Friday, August 02, 2013

My eighth Whipped column for Ad Lib

Whipped: From the desk of the Junior Whip

“Have you seen the Leader’s office?” an intern asked wonderingly. “They’re all in shorts and bare feet. It’s like some crazy progressive school.”

It’s different in here. Though the Chief Whip is no lover of hot weather – he is more of a drizzle man, to be honest – he insists that standards of dress are maintained. Otherwise, he fears, MPs may start thinking for themselves – “and that’s not what Liberalism is about”.

The Conservatives solved the problem of keeping their troops busy in the hot weather by spreading rumours of an impending reshuffle. Suddenly junior ministers became interested in the furthest corners of their red boxes. The barmiest backbenchers decided that, if they toed the line for a week, the call from number 10 was bound to come.

Those rumours were welcome here too. More than one ambitious Lib Dem, anxious to please the Chief Whip, became so interested in the Orcadian economy that nothing would stop them visiting his constituency and speaking there.

Then the Tories locked their backbenchers in a Westminster committee room and made them debate Europe.

To any normal person sitting in 30-degree heat with several dozen Eurosceptics is a good preview of hell.

But the Tories were as happy as sandboys who had just won the lottery. “The European Union is plotting to tax daylight,” said one. “The European Convention on Human Rights– and I’m not making this up – means that elbows are illegal,” returned his friend.

Labour, meanwhile, has been wrestling with its funding from the unions and Unite’s influence over candidate selection. Nick Clegg, ever anxious to help, offered to enshrine their proposed reforms in the lobby bill that is currently going through parliament.

And me? I have signed up to spend the summer on a course in advanced election fighting techniques (“life insurance certificate required”) run by some eccentric aristocrat in Rutland. Google “Lord Bonkers” if you want to know more.

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