As published in the Times:
David Davis has long been renowned as a champion of civil liberties, not least his own, and Times analysis indicates that he is the most rebellious Conservative MP of this parliament.
The former Brexit secretary has voted against his party line 25 times since the general election. A friend of his said: “He would have been most upset if anyone had beaten him.”
He is followed by the veteran backbencher Philip Hollobone, who has rebelled 24 times, and William Wragg, a critic of the government on coronavirus restrictions who has stepped out of line 18 times.
A majority of Tories have voted against their party at least once, and 23 have done so at least ten times.
The analysis demonstrates the extent of the Conservatives’ problem with wayward members, which the chief whip tried to address last week in a Zoom call with the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs.
Mark Spencer is understood to have told the meeting that “this must stop” and warned of “serious consequences” in the event of any mischief on forthcoming legislation. The government is expected to face a sizeable rebellion over a reduction in the aid budget soon.
A former whip told The Times that the threats were unlikely to change the behaviour of serial rebels, “but I imagine his point was, ‘We’re watching’”.
The high rate of rebellion under this government has been linked to the influx of new Conservative MPs at the 2019 election, who are generally regarded as more independent. All but one of the 107-strong cohort are estimated to have rebelled at least once.
The Conservatives’ disciplinary woes have been exacerbated by the fact that most business is being conducted virtually, with few MPs at the Commons.
One Tory MP said: “If you go to the Palace of Westminster it’s like the Mary Celeste. The whips have less chance to influence people but also we are not hanging around waiting for votes in the tea room — much less of a team than normal.”