According to the admirable TheyWorkforYou.com, I am a peer who ‘quite often rebels’ against my party. This is based on the fact that, according to the equally admirable Public Whip, I have voted against my own side in 41 out of 734 divisions.
The description is about right, though not necessarily because of the votes listed in the Public Whip. As the Public Whip notes, details of whipping are not published, so the determination of a rebel is based on whether one votes in the opposite lobby to that of most of your party colleagues. This not only captures whipped votes but also free votes. As a result, I variously figure as a rebel because I have gone into one lobby on a free vote and most Conservatives have gone into the other lobby.
However, this is balanced by the fact that I sometimes vote against my party in a way that the software cannot capture. The Opposition line on some votes is to abstain. I am not a natural abstainer (sorry, Chief Whip) and so on occasion will vote. If I am the only one doing so, then I constitute the totality of the Conservative vote. Because 100% of the Conservative vote – i.e. me – is in one lobby, this constitutes the party position and so I am classed as loyal. There have been a number of occasions where this has happened, with me sometimes being joined by one or more colleagues. The position is also muddied on occasion by the fact that the Front Bench decides to abstain but leaves it to back-benchers to decide what to do.
This creates problems for those seeking to analyse voting behaviour in Parliament – basically academics like me. I was giving a paper once on voting behaviour in the Lords and mentioned that in one of the sessions I was covering, I was the leading Tory rebel. I had to point out that as a parliamentarian I wasn’t trying to skew my own data!