Saturday, January 16, 2010

Whips Must Issue Wake-Up Call to Candidates

I think it is just about dawning on the Conservative Whips Office, that in government they might well have a rather torrid time. With more than 200 new MPs things are bound to be different, but it seems a large number of those seem to have no idea what will be expected of them.

Zac Goldsmith made clear in a quite remarkable interview yesterday that he will be ploughing his own furrow. He didn't quite tell the whips to go to hell, but that was the message. Another candidate thought she would pop up to the Commons on Monday morning and return to the constituency on Tuesday evening and not bother with voting the rest of the week. Another candidate, not unfamiliar with the Westminster scene didn't even know that there are votes at 10pm on two nights of the week. Sitting MPs have many such tales from the 'innocents'. When they relate them, they smile in a rather superior, all knowing, way.

The truth of the matter is that some people are going to be in for a real shock if they make it onto the green benches. They need to be clear that if there is a Tory government there will be a raft of new legislation which means that MPs are going to have to be present in Westminster for far longer hours than they have been in the last few years, when whipping has been light to non existent. Whips are there to ensure that the government gets its legislation through and they will be pretty hard nosed about it. For those who swan off, Standing Committee B in Statutory Instruments is likely to beckon.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for MPs having minds of their own and being independent minded on causes close to their hearts (as I would intend to be), but that is a secondary issue here. The primary issue is for the whips to make candidates realise that that, if elected, it's going to be noses to the grindstone and their presence being required in Westminster for four whole days a week.

Not being a candidate, I have no idea if the chief whip Patrick McLoughlin intends to have a session with candidates in marginal seats, or seats where the Tory MP is retiring, before the election, but if he does, I suspect he will be frightening 200 people to death.

24 comments:

Scan said...

"They need to be clear that if there is a Tory government there will be a raft of new legislation..."

Yes Iain, I'm sure there will, but is there going to be a raft of scrapping a huge haul of crap Neo Labour's laws?

Adam Pritchard said...

Great post Iain. It's about time MPs of all parties remembered that their role is to scrutinise legislation at Westminster not to endlessly run around their constituencies peering into potholes, turning up at parliament only to pass EDMs congratulating their local football team. Of course, it is good that the days of MPs only going to the constituency twice a year have gone, but the pendulum seems to have swung in the opposite direction. This suited New Labour who preferred MPs to be kept busy away from London, but now it's time to reverse this trend and make parliament matter again.

True Belle said...

I suppose this is the equivalent to having a seat at a soccer match or at Lords/MCC , but spending all ones time in corporate hospitality tent/bar, tanking up.

Thus denying enthusiastic cricket / footbal/racing fans the chance of a decent ticket.

I have always believed that the current crop of candidates are there because it is satisfying tick boxes of things to do, before they open a vineyard/ buy a stud/or have shares in a moor/ or Caribbean paradise.

Times have changed , and they are all sleeping on the job.

Richard Baron said...

Surely the thing for the new batch, on all sides of the House, to do, is to start by changing the rules so that the House sits from 0930 to 1730 on Monday to Friday. The House, not the Government or any party leader, makes the rules. The power is in the hands of MPs. It is up to them whether they use it, and if they do not, they have only themselves to blame.

It would also be a great improvement if the new batch, again on all sides, collectively made it clear that all whipping would be ignored. If, instead, they choose to behave like sheep, and do what the whips tell them, then they will be acting in a way that is unworthy of rational human beings.

Dominic said...

"...raft of new legislation."

Small state?

Colin said...

"Zac Goldsmith made clear in a quite remarkable interview yesterday that he will be ploughing his own furrow."

Perhaps, but probably not as an M.P.

Demetrius said...

Good grief, are you suggesting that MP's will have to work for their money and even their expenses?

Lord Palmerston said...

"Another candidate thought she would pop up to the Commons on Monday morning and return to the constituency on Tuesday evening and not bother with voting the rest of the week."


I sincerely hope that this isn't a candidate for a winnable seat. If she is, she clearly has no idea what being a Member of Parliament is like, which is disgraceful when so many good people who do have a good idea of what the job entails haven't been able to find a seat.

Dave and George Jumblie said...

Even at the 2001 election, candidates in marginal seats had a call from the whips office in the lsat few days, and plenty of information in training sessions beforehand, with the clear message 'meet you in the members' lobby on Tuesday, whereupon your ass will be mine!'

neil h said...

Having to work up to four days a week? Oh - the humanity! :-)

Conand said...

I think this post completely overstates things. The Conservative candidates I come into contact with are fully aware of what is required, even if some of them haven't been massive politicos all their lives.
Then we get True Belle @ 11:14 slagging off all Conservative candidates.

Future History of England said...

