MPs with nothing to lose vote against their parties

Record numbers of newly elected Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are rebelling – and the Whips are powerless

The coalition is in the grip of record levels of rebellion, with the class of 2010 more likely to defy the Government than Commons veterans.

New research for The Independent on Sunday reveals Conservative and Lib Dem MPs first elected a year ago will more readily vote against the David Cameron and Nick Clegg than other backbenchers. Senior whips have to "plead" with independent-minded MPs to toe the party line in an effort to contain the mutiny.

Sarah Wollaston, a Tory MP who has spoken out against NHS reforms, said: "Some people are leant on by the whips – but more fool them." A Lib Dem newbie added: "They don't even bother trying to persuade me to change my mind any more."

Swept into Parliament on a tide of anti-politics sentiment, the MPs remain determined to retain an independent streak. As a group, they are already more likely to have defied the whips than new Labour MPs did in the entire 1997-2001 parliament.

Traditionally, new MPs, their eye on a junior government job, have proved more loyal. But as the coalition limits Mr Cameron's ability to reward Tories with ministerial office and new Lib Dems are fearful of a backlash for getting into bed with the enemy, the Whips office is struggling.

Research carried out by Professor Philip Cowley from the University of Nottingham reveals the coalition has experienced the highest levels of dissent since the war, with new MPs most likely to disobey ministers. During Tony Blair's first term, new Labour MPs were half as likely to defy the whip as long-standing backbenchers. But by the end of last month, 26 per cent of the new Conservative MPs had rebelled, compared with 25 per cent of the older MPs. Among Lib Dems, 70 per cent of the new intake had voted against the Government.

"Spare a thought for Patrick McLoughlin. As Chief Whip in a newly elected government, he should have had a relatively easy time," Prof Cowley wrote on Nottingham's Ballots and Bullets blog. "Instead, he's experienced record high levels of dissent from both wings of the coalition."

Conservatives are most likely to rebel on constitutional issues, including Europe and holding a referendum on changes to the voting system, while Lib Dem rebellions have focused on social policy, most obviously tuition fees and housing benefit cuts.

The most rebellious new Tory MPs include David Nuttall, Mark Reckless and Andrew Percy. Others in the top 10 include Zac Goldsmith, the green campaigner elected MP for Richmond Park, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset.

Mr Nuttall said: "I am not interested in being promoted. If I don't get preferment, I am not bothered at all."

Of the Lib Dems, the most rebellious are Julian Huppert, Stephen Lloyd and, topping the league table, David Ward, who said: "I was determined that if there was a clash [between party and constituency], there would be only one winner: the constituency."

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