Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Chart of the Day
23 November 2021

As Tory MPs revolt over social care, is Boris Johnson losing his grip?

If 13 more Conservatives had chosen to vote against the bill, the government would have suffered a major defeat on a landmark piece of legislation.

By Ben van der Merwe

The Prime Minister suffered another major rebellion in the House of Commons on 22 November, as 19 Conservative MPs broke ranks to vote against the government’s plans to overhaul funding for social care.

Another 70 Tories abstained. Not all abstentions are a form of rebellion, since MPs may be paired with opposition members who cannot attend, or may be away themselves for legitimate reasons. However, just 13 Conservatives were reportedly paired with Labour MPs. 

Had 13 more Conservatives chosen to vote against the bill, or had an additional 26 chosen to abstain, the government would have suffered a major defeat on a landmark piece of legislation.

The Prime Minister has faced a series of major back-bench rebellions over Covid-19 restrictions since last September. With Labour MPs largely voting in favour of the government’s lockdown policies, however, such revolts have had little chance of success.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

The government has found itself much closer to defeat on matters unrelated to the pandemic. In July, former prime minister Theresa May led a rebellion against the government’s proposed cuts to foreign aid, with the measure eventually passing by just 35 votes.

The vote on social care is the closest Conservative rebels have got to defeating the government since the battle over an amendment to the Trade Act in January. Then, 34 Tories voted in favour of an opposition amendment that would allow courts to revoke the UK’s trade deals with countries committing genocide. The amendment failed by a margin of just 11 votes.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

[See also: Is Boris Johnson losing his way?]

Topics in this article: ,