Party Whips: have we been looking at things the wrong way?

23 Mar

More from the new book by ex-MP (1980s) Jerry Hayes “An Unexpected MP – Confessions of a Political Gossip” who devotes a whole chapter of his book to the party Whips, where – amongst much more gossip – he has the following to say about them:

…”The job of the whip is to fade into the background and sniff out what Members are up to.  They are a sponge to soak up all the gossip, intrigue and backstabbing and report back to the Chief about who is trustworthy and who is a total shit. … The job of the Whips office is not to bully or threaten but to flatter and cajole.  Lots of carrots and just a little bit of stick when absolutely necessary.  Their power is knowledge. … To gain brownie points there are always those who will quite happily stitch up their colleagues in the hope of personal advancement. …

…[now speaking of the latest intake of MPs in 2010] … “There seems to be a misunderstanding … about what the role of the Whips’ Office really is.  One poor dear was moaning that his whip never took him to one side, bought him a cup of coffee and listened to his woes and brilliant policy ideas.  The whips aren not the Samaritans.  Their over-riding resp0nsibility is to push through [the Government’s] business.

… All [Governments] arrange for questions to be planted, and the whips distribute helpful suggestions for supplementary questions and “lines to take”

So, of course, they don’t tell people what to do – it seems they have enough inside information so that they really don’t have to – just an arched eyebrow or a wink or a nod will probably suffice!

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