The backbenchers are lobby fodder no longer. Instead, they hold the balance of powerby Martha Gill / July 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Not so long ago, a reader’s letter used to appear in broadsheets almost every week complaining that politicians were too obedient. They were sheep, the letter would grumble, too invested in their own careers to stand up to the party whips or speak their minds, voting through any half-baked nonsense ministers plonked in front of them. Whatever happened to those robust MPs of years past, who followed their consciences and would challenge their governments if it was the right thing to do? Bring them back!
Nobody writes that now. These days rebellions are so commonplace as to make governing nigh-on impossible. Just one week into her new parliament, Theresa May caved in to a revolt on abortion charges, meaning Northern Irish women coming to Britain will no longer have to pay. The rebelling Conservative backbenchers, backing Labour MPs, were so formidable that Philip Hammond was forced to interrupt his own speech at the despatch box to announce the u-turn—just hours earlier, the Department of Health had denied there was even a consultation on the question.