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Assessing the magnitude of any Lib Dem rebellion

Michael Crick | 11:52 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

There's much speculation today about the potential for rebellion amongst Lib Dem MPs over the big increases in university tuition fees.

And the question is also raised with regard to other current issues.

I have often mentioned that the government can probably rely on 23 of the 57 Lib Dem MPs since they belong to the "pay-roll vote" of ministers and parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs).

One of my correspondents, Hywel Carr, has queried this figure. So let's go through the names.

There are 16 Lib Dem ministers in the Commons - Clegg, Cable, Huhne, Alexander, Moore, Harvey, Webb, Teather, Browne, Burstow, Heath, Lamb, Davey, Stunnell, Baker and Featherstone.

And there are two Lib Dem government whips - Alistair Carmichael and Mark Hunter.

Plus five PPSs - Swinson, Willott, Crockart, Birtwistle and Hames.

Hence my figure of 23.

But the Lib Dems also have three "party whips", appointed by Nick Clegg for internal party management - Bob Smith, Tessa Munt and Stephen Gilbert.

Why it takes five whips to manage a parliamentary party of just 57 MPs is beyond me. But it ties everyone in.

I am told that the conversation over whether these party whips would have to resign if they rebelled "has not yet taken place"!

On top of that the party has five "spokesmen", also appointed by Clegg, to cover those government departments where they have no ministers, such as Tim Farron for International Development and Don Foster for DCMS. Some of these don't call themselves "spokesman" but "co-chair" of the backbench committee on their subject.

So 31 members of the 57-strong party are beneficiaries of Nick Clegg's patronage, leaving only 26 plain backbenchers. And among the 26, I would be surprised if David Laws ever rebelled.
The government 23 seem to be more bound to the government than the eight party whips, spokesmen and chairs.

Among the group of eight Tim Farron is likely to rebel over tuition fees, and probably on other issues too. But Nick Clegg has nonetheless built an elaborate network of support which means the potential for Lib Dem revolt is quite limited.

Update at 1201GMT:

‪Further to this item, I am told that some of the "party whips" have already rebelled without being required to resign: Stephen Gilbert on Monday on an amendment on boundary changes, Bob Smith on the London Local Authorities Bill.‬ ‪Party spokespeople have also rebelled and not resigned: Don Foster, Andrew George (frequently) and Roger Williams.‬ ‪Furthermore, Chris Huhne voted both ways on 18 October on extending the vote in the AV referendum to British citizens outside the UK. He didn't resign.‬ ‪ 


  • Comment number 1.

    all these so-called leaders got their Uni education for....zilch, how dare they do what they are doin'

  • Comment number 2.

    'There's much speculation today ..'

    Where, the BBC canteen?

    Time to try for an actual named source this time?

    But be careful...

  • Comment number 3.

    Excellent post. Keep up the good work, Crooky. If you wish long enough for a LibDem revolt, you never know, it might just happen. We might then be lucky enough to have a government of the party we have just got rid of, then you would be really happy, even if the country's fortunes declined still further.

  • Comment number 4.


    Everyone has their price - I was offered mine once, and have had to live with that knowledge. I know my price is now a lot higher, but will not know the actual amount unless it is offered.

    Nick needed power, Dave waved WHAT LOOKED LIKE POWER to a needy man. Nick was not immune, but he also abused the trust of many, and that compounds the error.

    Nick can't fix it, and when Dave is ready he will frolic it for Nick.

  • Comment number 5.

    paying to go to university miles away is a stupidity tax. a 20th century model. you can do courses from home these days if education was REALLY your aim.

  • Comment number 6.

    "NOW - WHAT HAVE I GOT" (#5)

    Even Frank Spencer paused to see what he had to hand to tackle his latest disaster.

    Schooling (the gathering together of our young, ostensibly to educate) seemed like a good idea at the time. Indeed, small local institutions made some sense.

    We live in very different times, and as jaunty indicates, we have a lot of kit unknown to Mr Gradgrind. It is time to re-think LEARNING - both means to, and content - in light of modern technology.

    There is no immediate way back to a home with a mother in it, but small local learning groups, using OU type modules, are surely possible? Small is beautiful.

  • Comment number 7.

    Nick may have got his price, but if he doesn't realise the cosequences yet he will after the council elections next year. If the Lib Dems want to become an effective force in politics they should have a leadership election, unfortunately most of their leadership have jumped with Nick to become neo tories while the membership remain progressive.

  • Comment number 8.

    I just wanted to say that ever since the election the BBC News policy towards the government, as is so vividly illustrated by this blog, has been the production of an en endless onslaught of negativity, criticism, and pessimism such that any idea that political impartiality has been maintained can be long forgotten.

    I confess I no longer watch Newsnight, it makes me feel ill. I listen to BBC 6 or 7 in the morning, I want to drown the radio in the bath if I have radio 4 or 5 Live on!

    Where was the BBC coverage of the positive (Lilly-buying)reception received by the science minister when British scientists were positive in their views of the government's decision regarding science funding? Nowhere of course because the BBC cannot stomach the idea of anything that might show the coalition in a positive light. They endlessly portray the government as being mainly the despicable Tories buoyed up by Lib Dem hypocrites and traitors.

    I wonder if there is anywhere else in the world where a state corporation compulsoraly funded by ordinary people has so utterly betrayed it's founders principles in order to indulge the political bias of it's staff at all levels.

    I doubt it. The BBC is truly unique!

  • Comment number 9.

    Going by the rant of TMR on comment 8....I would say that the BBC must be getting something right,upsetting the tories..tut..tut.

  • Comment number 10.

    'paying to go to university miles away is a stupidity tax. a 20th century model. you can do courses from home these days if education was REALLY your aim.'
    Dear jauntycyclist, I teach at a university, and it is true that some students seem to treat their time here as an excuse for three years' worth of partying and idleness. However, the experience of living away from home when I went to university was, for me and so many others, a very valuable one - I grew up, as well as expanding my mind and horizons.
    One issue I have with your comment is that you seem to equate universities with schools; however, for universities there is no national curriculum, and students do not take the same exams across the country. Different university departments will have different emphases in optional modules, say, dependent upon the specialities of the academics therein. Whilst the OU is an admirable institution, I think there is much to be said for human contact, for having the sustained ability to discuss and debate your subject with other dedicated specialists. Also, like schools of course, not all universities are created equal - your local university might have a rather poor reputation for the subject you wish to study, or indeed no department at all.
    Fundamentally, we have a problem here of different groups holding different conceptions of what higher education should be. Businesses and this government (and probably the last) seem to see higher education purely as a means of creating people with higher earning potential - a terribly utilitarian view. What about improving one's mind and increasing one's knowledge? Perhaps you also think that a dated twentieth century model. If this government really means to maintain the UK's standing so far as world class higher education institutions is concerned, they would do well to remember that very few world class universities are devoid of arts and humanities departments.


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