In recent headlines, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned rebels in the Conservative party that they would face whip withdrawal in the event they chose to vote against the government to block a no-Brexit deal. Despite this, 21 Tory MP’s showed rebellion and met the fate of having their whip removed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost the majority in parliament by 328 votes to 301 as MPs successfully gained control to push forward legislation to block a no deal. These included prominent figures from the Cameron and May governments.
So what does a whip actually mean? And what happens when a whip is withdrawn? It’s definitely not MPs hitting each other with an actual whip although the atmosphere in the house of commons does metaphorically resemble a blood bath.
What is a Whip?
Whips are simply members of the parliament or House of Lords whose task is to ensure discipline in a legislature and to ensure that all party members vote according to the instructions of the party as enlisted in the document called “the whip”, rather than their own personal ideologies in order to pass specific legislation through the parliament. Each party appoints a Chief Whip who is a person entrusted with the process of overseeing the whole process. Chief whips have been known to use intense coercion and even blackmail against MPs to ensure they vote accordingly.
What does whip removal means?
Much like eating the forbidden fruit and getting banished from paradise, Tory MPs faced the wrath of Chief Whip Mark Spencer last Tuesday, who ousted 21 tory MPs.
This means that an MP gets expelled from the party and gets barred from standing in the next election. They do not however lose their seat and sit as an independent unless their whip is given back to them.
Let’s take a look at how some of these rebels responded:
Often described by the press as the ‘Big Beast’ of British politics, Clarke was among the list of tory rebels who faced whip withdrawal on September 4th. MP for Rushcliffe since 1970, Clarke served as the former chancellor of the exchequer, education secretary, home secretary, justice secretary and the health secretary, befitting the title of father of the house. Taking to twitter, he said “Boris Johnson needs to stop playing a shit game of Noel Edmond’s Deal or No Deal, only in his show the country doesn’t have the option of Deal and leaves owing the banker money”. He added that he was ready to back Corbyn to be the caretaker prime minister, if it was the last resort to prevent the catastrophic no-deal Brexit. He now sits as an independent.
Former attorney general and MP for Beaconsfield since 1997, Dominic Grieve now sits as an independent politician after the whip removal. Served for the Queen’s council and Privy Council, Grieve also received the Legion of Honor in 2016 which is the highest French award for military and civil merits.
In response to losing the whip, Grieve told the press that he could not support the government in what he believes to be “fundamentally wrong”. He said that a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for the country and that he wants to “save the Tory party from the likes of Mr. Johnson”.
First appointed into parliament as the MP for Crawley in 1983 and later as the MP for Mid Sussex in 1997, grandson of Winston Churchill and former defense minister of state, Nicholas Soames moved the house of Commons with his emotional speech as he announced to step down as an MP. He said, “I am thus approaching the end of thirty-seven years’ service to this House… I am truly very sad that it should end in this way”. He said that he voted against the government with a very heavy heart and that Johnson’s demands were unreal; which is why he could not condone to a no-deal under any circumstances.
Sitting as an independent, he said ‘The Bill is modest in its ambitions but powerful in its mandate as it merely seeks to avoid the disaster of a no-deal Brexit and to give the Government and this House a further opportunity to achieve a solution and I urge my fellow colleagues to support it.’
He further added that “In a debate in the House in 1938, Chamberlain accused my grandfather of undermining his negotiations with the Germans, I think history will prove my grandpapa to be right under the circumstances. And I think I will prove to be right.”
Soames still hoped that the colleagues who wanted to continue would still be allowed to stand for the party.
Former chancellor of the Exchequer and MP for Runnymede and Weybridge since 1997, Philip Hammond was among the MP’s who had the conservative whip removed by the Tory Chief Whip, Mark Spencer beginning September.
A leading contender of a no-deal Brexit, Hammond said that Johnson had no power to cast him out from the party over Brexit, and that he would “put up a fight of a lifetime” to save it from entryists who were converting the party to into a narrow faction. He also threatened to pursue legal action to contest his deselection in the next election.
“I want to honour our 2017 manifesto which promised a ‘smooth and orderly’ exit and a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the EU. Not an undemocratic no deal.” “That is not going to be my approach. This is my party. I have been a member of this party for 45 years”.
Notorious for being the deadliest opponent of Boris Johnson’s agenda, he said that purging rebels from contesting the next elections would be “staggeringly hypocritical” of Boris Johnson. Moreover, with regards to Johnson’s claim to strike a deal, he stated that “There is no progress. There are no substantive negotiations going on.” He was also very positive about the efforts of rebels to pass legislation to block a no-deal Brexit saying that “there will be enough people for us to get this over the line”.
Former secretary of state education and minister for women and equalities, Greening served as the Putney MP since 2005 before receiving the grim news of whip removal. In high support of a second referendum, Greening accused the Tories of becoming a “Brexit Party”. She added that she had no faith in the conservative party to offer people with a sensible choice at the next election, with having to choose between either a no-deal or Jeremy Corbyn as per Boris Johnson’s agenda, which in her opinion is a complete lose-lose situation.
She said that a no-deal was the most profoundly un-conservative policy that one could possibly have and that she would not fight deselection.
In her letter to the Prime Minister she wrote:
“I want to focus on making a difference on the ground on social mobility and I believe I can do that better outside Parliament than inside Parliament. We have seen Parliament gridlocked by Brexit.
“I will continue to represent my community, that heavily voted to remain, on Brexit. I have no doubt that the person following me will also represent our community on Brexit.”
Served as the international development secretary, minister of state for Africa and state prisons. MP for Penrith and The Border since 2010, Rory Stewart shared that he received the news of his whip withdrawal over a text message while he was picking up the award for Politician of the year.
Strong opponent of Boris Jonson in the Tory leadership campaign, Stewart confirmed that he would not be stepping down as an MP from his constituency. He added that incase he would not be allowed to run from the Tory party, he would stand as an independent MP at the next election. “I’m a proud Conservative, I support the Conservative party. I just think a no-deal Brexit would be a huge mistake and I have to stop it happening.”
He termed no-deal Brexit as nothing more than a deeply damaging fantasy. “This whole project of no-deal Brexit by 31st October was always a fantasy, there was never a majority for it, parliament had already rejected it”.
“As that’s becoming more and more obvious, they’re panicking by doing things like proroguing parliament or purging MPs which I think are offensive to our parliamentary democracy.”
Lookout for more news on The European as we continue to decipher daily Brexit jargons for you.