Good post, but don't be so naive about what new MPs do and don't know. When they start they are provided with a great deal of information, and most importantly, what they can and can not claim back. I am sure this will change in future, and only those that ask for the claims forms will be told how to make them. (I have heard from an MP there is apparently a "New MPs Guide" floating about which explains all about how to make money from claims. I have been unable to obtain a copy, or verify its existance, but it does stand to reason, aside from the Green book, which explains very cleaerly what Not to do, there is this book which explains how and whot to cliam for.

http://www.juryteam.org/ claims to be politics without parties, which is what you would have if each MP actually stood for what they believed in. Which is not possible in a party system.

Quiet_Man said...

Of course the Commons could be reorganised along civilised working hours (9 to 5) and the whips abolished save only on manifesto promises.

Then again, who wants MP's voting with their constituents views at heart rather than the government/opposition of the days?

JuliaM said...

"Don't get me wrong, I am all for MPs having minds of their own and being independent minded on causes close to their hearts..."

...as long as they remember who's the daddy, I suppose?

Does anyone ever think maybe it's the slavish voting along party lines that puts people off?

Sinbad the sailor said...

It would be a refreshing change and signal a new beginning in politics if on many occasions the new intake told the whips "to go to hell"

Gareth said...

The dubious authority of whips is partly what has got us into such a mess in the first place, depressing the conscience of Labour backbenchers to ensure bad legislation hit the books and our lives.

The balance of power between Westminster and constituency has for too long been tipped wholly in the direction of that there London. A canny candidate would campaign with a catalogue of individual policies that related to their consituency and upon successful election tell the whips where to stick their lines.

The wake-up call is for the whips not the candidates. If legislation is good it will get support, if it is bad it does not deserve it.

ILLIBERAL DEMOCRATS said...

lol - It cracks me up how some candidates no nothing of what they will be doing! I know i have a better grasp than many of them!

Maybe they should try this:
http://tinyurl.com/yjphez8

Its called MP for a week and is produced by education section of Parliament.uk - it is fairly realistic some MPs say but you need a fair bit of spare time as it lasts about 40 mins.

I wonder if Zac was trying to say Susan Kramer followed the party whip 100%? I looked at Kramers details on They work for you and am surprised the Lib Dems have not insisted she surrunder those options in that company and it simply wont do to attack Goldsmith on tax when Kramer has the potential to cash in work from a consultancy. She should sign the rights away whether she is an MP or not? Is this not want Kramer wants Goldsmith to do?

Unsworth said...

You'd have thought that these halfwits would at least have mugged up on working conditions etc before applying.

On second thoughts, as they are halfwits, perhaps not.

But they'll be very carefully studying the Green Book.

Roland Deschain said...

Thank you for reminding me that Zac Goldsmith represents today's Conservative Party. If I begin to waver in my voting intentions I need only remember that fact to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Mirtha Tidville said...

I hope when you say `raft of new legislation` it actually means the swift repeal of just about everything these lying bozos have put into misplace....

David Lindsay said...

Hardly, Martha Tidville. The Tories voted against Second or Third Reading only four times in the last session, fully fifteen per cent of the time. They are in eighty-five per cent agreement with the Government.

Cameron has packed the intake with his own type, but he doesn't seem to have cottoned on that they are all far too rich to care to what the hell the Whips tell them.

Childprotector said...

The dead hand of the Whips, and the pathetic political games they force backbenchers to play, are two of the most significant reasons why the public had such a low regard for Parliament even before the expenses issue. The Tories sought candidates for whom desire to serve the country was more important than party affiliation, and it is going to be harder for the Whips to dictate to the more independent-minded of them - they can try to lean on constituency associations, but open primaries have reached beyond the ranks of devoted activists to give selected candidates a broader legitimacy, so the threat of deselection may be harder to use.

PS Adam Pritchard - don't forget that MPs' principal role is to represent their constituents, a job most do well but without recognition. If that means being available in their constituency rather than sitting uselessly on the green benches, they should not be criticised.

6p01156f332267970c said...

Being an MP is a fill time job, part to be spent in the House, part in the Constituency dealing with matters there and electors' problems. If someone cannot or will not do this then they should stand aside and let someone else step up to the crease instead.

Also newbees should remember that if they stood on the Conservative Ticket that is what got them elected and they ought to follow party policy. Only those old timers seeking re-election can claim that they were elected on their own personality and fame.

As for rich prima-donnas with their special obsessions they ought to stand as Indepdendents paying all their election expenses themselves or stand under the label of a Party closer to their personal hobbyhorses.

Adam Pritchard said...

I agree, Childprotector, that "MPs' principal role is to represent their constituents". I simply wanted to point out that a good proportion of that representation has to take place in parliament. Don't forget that most MPs justify their lengthy recesses as time they can spend in their constituencies.

Of course if they are "sitting uselessly on the green benches" they shouldn't have become MPs at all!