To What Extent Are Backbench MPs Lobby Fodder?
We’re led to believe that the MPs we elect to form Parliament actively participate in the governing of our country. Yet in reality, most of the power lies with the executive and the influence of a backbencher is thus lessened. Are they a loyal party drone? Do they represent the constituents effectively? Have they been reduced to mere lobby fodder?
The “Whip” is sent weekly to MPs detailing the upcoming parliamentary business. Divisions are ranked in order of importance by the number of times it’s underlined. Three-line whips apply to major events and defying these may result in being denied places on select committees and promotion or the withdrawal of the whip. Essentially this is blackmail, and it often works, turning backbenchers into sheep who will follow the whips.
In addition to this, some often neither feel strongly about, nor fully know the facts about the subject being discussed in Parliament. Therefore when it comes to a division, most are grateful that they’re told what to do, and gladly become feed for the Lobbies.
However backbenchers can and do rebel in order to assert their power. Cameron experienced his first defeat over the EU Budget last week, with more than 50 Tory MPs rebelling. There was majority of 13, in favour of a rebel Tory call led by Mark Reckless for a real terms cut in the European Union's budget. This proves that some backbenchers are brave enough to take action and not be unquestionably loyal to the government.
The number of U-turns that the current government has done indicates that the threat of a backbench rebellion is sometimes enough to persuade them to drop a policy. In 2010 backbenchers were threatening to rebel over tuition fees. This was enough to force concessions to be made so the rebellion wasn’t as large as expected. It could be said that they failed because the bill wasn’t defeated but in a way it was a success as changes were made. This shows that the image of...