This is a succint blog as it is more an entreaty to read this excellent bit of research by Philip Cowley of Nottingham University into Euro-rebellions of the past. It’s a vital piece of analysis ahead of Monday’s vote over whether Britain should have a referendum on pulling out of the EU.
In a nutshell Cowley predicts that the final tally won’t be as high as the 100 that some have suggested (on the basis that the whips always peel away some potential rebels). One calculation reckons 78 have already put their heads over the parapet.
What is interesting is that it seems we are heading for an historic result in tomorrow’s vote – even if dozens of MPs decide to stay loyal in the end.
Cowley says that during the Heath years the Eurosceptic rebels never numbered more than 18. Under Thatcher they peaked at 19. John Major’s famously bitter battles against Eurosceptics only featured about 50 MPs – with a maximum of 41 voting against him together in 1993. The big difference, of course, was that Major’s majority was a pitiful 21 – putting him in a very weak position.