An insight into a Three Line Whip – something rather shameful ?


News clipping

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Thanks, Tracy, for sending me this clipping. It’s very significant, really. Because MPs don’t usually talk about these things in public. And this is proof, if proof were needed, that the Government only defeated a motion to stop the badger cull because Cameron used a very un-democratic ‘cheat’ known as a THREE LINE WHIP. For those who are not familiar with this term, let me explain. It’s another of those ‘traditional’ shady practices which still is allowed to corrupt the democratic process.

Most votes in the House of Commons, following a debate, are ‘free votes’. This means every MP votes according to his or conscience, and according to what he perceives his constituents would like him to do. That what happened when we had the first debate on the badger cull, based on 100,000 signatures on the petition. The result of this free vote was a resounding defeat for the Government. But they paid no attention to it whatsoever, and never made any further reference to it.

The second time the issue was debated, it was just as the licenses for the killing were about to be granted. Cameron was not going to be beaten again. To make sure he avoided humiliation, he called in the Party Whips. What these guys do is go around the MPs, and, behind closed doors, use any kind of coercion they see fit, to make sure that all the rank and file MPs vote according to their leader’s wishes – not according to their conscience, not according to the wishes of the people that elected them, but simply part of a block, to save the Prime Minister’s face. There are various degrees of pressure that can be brought. The terminology of ‘lines’ comes from the fact that the pressure used to be applied by sending notes, delivered to the MPs with instructions underlined. If there was just line under the instruction (eg “We need you to vote with the PM on this issue” – the instruction was more or less just a request … advice, if you like. But if the issue was regarded as serious, then the instruction would be underlined twice, and for a VERY serious issue, three times. Hence, the term “Three Line Whip”.

In practice what this means is that carrots can be offered, but also threats made – for instance: “If you don’t turn up and vote, we will withdraw those concessions that enable you to spend time with your family”. Or – “You might stand a chance of a cabinet job next Spring, but of course, if you vote against the PM in this instance, you’ll lose that opportunity”. There are plenty of threats that can be made, but you get the idea. Mostly MPs just silently cave in, but in this case, this chap has been open enough to discuss it in the media. We know the result … the Government won by a small majority, and then Owen Paterson went out and claimed he had a mandate from the people to kill badgers, because it had been sanctioned by ‘democratic process’. He actually went so far as to claim they had won TWO votes ! Perhaps his retention is failing, or maybe he just doesn’t let such things as ‘truth’ get in the way of his ruthless drive to get his way.

Firstly, it seems obvious to me that this ‘Whipping’ is undemocratic, and reform is needed in the Commons.

But secondly, isn’t it remarkable that Cameron actually invoked the Three-Liner to ensure he could kill the badgers ? He didn’t whip the vote on intervention in Syria ! What does that tell you about his priorities ? And people didn’t believe us when we were telling them before the election that Cameron’s priorities were skewed. That he was all about Privilege and fox hunting, etc.

I grow weary of recounting all the devious behaviours of this Government.

We are all in the grip of a meticulously pre-planned ruthless scheme, aimed at reinforcing and restoring the power of a few rich people to do whatever they want, irrespective of what the rest of us want, or think, or need. This, I believe, is the core of David Cameron’s so-called ‘Big Society’. It’s a strong accusation, I know. But I am far from alone in coming to this conclusion.

Of course, most of the population of Britain don’t see it. And that’s the tragedy. Right now it all seems to be going their way, doesn’t it. All the worst elements of our society have been given free rein to indulge themselves – in what they love best – KILLING.

You can believe me, and spread the word. Or you can certainly just dismiss me as a silly old rock star who ought to have stuck to his guitar playing.

But me ? I feel physically sick some of the time, looking at what we are up against, and seeing the suffering that is being inflicted on both people and animals under this administration. I teeter on the edge of despair. But I am not giving up. Once upon a time we burned witches at the stake. Once upon a time we thought it was OK to keep black slaves in chains. Once upon a time we thought Bear-Baiting was an acceptable sport. Once upon a time women were second class citizens, not allowed to vote.

We shall overcome.