The Whips: are they destroying democracy?
By Ollie Newcombe
For all of you that don’t know, the whips are people who work for the political parties whose primary objective is to make sure the MPs in the parties are doing what is asked by the party. This means making sure they stand in the same corner of your party on specific issues, as well as voting specific ways on important issues. Sounds useful right?
Issues are categorised based on importance. The most important of these categories is the three-line whip. When an issue is underlined three times, it means it is imperative that you vote with your party to get the desired result of the cabinet. Not voting with your party on the three-line whips is potentially detrimental to your progress within the party, virtually halting any hopes of a place in the cabinet. In extreme cases, whips are removed from the offender, effectively meaning they are expelled from their party, so they must sit as an independent. Sounding less helpful?
The whips office has huge power, given to them by their party, to effectively police them,where the three-line whip is the most serious crime. Current chief whip, Julian Smith, is a conservative MP for the Skipton and Ripon constituency, who doubles up as one of the most feared men in the commons. He has the power to expel people who aren’t following the will of the party repeatedly. This serious power makes him a very dangerous man, not to be crossed.
There are, however, many good things about the whips. They make sure the elected MPs aren’t going astray and voting a certain way to suit their personal agenda, but to do what they were elected to do. Furthermore, they are there to keep everyone cohesive, which makes the government a stronger united front. They basically make sure the party is functioning the way the cabinet want it to. There’s just one problem. What happens when a party decision negatively affects your constituents?
Do you risk going against your party for your constituents and put your place in the party in jeopardy, or do you go with your party and risk making yourself very unpopular with your constituents, risking your seat entirely? The whips make the life of the cabinet ministers easier, but the life of backbenchers infinitely harder. Are they helping our cohesive democracy, or are they forcing our backbenchers to vote a certain way, the very opposite to democracy.