectively, new Tory MPs have defied the whip a staggering 340 times in just over 18 months – a fact that must give David Cameron considerable pause.

Such behaviour is far from the acquiescence expected of entrants keen for promotion to government. Indeed, the new MPs are barely playing politics at all, tending instead to speak out on either their own or their constituents' favoured issues, be that Europe or high-speed rail. Sad to say, such free thinking is atypical. But the new MPs may yet restore some sense of politics as a vocation for those who would improve the world as well as those that would run it. British politics would certainly be much healthier for it.

Better still, the spirit of rambunctiousness is appearing elsewhere in the House. Select committee members are also enjoying a surge in influence, thanks to pugnacious performances on high-profile subjects such as bank regulation and phone hacking. It is a moot point how far the popularity of an Andrew Tyrie or a Tom Watson results from their own activities, and how far from the overweening public interest in their subjects and the television coverage that results. Regardless of the answer, the boost to the stature of the Commons is a welcome one. The Speaker of the House also merits a mention. By allocating more speaking time to backbenchers, John Bercow has helped to inject a renewed dynamism into sometimes sclerotic traditional proceedings.

There is, of course, an alternative, less inspiring, reading of the newly vigorous climate at Westminster. Perhaps MPs denied the opportunity for promotion by the arithmetic of coalition are simply seeking other routes to public recognition. No matter. Whatever the reasons for it, Britain is the better for a more obstreperous Parliament. Long may the rebellion last.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The demise of a Sixties monster

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?