School of Politics and International Relations

Whip up some sympathy for the hardest job in Parliament

1 August 2019

Professor Philip Cowley published an article for the Evening Standard about Mark Spencer, the new Government Chief Whip, who has one of the toughest jobs in politics. He writes: “So what can Mr Spencer do? Based on more than two decades studying the subject, examining thousands of parliamentary votes and talking to hundreds of MPs, my considered and learned opinion is: not a lot. Almost none of the standard whipping techniques — explain, compromise, delay, threaten, plead — will work. The influence of the whips is greatest on run-of-the-mill votes, on issues few know or care much about and where MPs are happy to be guided. Brexit isn’t one of these. MPs have got religion and are unwilling to bend. There’s precious little room for compromise. Those who have been disloyal in the past will find it harder to plead for loyalty. We might call it the Iain Duncan Smith or Jeremy Corbyn problem.”
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