At PMQs Lisa Nandy raised this clip of former Tory whip Tim Fortescue explaining back in 1995 how party whips could help cover up a potential sex abuse scandal. Nandy says she brought it up with Theresa May three years ago. To be fair to the PM this references the whips office in the seventies and is somewhat different to the current scandal, but a sign at least of what used to go on…
Key Boris lieutenants Nigel Adams and Jake Berry have been promoted into government. Berry is the Northern Powerhouse Minister and Guido hears it will be announced later that Nigel will be put in the Whips Office.
Always useful for a leadership campaign to have whips experience…
The BBC’s Norman Smith set off the rumour mill with this intriguing tweet this morning:
Hearing rumours PM wants whip removed from Tory rebels who vote against govt over Brexit.
— norman smith (@BBCNormanS) March 8, 2017
Chances it’ll happen? It would mean withdrawing the whip from the likes of Ken Clarke, a Tory MP for 47 years. It would mean war with Tory Remainers. It would mean reducing May’s majority. It could well mean going to the country to secure a giant Commons Brexit mandate. Which is tempting for Brexiters though out of kilter with the PM’s cautious approach. There is already some push back at the speculation, Guido is told that conversations along the lines of withdrawing the whip have not been had. Sort of thing someone might put out to frighten rebels, but not actually do…
The Commons will be quieter than usual post-PMQs as MPs are on a one line whip, effectively giving them the evening off. Surely nothing to do with the joint Tory and Labour whips office trip to see This House tonight. Gavin Williamson and Nick Brown and their respective teams will be bonding at the Garrick for the play at which fashionable politicos must be seen, set in the Tory and Labour whips offices back in the seventies. The freebie includes drinks on the on stage bar, on a school night too…
Labour MPs were whipped on Wednesday to oppose a measure which the government says will make it easier for banks and the Home Office to track the financial activity of illegal migrants. The Immigration Act 2014 (Current Accounts) (Excluded Accounts and Notification Requirements) Regulations 2016 orders banks to pass on customer information through a secure computer system to the Home Office if accounts are held by “disqualified persons” – migrants who have exhausted all rights of appeal and are liable to be removed from the United Kingdom. Banks must also report if disqualified persons are in receipt of regular payments of £200 or more. The explanatory note to the measure says:
“This information allows the Home Office to confirm the match and make a decision about whether to apply to the court for a freezing order or instruct the firm that it is under a duty to close accounts. The payments threshold is intended to ensure that the Home Office are able to identify significant patterns of payments that may constitute evidence of illegal working.”
Guido understands there were murmurs of despair in the division lobby as it dawned on Labour MPs that they would be seen as going soft on illegally working immigrants trying access financial services. A few are understood to have hot-footed it to the table office to try to get their names taken off the vote list. Those who have sounded a tougher line on immigration were notable by their absence: Yvette Cooper, Tom Watson, Ian Austin, Rachel Reeves and Emma Reynolds missed the vote. Another gift to Paul Nuttall…
Labour are on a three line whip to vote for Pat Glass’ private member’s bill seeking to reject boundary changes and keep the number of MPs at 650. It goes without saying that the bill is a vain attempt by Labour to prevent their own seats from disappearing, despite the massive cost to the taxpayer of ignoring the Boundary Commission and not cutting the size of parliament. Labour MPs facing deselection battles with Momentum will gladly vote for it. Guido is told that Tory MPs have gone home to their constituencies and are not looking to kill the Bill today. The Tories are relaxed, they expect Labour to win today’s vote and say they will let them have their moment, before killing it at a later date. “Don’t worry, the idea of Pat Glass getting anything into law is for the birds,” a Tory source assures Guido.
When 203 MPs voted for Keith Vaz to join the Justice select committee last night, everyone assumed Labour MPs had turned up to back their man. In actual fact, Guido can reveal that it was the Tories who whipped their side to secure Vaz’s position. A disbelieving Conservative MP tells Guido that as he walked through the voting Lobby he saw a group of Tory whips ordering their MPs to vote for Vaz. There was no Labour whipping operation, only a small number of Labour MPs turned up for the vote. As a result 159 of the 203 MPs who voted for Vaz were Tories, including ministers like Amber Rudd, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox. The whips’ pathetic argument was “you’re voting for the process, not for him”. This decision to appoint a crook to the Justice committee is one of parliament’s most shameful acts in recent years – and the Tories are the ones responsible…
Click for the list:
Labour whip Conor McGinn has created some headlines today by accusing Corbyn of threatening to call up his dad. McGinn over-dramatically says this is “bullying”. It’s not really though, is it. “Just wait till your father hears about this” is said by many mothers…
McGinn was fingered a while back as a key anti-Corbyn plotter, despite supposedly serving the leader as an opposition whip. This errant WhatsApp message catches McGinn red-handed plotting against Jez with Labour MPs:
In writing, an opposition whip whipping his backbenchers to ‘keep up the pressure on JC’. A punchy Labour insider says:
“Calamity Conor couldn’t even use WhatsApp when he was pretending not to be playing both sides, and his latest nonsense about his dad just makes him look like a clown.”
