The 1997 British general election saw a record 120 women returned to the House of Commons, 101 of them Labour. Yet if the most striking feature of the 1997 intake into the House of Commons was the number of newly elected women, then the most striking feature of the backbench rebellions in that parliament was the lack of these women amongst the ranks of the rebels. They were less than half as likely to rebel against the party whip as the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party; even those who did, did so around half as often. Attempts to explain this difference fall into two broad groups: (i) those that attempt to explain the difference away, as resulting from other characteristics of the women, and (ii) those that attempt to explain it – indeed, celebrate it – as evidence of a different, women's, style of political behaviour. Attempts at (i) are largely unconvincing: most of the supposed explanations for the difference do not stand up to empirical verification. Although difficult to prove, a belief in (ii) is dominant amongst the new women themselves.
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