Labour rebellions are ominous sign

John McDonnell is the most rebellious Labour MP, study finds
John McDonnell is the most rebellious Labour MP, study finds

The government was faced with an unprecedented level of rebellions from its backbenchers in the last session of parliament, new research shows.

Ahead of today's Queen's speech, in which the monarch will set out Tony Blair's legislative agenda for the coming months, a new study suggests the prime minister may have trouble getting much of it past his own MPs.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have found that 114 Labour MPs have defied the party whip and voted against the government since the general election last May.

No other post-war government with a majority of over 60 has had more rebellions in a parliament, let alone in a single session.

The Queen's speech today promises to be focused on security, law and order and immigration, but in an ominous sign, 54 per cent of the rebellions in the past 18 months have been on Home Office bills.

This includes four defeats of government policy, among them proposals to increase the time terror suspects can be held without charge from 14 days to 90 days. MPs compromised on an increase to 28 days, with weekly supervision by a judge.

However, there are indications that ministers are intending to bring back the 90-day detention plan. Last weekend, chancellor Gordon Brown - widely expected to be the next prime minister - said he "completely" agreed with police calls for a longer limit.

And home secretary John Reid has confirmed he is looking into the question again, assessing the "capability, the structures, the resources, the legislative powers and other regulatory powers that are necessary to make effective our counter-terrorism effort".

He told Today: "If it is put to me on the basis of factual or evidential material that there is a requirement to go beyond 28 days then I would be prepared to take that back to parliament."

Mr Reid acknowledged there were people who "believe it might develop into a pattern of arbitrary power" but stressed any further extension of the time limit would be accompanied by sufficient safeguards beyond the current judicial review.

According to Philip Cowley's research, the most rebellious MP was John McDonnell, the left-winger who has declared he will challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership. His 63 rebellions are closely followed by the 60 lodged by Jeremy Corbyn.

The others are: Robert Wareing (42); Lynne Jones (41); Alan Simpson (40); Kelvin Hopkins (36); Bob Marshall-Andrews (35); Mark Fisher (34); Clare Short (34); Glenda Jackson (33); Kate Hoey (32); Ian Gibson (24); Mike Wood (22); Paul Flynn (21); Linda Riordan (21); David Taylor (20); Diane Abbot (19); Katy Clarke (18); Dennis Skinner (18); Gordon Prentice (17).


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