Who are the party whips, and what do they do?

What is the whips' office – and who are the Labour and Tory whips?

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Once, I was filling in the Times crossword when I got to "dessert; party official (4)".

Because I work at the New Statesman, it was embarassing not to guess "whip". But who are the whips? And what do they do?

The whips' office

Whips are the politicians appointed by each party to organise, as the UK Parliament website describes it, “their party’s contribution to parliamentary business”.

First and foremost, that means making sure as many party members as possible vote, and vote in line with the party.

Every week, they send out a circular called The Whip, giving details of upcoming events including divisions in which members can vote. The number of times each is underlined indicates how important the vote is, with divisions underlined three times – a “three-line whip” – being the most serious. Defying a three-line whip can result in an MP being effectively expelled from their party, and made to sit as an independent until the whip is restored to them.

They also act as tellers, counting votes, and manage the pairing system by which if an MP cannot make a vote – if they have urgent other business, for instance, or medical problems – then a member of the opposing party also agrees not to vote.

Who are the Labour whips?

The opposition chief whip is Rosie Winterton MP. Her deputy is Alan Campbell MP, with Mark Tami MP serving as “Pairing Whip”. The Labour whips’ office also includes:

Jessica Morden MP
Judith Cummins MP
Vicky Foxcroft MP
Sue Hayman MP
Holly Lynch MP
Conor McGinn MP
Grahame Morris MP
Jeff Smith MP

...and the Tory whips?

The Conservative chief whip is Gavin Williamson MP. His deputy is Anne Milton MP. The other Tory whips are:

Stephen Barclay MP
Guto Bebb MP
The Rt Hon David Evennett MP
Andrew Griffiths MP
Guy Opperman MP
Robert Syms MP

Stephanie Boland is head of digital at Prospect. She tweets at @stephanieboland.