Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Whips in Commons

In the old-fashioned fox hunt, the whips rode alongside the hounds to keep them going in the right direction. They probably used whips sometimes. But Parliamentary whips are not supposed to be so physical when trying to keep MPs in line.

Dark rumours in Westminster over Tory whips’ behaviour
Dark rumours have been circulating around Westminster this week about the government whipping operation, with talk of misdemeanour lists to keep troublesome MPs in line, and alleged attempts to put pressure on those threatening to rebel on Brexit…

Julian Smith
An observer said Julian Smith, the relatively new chief whip, oversaw a military style “command and control” operation in which officer whips were expected to keep their “flock of MPs” under control.

Whatever the techniques deployed, their efforts were in vain after enough Conservative MPs stood firm on the question of a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal to defeat the prime minister.

The loss was so humiliating, according to some sources, that it left Smith slumped against a wall in the voting lobbies, with tear-stained eyes…

But despite the claims and counter-claims, at least one Brexiter MP,… thinks this intake of Conservatives are being given a much easier ride than in days gone by. Another MP who has been in parliament for many years said the whips treated MPs with “kid gloves” in 2017 compared with under John Major’s premiership…

[S]ome claim that Smith has returned to the techniques of the old days. One MP said his team had “swallowed too many DVDs of Game of Thrones and House of Cards – and think that is how you behave”. “It is a mistake,” the MP added…

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