Charlotte Street Partners



The history of the rebellion

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
16 December 2021

Good morning,

Speaking to his electors in Bristol, Edmund Burke said of an ideal MP: “…his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.”

Burke was writing in 1774, before political parties, as we would now recognise them, existed. In the centuries since, the expectation has developed that MPs’ enlightened consciences will align closely with those of their parties’ whips. In recent decades, this trend has been reversing.

On Tuesday, 98 Conservative MPs voted against a vaccine passport scheme for England. This is an extreme example of that trend but one that will worry the government.

It is, for a start, the second biggest rebellion of Conservative MPs since 118 of them rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal in 2019. The third biggest rebellion of Conservative MPs was in 1996, when 95 opposed John Major’s reforms to gun laws. In both these cases, the prime minister was gone within a year.

Two factors should, however, console the government. For a start, big rebellions aren’t always a sign of decline. David Cameron weathered 91 rebellions on Lords reform in 2012. Margaret Thatcher saw 72 MPs rebel against her proposals to relax Sunday trading laws in 1986, only to win her third landslide a year later.

Secondly, the size of the rebellion has no doubt been increased by Conservative MPs’ confidence that the measures would pass with Labour support. Many will have felt impunity to send the government a message without contributing to its defeat.

The Johnson government has faced rebellions before but Tuesday’s may mark the decline of the transactional relationship which has kept the prime minister in power. Between scandals over parliamentary standards and the Number 10 Christmas party, Johnson has eroded a mid-term poll lead. His parliamentary support is based on the perception he is a winner; when that perception crumbles, the support is likely to follow.

In many ways, Tuesday’s rebellion didn’t matter. The measure passed. The government continues. When, however, the government is forced to take controversial action – as Covid may well demand – it could find too many enlightened consciences an insuperable obstacle.


The UK government has urged caution as Covid cases hit a record high yesterday evening, with the daily rate of positive results surpassing 78,000. In a Downing Street press conference, the prime minister and leading health officials warned of “staggering” numbers of Omicron infections to come. (£)

Savanah Brockhill has been given a life sentence for the murder of 16-month-old Star Hobson. Hobson suffered weeks of “neglect, cruelty and injury” at the hands of Brockhill, her mother’s girlfriend. The trial closely follows that of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ killers and has renewed public concern about child safeguarding.  

Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton received a knighthood yesterday for services to motorsports. The ceremony took place in Windsor Castle and Hamilton received the honour from Prince Charles.

Business and economy

UK inflation has risen to its highest level in a decade, topping five per cent in November. Bank of England projections had suggested inflation would not breach this threshold until spring next year.

Cineworld has been ordered to settle a claim made by Canadian rival Cineplex after pulling out of a takeover deal. Reports note that the £700m damages could wipe out the entire value of the company. Shares have plunged by 38% since the verdict, despite Cineworld declaring it will appeal the ruling.

The US Federal Reserve is expected to taper Covid stimulus more quickly than expected. Support could end by March, opening the door to an interest rate rise in 2022. The move comes as inflation appears to be running higher than the Fed expected, while unemployment is lower.

Columns of note

Is Labour finally shaking off the toxic legacy of Jeremy Corbyn? Recent polls, which consistently put the party a few points ahead of the Tories, would suggest as much. In The Times, David Aaronovitch looks at what’s changing. He argues that Labour, by appearing more competent in recent weeks, is appealing to voters’ basic desire for competency and values. (£)

Chile has long been South America’s leading example of economic strength and political stability. Yet, dissatisfaction with the status quo has been boiling over since protests in October 2019. Now a presidential election is pitting polarised right and left candidates against each other. In the Financial Times, Lucinda Elliott and Michael Stott look at what’s happening in the country and whether this election could overturn its post-Pinochet consensus. (£)


What happened yesterday?

US markets have responded positively to news the US Federal Reserve could accelerate the tapering of Covid stimulus packages. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index, which had slipped about 0.2% earlier in the day, swung to a 1.6% gain, closing at its second-highest level on record. The Nasdaq Composite also reversed its 0.7% decline to trade up 2.2% for the day.

In Europe, news of an imminent European Central Bank meeting saw the Stoxx 600 index edge up only 0.3% while news of rising UK inflation saw London’s FTSE 100 drop 0.7%.

What’s happening today?

Arc Minerals
Baillie Gifford Japan Trust PLC
Avi Global Tst
Schroder Income Growth Fund
Egdon Resources

888 Holdings

Nova Ljublj. S

Source: Financial Times

did you know

With over 500 million units manufactured since 1950, the Flying Pigeon PA-02 bicycle is the most produced vehicle in history.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Transport (including topical questions)

Business statement
Business questions to the leader of the House

House of Lords 

Oral questions

Government plans to announce a new UK international development strategy in 2022
Importance of the constitutional integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and of upholding the Dayton Agreement

Scottish parliament 

General questions

First minister’s questions

Portfolio questions
Constitution, External Affairs and Culture

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