The party whip system is how political parties compel the politicians under them into voting how their party dictates. It stems from the word whipping! Politicians entrusted with applying this pressure are called whips!
The concept of elected public servants voting from their conscience instead of the demands of their party, is such an alien concept that it is actually referred to as ‘a free vote’, and these occasions very rarely occur.
On a BBC programme in 2016 the Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie described how MPs view themselves as only having very few, once in a blue moon opportunities, to vote against the whips’ demands. “If you want to make a point you only have so many rebellions… it’s important to be able to keep the powder dry”.
This explains the reason why pretty much every law (no matter what it is) proposed in parliament by the government, passes. Politicians who defy the whip risk the potential of being kicked out of their party and are unlikely to be re-elected.
An article by The Spectator in 2014 described some of the methods that are used by whips to persuade their party members to ‘vote the right way’. Their strategies include collating information on members into files stored in the whips’ offices, commonly known as ‘dirt books’.
They quote former Tory whip Tim Fortescue as saying “When you are trying to persuade a member to vote the way he didn’t want to vote on a controversial issue — which is part of your job — it is possible to suggest that perhaps it would not be in his interest if people knew something or other -very mildly.”
The Spectator further reported that “Tim Fortescue says that in his days as a Whip, from 1970-73, Tory MPs in financial or sexual trouble would come to the Office and ask for help. ‘And if we could help we would; because if we can get a chap out of trouble, then he’ll do as we ask for ever- more.’”
“Anyone with any sense who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say ‘I’m in a jam, can you help?’. It might be debt, it might be… a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which… a member seemed likely to be mixed up in; they’d come and ask if we could help, and if we could, we did.’”
This is why we started the NCA, to change our system and get independent candidates endorsed by our own communities instead. Join us on our mission today. It’s up to us to change the world how we see fit.