Tory whips: What does a party whip do in Parliament?

The partygate scandal reached a fever pitch on Wednesday during a dramatic Prime Minister’s Questions that saw MP Christian Wakeford defect to Labour and David Davis call on Mr Johnson to go. As the Conservatives tried to pick up the pieces on Thursday, William Wragg, the 1922 committee vice chairman, accused Number 10 of using Tory whips to force MPs into line with blackmail threats. Several current and former MPs have confirmed the reports, although Mr Johnson said he has seen “no evidence” suggesting whips acted in this way.

What does a party whip do in Parliament?

MPs elected to stand in the House of Commons and House of Lords, unless independent, are a cog in the party machine.

In order to enact policy, they have to vote together for a Parliamentary majority and whips act to ensure that.

According to the House of Commons, the term “whip” was first used in the 18th century as “whipper-in” to describe hunting assistants who used physical whips to drive hounds together as a pack.

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Each week, they send out a circular named “The Whip”, which lists incoming Parliamentary business.

They rank policies up for debate using a system of lines from least to most important.

Those that demand the most attention have three lines, known as a “three-line whip”.

Failing to follow them can result in one of the harshest penalties Parliament has to offer.


The MP in question then sits as an independent, but the party can restore the whip further down the line.

Leaders can also remove the whip when they want to eject a member from their party for other reasons, such as breaking the law or making the party look bad.

Several MPs currently have the whip removed across the Labour and Conservative parties.

One of the most notable instances of mass removal came in 2019, when the Conservative party suspended 21 MPs for supporting an emergency motion to debate the Benn act on September 4.

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