Posts Tagged ‘whips’

Whip’s Notebook: Who does the PM ask to find out what’s going on with his flagship equal marriage bill? The Labour whips

07/02/2013, 01:16:13 PM

by Jon Ashworth

If you want to find out what is going on in the Commons you ask a Labour whip, so said a Tory MP to the Labour whips’ office on the night of the equal marriage vote. While I can’t claim to know what is always going on I certainly know that the prime minister’s party management skills were again called into question this week.

This blog has already argued David Cameron’s modernisation of the Tory party is on its last legs. This week we had more evidence. On something that Cameron himself had decided was a touchstone issue, the majority of his MPs voted against him. In fact 136 voted no, 127 voted yes and 36 abstained. More starkly roughly 40 per cent of the “payroll” vote failed to back him – including nine out of fourteen in his own whips office – the very people who are supposed to enforce the will of the prime minister.

Of course the issue was a free vote but Cameron, Michael Gove, George Osborne and Theresa May were all out in force in recent days desperately trying to persuade their backbenchers to back the prime minister, and yet amazingly 70 per cent of Tory backbenchers ignored them and refused to vote the same way as the Prime Minister.

The free vote on Tuesday evening was on whether to give the bill its second reading and so the bill will now go off to committee to be scrutinised line by line before returning to the Commons and then the Lords. Immediately after these second reading votes the Commons also usually agrees a “programme motion” which timetables the bill though committee, a “money resolution” which agrees the relevant funds for the policy enacted in the bill and a “carry-over motion” to agree that the bill can be “carried over” to the next Parliamentary session should its passage not be completed in this session. The Commons often, though not always, agrees these motions without “dividing” i.e. voting on them.

But on Tuesday evening some Tory backbenchers were determined to cause as much trouble as possible for the Tory leadership and so forced votes on all of them.

And yet despite the scale of the vote against second reading, the Tory whips either were not motivated or caught unaware as to what would happen next. Perhaps it was a bit of both.


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Whip’s Notebook: Cameron may have reshuffled the pack but his troops aren’t happy

14/09/2012, 07:00:48 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Number 10 may begin regretting reinstating the September sitting. While we have had an important and moving statement from the prime minister on Hillsborough, the remainder of government business in the Commons has – as usual – been patchy.

Last week’s reshuffle seems only to have caused further friction for the prime minister with his backbenchers and has left many wondering what on earth is going on with the PM’s political operation.

Even Labour MPs find it hard to fathom why seemingly competent and popular ministers such as (now Sir) Edward Garnier and Charles Hendry got the chop. What’s more it’s extraordinary that sacked men got knighthoods but, as Labour’s Ann McKechin pointed out, there was nothing like a dame for sacked women

Instead friends of Cameron, Osborne and Eric Pickles seem to be the ones who’ve won promotion in the reshuffle such as the elevation of the chancellor’s right hand man Matt Hancock.

Mr Hancock has been a junior minister in the business department for barely a week and already he is comparing himself to Churchill and Disraeli.

Over in the Pickles’ department for communities the hitherto relatively unknown MP for Great Yarmouth, Brandon Lewis, was promoted from backbenches in place of the generally liked Bob Neil.  It turns out this new minister’s qualification for the job is that he once used to present a radio show with Eric Pickles on Brentwood’s Phoenix FM.

The government whips office was more or less cleared out with surprising names returning to the backbenches such Shailesh Vara.  Whereas most of the dumped ex-whip just have to settle for being backbench MPs again, the new Tory whips are doing their best to sweeten the bitter pill for the prime minister’s old Eton chum and sacked ex-whip Bill Wiggin by trying to get him installed as the (remunerated) chair of committee of selection.

In so doing they are trying to push out the current chair and Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown who also happens to have been a Lords rebel. This move by Tory whips was causing much annoyance in the tearoom this week.


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Whips notebook: where’s the business in the business statement?

24/01/2012, 08:31:42 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Earlier this month we learnt that the prime minister has completed angry birds. On every Thursday we learn what business the government will bring to the Commons over the next week. At first sight these two events should not be connected, but I’m beginning to wonder if they are.

The prime minister revealed his adroitness at the startlingly popular ipad game in a Sunday newspaper interview a few weeks ago. The marvellously patrician Sir George Young – leader of the House of Commons and lord privy seal – reveals the government business through a weekly statement on the floor of the Commons every Thursday at about 11.30.

This weekly business statement is one for real parliamentary connoisseurs. It has often been the backdrop to dazzling displays of wit and repartee such as Robin Cook versus Eric Forth. Parliamentary historians will recall that Michael Foot’s mastery in the chamber came into its own through his time as leader of the House. In more recent times Harriet Harman and Alan Duncan was always an entertaining joust. (more…)

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Enough of the big state, what about the big government?

26/03/2011, 01:00:02 PM

by Dan Johnson

It has been a long held the aim of Conservatives – and now it seems the aim of this Conservative-led coalition government – to roll back the size of the state. We should face this argument head on and argue that we should roll back the size of the government.

The House of Commons will be reduced at the next election to just 600 seats, but the size of the government has been steadily rising since time immemorial. Labour should be fighting to ensure a real balance in Parliament, and that the payroll vote doesn’t make rebellions against the government a non-event.

Charles Walker, a Tory MP, put down an amendment last year which would have seen the number of ministers fall to 87 from the current number of 95. Labour supported this amendment and was joined in the lobby by the usual Tory rebels who have (quite commendably) consistently argued for a House with more independence from the executive. We must accept that, on this issue, the likes of Chope, Bone and Carswell are right. (more…)

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