What is the whip in politics? What does 'lose the whip' mean? Who is the chief whip? Tory MPs defy Government

Former Cabinet minister Matt Hancock has had the Tory whip suspended after it emerged he was entering the jungle for I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

Matt Hancock has seized an “incredible opportunity” to appear on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, because he “doesn’t expect to serve in Government again”, according to a political ally of the former health secretary.

However, he has had the whip removed as a result of his decision.

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Chief whip Simon Hart said: “Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.”

Former Cabinet minister Matt Hancock has had the Tory whip suspended after it emerged he was entering the jungle for I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

What is the whip in politics?

According to the UK Parliament website, “Whips are MPs or Members of the House of Lords appointed by each party in Parliament to help organise their party's contribution to parliamentary business.

“One of their responsibilities is making sure the maximum number of their party members vote, and vote the way their party wants.”

Whips and “the whip” are not exactly the same thing, however. Every week, a whip sends out a ‘circular’ to their MPs (known as ‘The Whip’) which describes upcoming parliamentary business with special attention paid to matters which party members vote on in debates.

Their importance is marked according to the number of times they are underlined e.g., three-lined whips are underlined three times to mark high importance.

What is a 3 line whip?

A three-line whip is effectively an instruction from a political party compelling party members to attend Parliament and vote in a particular way in line with the party’s desires - the three lines mark that this is “essential”. While there is no fixed consequence for disobeying this whip, it is known that MPs can be withdrawn from their party for doing so or be inflicted by reduced prospects for their future promotions.

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Who is the Chief Whip?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (or the “Chief Whip) is responsible for administering the ‘whipping system’ that compels party members to attend and vote in Parliament as “the party leadership desires.”

The Chief Whip has other duties such as “mapping out the time of the session; for applying in detail the Government's programme of business; for estimating the time likely to be required for each item; and for arranging the business of the individual sitting.”

In carrying out this role, the Chief Whip is directly responsible to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House.

What does ‘lose the whip’ mean?

Losing the whip is considered to be one of the harshest punishments a party can inflict on its own MP. If an MP ‘loses the whip’ this means they have been expelled from their party but will still remain as an MP - meaning they sit as an independent member until the banishing party ‘restores’ the whip.

This can happen if an MP does not vote in accordance with their party over an issue that is deemed critically important or if they commit some other form of misconduct. For example, in July 2022, Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood lost the whip after failing to participate in a confidence vote.

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