Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Conservatives
25 November 2022

The Tory rebellion over onshore wind is a weather vane for Rishi Sunak’s authority

The government’s large “working” majority has become dysfunctional.

By Freddie Hayward

If they didn’t have an easy time uniting the party, why should he? That seems to be the thinking of Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, with their support for a rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s plans to keep in place the current ban on onshore wind farms.

Truss’s ally Simon Clarke tabled an amendment to remove the ban on Wednesday 23 November – barely 24 hours after the government had to delay voting on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill because of a separate rebellion over housing targets.

That Sunak supported the ban during his leadership campaign over the summer (in a contest that he lost) is not assuaging any of the rebels. For his predecessors – both of whom retain a large contingent of supporters within the party – to rebel so openly is a serious blow to Sunak’s precarious authority.

A picture is building of what the next two years will look like for Sunak. The government is going to struggle to get legislation through parliament. So much of what Sunak can do is dictated by the size of his depleted working majority in the Commons, which stands at 69. That means only 35 Conservative MPs need to rebel to defeat the government.

In less volatile times, a working majority of 69 would give the government ample room to pass legislation. But amid the chaos of the past nine months Tory MPs have become habitual rebels. The whipping system has been weakened. They’ve now had to vote for three competing, unfulfilled versions of Conservativism under three prime ministers.

Select and enter your email address Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A quick and essential guide to domestic politics from the New Statesman's Westminster team. A weekly newsletter helping you understand the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email. Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Even just on onshore wind, MPs have been asked to support the ban, then to oppose it, then to go back to supporting it again. And once MPs rebel, they’re more likely to do so again.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe here.

Content from our partners
How placemaking can drive productivity in cities – with PwC
The UK needs SMEs to reach net zero
To truly tackle regional disparities, we need a new type of devolution

[See also: On housing, the Tories need Labour’s help not to self-immolate]