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Sunak's major wind problem

Mike McCartney

29th November 2022

The first major backbench rebellion for the new PM?

This week, the Independent online/the i reported on five issues that Rishi Sunak might have problems with within his own party.

These were listed as:

  1. Home insulation
  2. Worsening jobs figures
  3. Immigration fears
  4. Strike action
  5. Chaos on the railways

But before the new PM makes decisions on these, he must tackle rising dissent from Tory backbenchers on the issue of onshore wind farms.

This serves as an illustration in Technicolor of how backbench MPs can no longer be seen as the lobbyfodder that many mistakenly believe them to be. As a Politics student, it is important to realise that British MPs have become increasingly independent in their thinking and actions. One only has to look at the research by Professor Philip Cowley to corroborate this. I have written before in an attempt to account for this phenomenon. The fact is, and students should already know this from their studies of voting behaviour (see topic linkage here) party loyalty among the electorate is no longer as high, i.e. partisan dealignment has occurred so that voters no longer vote blindly according to previous psychologically based attachments. So connected to this, the rise of the career politician also helps us understand this trend. This runs contrary to a great deal of media criticism, which contends that those who have entered the Commons without real-world experience, or a profession, to fall back on are more likely to do what their respective party whips command of them because this type of MP wants to be promoted. In fact, because MPs of this nature have been steeped in politics long before entering the Commons, the argument is that they can spot flaws in government plans and vote for what they as being the best course of action for their constituents.

So with regards to the onshore wind policy it has been reported that two ex PMs (i.e. two that even a goldfish could remember) are leading a charge from the backbenches in an attempt to make Mr Sunak do a U-turn on his promise of a ban. See the BBC here.

So has the PM already lost control of his own party so early into his premiership?

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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