Harold Macmillan faces just one Conservative rebel, Anthony Fell, when the Commons debates his decision to open negotiations with Europe about Britain’s entry to the European Economic Community
Eighteen Tories rebel against Ted Heath by supporting a move to hold an advisory referendum on entry to the EU. Heath faces no less than 88 separate rebellions when pushing through his European Communities Bill in 1971-1972.
Margaret Thatcher suffers her largest Europe rebellion when 19 Tories vote against the whip over the EC (Finance) Bill. In general, she gets off relatively lightly. In all of her three terms, she faced fewer rebellions than Ted Heath did in just one. The passage of the Single European Market Act, which represents a huge loss of sovereignty, provokes just 11 rebellions, the largest of which has 10 rebels.
Forty-one backbenchers defy the whip on the third reading of the Maastricht Bill, setting a record for the largest Tory backbench rebellion over a whipped Europe vote. In general, John Major suffers the most serious bouts of discontent over Europe, a fact exacerbated by his small majority of 21. There are a staggering 62 rebellions over the Maastricht Bill, as well as 14 further rebellions over Europe.
In the 18 months or so since Cameron came to power, he has already suffered 22 rebellions on Europe, accounting for some 39 per cent of all dissenting votes against the whip in this parliament. Even before yesterday’s vote, there were several rebellions of between 20 and 30 MPs, the largest being 37.