Whipping up a storm

Posted on: 18th May 2011

Originally posted November 22nd 2006

“Litvinenko should think himself lucky”, muttered one Government Whip as he breezed past me dragging behind him the customary gruesome instruments of torture.

Whips are twitchy this week. The traditionally uneventful week long debate which follows The Queen’s Speech is grinding relentlessly to its tedious and inconsequential conclusion. With so little at stake there’s precious little for them to do.

The term “Whip” refers to the hunting field where whips are used to goad dim animals to do their master’s bidding (though I just can’t for the life of me see what the parallel is – but there we are).

They’re no doubt having to resort to merely being beastly to cuddly animals swotting up on “best practice” in the dark arts and the like until they are unleashed on their own back benchers for the new parliamentary session.

This is always the brief autumnal calm before the winter storms.

This year’s programme seems pretty much like those of previous years; a skilfully balanced blend of populism with symbols of political virility (scapegoating some unpopular minority and so on).

The Government appears to have produced a package which it no doubt believes will please all of its target audiences.

Whips may worry that there’s not enough there of sufficient contentiousness to keep them occupied. But they should not worry.

Local government won’t so much be “reformed” as better “controlled” by Central Government and the bizarre and counterproductive dogma driven privatisation of the NHS will be encouraged further. Many Labour backbenchers also have a justifiable fear that the Prime Minister will, in some way, sidestep Parliament to make an irreversible decision on the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system before he goes off to spend more time with his garden.

Fertile ground for debate, another barren landscape for the Tories, but plenty of opportunity for some real job satisfaction amongst the Government Whips!