Co-conspirators will know that the Commons was suspended for an hour this morning, and that when the sitting resumed at midday, we were none the wiser as to why.
The Leader of the House had had an appointment at the Palace. Old procedural hands will know about the King “swearing in” a new prime minister (different from being “invited to form a government”) but even older hands will know that the Commons is never adjourned because a minister has a diary clash.
Not only would no minister stand in for the Leader, the Deputy Chief Whip was unavailable as a last resort. No wonder Penny Mordaunt had lost something of her twinkle.
A senior source told Guido that the timing of this “swearing-in” business was known on Monday and yet the person responsible for the smooth running of House business (the Leader of the House, herself) only became aware of it this morning.
Clearly, senior Tories have been otherwise occupied, and it would be unkind to say that the Whips’ operation hasn’t improved since the previous regime – but this is starting to look endemic.
Does the Tory Quarterdeck, its High Command, fear putting someone of talent, presence, capacity, personal force and experience in as Chief Whip?
Do they not realise that the Labour Whips are a lethal force? That they are wily with every sort of procedural innovation? That they operate a disciplinary regime that would have been illegal in Nelson’s navy? That their motto is, “We can make you want to be dead”? Do they not know what they are up against?
It’s safe to say that they very soon will