The Constitution Unit


The Conservatives and Coalition Discipline

Public Seminars 2011-12

Prof Tim Heppell

Above: Prof Tim Heppell

Prof Tim Heppell (University of Leeds) with respondent Jesse Norman MP


The last four decades have seen a significant increase in the level of backbench rebellions for governing parties. Interpretations of whether incidences of backbench rebellion have any impact on perceptions of Prime Ministerial effectiveness have been variable. Relatively high levels under Thatcher and Blair (second term) could be masked by commanding parliamentary majorities and thus made limited impact upon perceptions of their leadership competence. High levels of backbench dissent when operating with smaller majorities would have been hugely constraining on the Prime Ministerial tenures of Callaghan and especially Major.

By examining the first year of the Cameron government it is clear that the artificial majority that he enjoys has successfully masked unprecedented levels of intra-party (Conservative) dissent but also inter-party (coalition) dissent. In this talk Prof Heppell will move beyond the size of the majority explanation to consider the other reasons why dissent levels that exceed even the Major era have yet to undermine the Prime Ministerial image of Cameron.

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