More than worthy of a telling off…
Guido is getting reports that whips are calling up moderate Leave MPs and putting pressure on them to defect to Remain. A number of Tory backbenchers say they have been contacted by whips with overtures such as “you don’t want to be associated with Farage’s view of Britain”. A senior Tory tells Guido to expect a defection from a long-term “sceptic” to Remain tonight…
Labour whips dealt out a “punishment beating” to several MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for leader, by whipping the vote for select committee chairmanships against Corbyn-backing candidates.
At least three Labour MPs running for chairmanships, who had nominated Corbyn, had to rely on the votes of Tory colleagues after whips ordered Labour MPs not to vote for them.
Labour sources suggest whips hoping for a “clean” leadership contest were “furious” that Corbyn made it onto the ballot paper and wanted revenge.
Giving Corbyn handy ammunition as an anti-establishment candidate who is the victim of a stitch up…
Newbie Tory MPs have been warned during an initiation briefing of the perils of Guido.
Tory whips told the fresh meat ‘to just be careful’ when Guido is around…
Meanwhile, you can get in touch to brief against your new colleagues and leak stuff by calling 0709 284 0531 or emailing here.
Discretion (and, more often than not, career advancement) guaranteed…
Mark Harper has sent his first email to Conservative MPs as their new Chief Whip:
From: Chief Whip
20 May 2015 16:02
Subject: Message from the Chief
Congratulations to all colleagues and a warm welcome back to a Conservative majority government.
Special congratulations to newly-elected colleagues.
The PM will address the 1922 tomorrow at 11:00 in Committee Room 14 and all colleagues are invited to attend.
We expect the Commons formally to return on Mon 18th May.
Signed off, in bold, “The Chief”. Nothing says you means business like bold, eh?
Pssst… Don’t tell anyone but here’s the plan. Tory MPs are very grumpy at the fact they are being kept in Westminster on a three-line whip until close of play tomorrow as there is “important government business to secure”. A Whip’s claim that is for the “Coastal Defences (Clacton & Frinton-0n-Sea) Abolition Order” is believed to be disinformation. In fact – despite obfuscation – it is looking increasingly like a trap.
The consensus is that Osborne is planning to trap Labour with a quick and dirty vote on his plan to put into law the promise to balance Britain’s underlying budget deficit. Shame he didn’t do that on May 7 2010…
“Jake Berry, absent” cried the Speaker as the Tory MP for Rossendale and Darwen, whose name was on the Order Paper for PMQs, failed to appear when called to ask his question. Cue Labour whips piling in and living to regret it about three minutes later:
They have since sent him a full and frank apology. Awkward.
Up at the Tory base in Newark, James Landale bring us picture evidence of the roll of honour for campaigning MPs. As Guido revealed in the Sun at the weekend, MPs groaned when told by Deputy Chief Whip Greg Hands that they would have to sign in to prove they had actually turned up to pound the pavements. Crafty slackers slipping off home immediately after signing their names on the whiteboard were then told they would be required to sign in both in the morning and the afternoon. Now they have to jot down their exact arrival and departure times for all to see. Three visits is the minimum expected of them, as you can see by Chris Skidmore’s keenness to show his commitment in the picture above. Hands is emailing out lists of MPs in order of appearances to name and shame the skivers…
26 Tory rebels on the second reading of the HS2 bill say Labour, plus one teller:
Sir John Randall
Sir Richard Shepherd
Sir Peter Tapsell
James Gray- Teller
Failing to vote for his own bill was one David Cameron…
Via Labour Whips.
New LibDem chief whip Don Foster should learn when to keep his mouth shut. While topping up his legendary booze cabinet in Westminster Tesco’s early yesterday afternoon, a far from salubrious looking Foster treated himself to 40 black Superkings and a tin of Roses. Lucidly chatting with a flirty woman in a lovely grey tracksuit, Foster bragged to his mystery lady friend how he had kept the LibDems in line over yesterday’s nuclear announcement despite her claims that “it’s basically a subsidy”. It’s not really the job of chief whip to publicly agree that there were internal party ructions. Then again, that is what you get if you appoint your third choice chief…
Number 10 haven’t taken Andrew Bridgen’s Brady letter too well. After Bridgen huffed:
“There is a credibility problem with the current leader. It’s like being in an aeroplane. The pilot doesn’t know how to land it. We can either do something about it or sit back, watch the in-flight movies and wait for the inevitable”
… he has now been summoned for a meeting with the Chief Whip. Presumably he’ll be asking them why they leaked his name to the press…
There was plenty of speculation that the gay marriage vote was not quite as free as the party leaders would have us believe, though Guido was not expecting MPs, including a government PPS, to put such allegations in writing. A cross-party letter lobbying the Lords does just that:
The allegation of coercion was signed by Jim Paice, Edward Leigh, Glyn Davies, Fiona Bruce, Richard Drax, Jim Shannon, Tim Loughton, David Simpson, Jim Dobbin, Karl McCartney, Steward Jackson, Therese Coffey, David Burrows, Gerald Howarth and Craig Whittaker.
The full letter can be read here.
Guido is sure the Tory whips loved that one…