‘Not so much whips as feather dusters’

A paper delivered at one of the panels at the Wroxton Workshop (see the previous post) was on the recruitment of government whips in the House of Commons.  This led to a discussion as to changes in the relationship between whips and back-benchers.  I offered my thoughts, arguing that there has been an underlying change, facilitating greater independence on the part of Members, but also that there has also been a distinct change in the present Parliament as a result of several unrelated developments.  I have developed this point in a post on Lords of the Blog. 

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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7 Responses to ‘Not so much whips as feather dusters’

  1. franksummers3ba says:

    Lord Norton,

    Perhaps the best of the old could be married to the best of the new changes. If so then perhaps the answer is structural. A committee such as the “Committee House Authorized Inducing Newcomers Subordination”. This Committee might help the Whips of all parties on the premise that if whips are not enough one could try whips and CHAINS…

    • maudie33 says:

      Like this kind of chain Frank?

      This is certainly equality making sure that women work, a whole new ball game. How I really love the new feminism we are so fortunate to enjoy.

    • Dean B says:


      “Perhaps the best of the old could be married to the best of the new changes.”

      I thought you only supported marriage between a man and a woman?

      • Dean B.
        In linguistics in any language there is a root meaning and derived meanings. Preserving the root meaning as a narrow and clear thing is essential to the use of the metaphorical derived meanings. Anyone can be married to their work by I would not support it being granted the capacity to change their civil status..

  2. franksummers3ba says:

    Maude 33,
    It may have been commonplace to chain prisoners throughout their sentence in the early years but it is certain that they are locked and unlocked for work today. It is also true that chains were common in prison before the US was founded, slavery was a punishment for crime for centuries in many places. In addition, the US Constitution specifically provides that penal slavery is Constitutional.

    In Louisiana we have gangs of impressed trustees working in public places without chains. It makes some people nervous with good reason. One or two guards and a dozen or more prisoners. There are probably some people who would rather have the chains. I have never been in a cell shut against me from the outside, have never been a policeman and have never convicted of a crime (outside common traffic offenses seen as separate law in Car-‘merica) but I have spent time around every kind of cop and convict in some place or another. In addition the United States of America has an enormous prison population. Two Louisiana governors have gone to prison that were alive during my lifetime and one still is Governors Leche and Edwards. Another recent official, Governor Roemer’s father was in Prison for crimes in office before his son was governor. One of my father’s most successful law school classmates and friends went to prison. I have a first cousin in jail right now. A former pastor of the the church parish where I went to services most of the last fifteen years has been in prison for many years. I would be foolish to say I know I will never go to jail…

    I just say this as a sort of background to any prison story about this country. We have weak systems of social coherence, vast amounts of law, a commitment to imprisoning people and many other factors that feed the process…

    • maudie33 says:


      It’s not my fault I don’t have anyone in my family who has been to prison or is likely to, unless of course we are, as I suspect, already an American protectorate. So, no doubt it won’t be long before we all are potential prisoners. However, as yet, we are not putting the poor and starving into jail ‘for life’ for stealing a Pizza.

      I’m sure that it is only a short distance from there to here though. Especially when we hear on our news this morning that our police are more involved in what is written on twitter and if those writing there are insulting the contacts they make.

      We have become as crazy as the US. I blame it all on too many women in government. As, when women take over the power strings, trivia becomes the main objective of their lives. They simply don’t know how to ignore the small stuff. Because the small stuff is where they are at. Take a look at Sweden. Trivia the top of their issues whilst they ignore the reality of their social demise.

      The reason being, they can’t cope with reality. The sphere is too big for them to concentrate on.

      • franksummers3ba says:

        Like many things I think it is often a matter of how exactly one does something. What you have just written could never be in the public discourse here but I suspect some of it is meant by those who speak of a nanny state. I do believe all male governments though very common in history have terrible common faults nonetheless. However, women have not been admitted to government in our times as women or even as generic humans of ignored sex. They have really been admitted as neutered men and the abundance of such does lead to disorders. In my Model Constitutions I seek to address those issues.

        I find almost everyone that I have dealt with in power to be either less sincere than I or else less able to cope with harsh reality or else of vastly different point of view. Let me say I think a woman’s perspective is vital to the best governments, I think a woman can fill a generic human social role in government well and we have too many filling neutered man roles in my view…

        I am getting near to fifty years old and feeling the mileage of a life lived in such an unusual mixture of ways as to be almost unique. As I implied in the other blog with you in China being killed was an ubiquitous possibility. In America being arrested has been — although i am often reclusive almost. In the Philippines I lived on the blink of conflict and conflagration. But it goes beyond all of that. I have always had a certain deep discontent with things. My view of the future remains uncertain but many dark versions exist for every bright one…

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