60 Seconds: Unusual channels

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Morning,

Have you heard about the breakdown of relations between the government and opposition whips?

Unless you’re a political obsessive, it is likely you haven’t.

Whips are appointed by each party in Parliament to help organise their party’s contribution to parliamentary business. One of their responsibilities is making sure the maximum number of their party members vote, and vote the way their party wants.

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The job of the whips becomes more important if the government has a small or non-existent majority (which is the case at the moment). This increases the risk of losing major votes. Especially as votes in Parliament can take place at almost any time.

MPs must be physically present to walk through corridors on either side of the chamber to record their vote. Now that the Conservatives no longer have a majority in parliament, Labour hopes to frustrate Tory MPs with the threat of surprise votes.

This means that Members of Parliament are less likely to be given time off for personal and portfolio related business.

Tory MPs have been told to expect to spend most weekday evenings, when the Commons is sitting, within eight minutes’ ‘brisk walk’ of the chamber, giving them enough time to leave nearby pubs and restaurants when the division bell sounds.

This is a recipe for last-minute ambushes, nerve-racking votes and very late nights. Being a public servant isn’t easy at the best of times, but this will be a very testing period.

It also means that U-turns will become more frequent and the government will shy away from important reforms in fear of losing votes and damaging their credibility. This is bad news for those hoping for radical reforms in the housing sector.

And to think the First Past the Post system was supposed to prevent coalitions and weak governments….

Have a great weekend,

Tom


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