In 1965 an eminent academic observer of British politics, Samuel Beer, suggested that party cohesion ‘was so close to 100% that there is no longer any point in measuring it.’2 Yet, as Table 5.1 shows, already there were signs of change: the 1959–64 Parliament witnessed 120 rebellions by government backbenchers, ten times the rate in the previous two Parliaments. In the next normal length Parliament, 1966–70, the number was 109, rising to more than 300 in 1974–79, when the Labour government had either a small majority or no majority at all. In the succeeding Parliaments there were fewer rebellions, but there continued to be many more than between 1945 and 1959.
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