Saturday, March 30, 2013

My fifth Whipped column for Ad Lib

Whipped: From the desk of the Junior Whip

“Look, it’s quite clear,” I said waving the party constitution. “Conference decides policy and then the MPs should vote for it. So on secret courts…”

“Where does it say that?” said the Chief Whip, snatching the document from me.

He read intently and then looked up with a puzzled expression I have not seen before: “How did this get through?”

I was delighted some of our MPs voted against secret courts: the Chief Whip was not. Yet it gave him some grim satisfaction. He spent the next day planning the itineraries of fact-finding missions to Uzbekistan, chuckling horribly.

One MP who will not be off to Central Asia is Mike Thornton, newly elected for Eastleigh. I heard the Chief Whip say that he has “settled in nicely”, which counts as high praise in this office.

By the time you read this you will know how the Leveson business turned out. This week has been all conference calls, talks being broken off and talks being resumed. It has been so much of a farce that I half expected to find David Miliband hiding in the stationery cupboard or see David Cameron rushing through the office in polka-dot boxer shorts.

We are also waiting for the Budget. The hope is that George Osborne won’t put a tax on cupcakes or cute puppies this time.

At least I understand the Chief Whip better these days. Did you see Shetland? One reviewer described it as “fashionably bleak, with its raw weather, large, unglamorous jumpers and soundtrack alternating between seagulls and the wail of Celtic instruments”.

Add to that the dead bodies lying about and it is no wonder the Chief Whip is the way he is. Still, I think it might be safer to appoint someone who represents a Surrey constituency when the time comes for him to be replaced.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where exactly does it say that MPs have to vote for party policy?

The founders of the SDP rejected the claims by Labour activists that Labour MPs were absolutely bound to follow the instructions of the party apparatus.

Conference is not elected by the population at large. While Conference is important, democratically elected MPs cannot completely abdicate their right to decide how to vote in Parliament.