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Making Sense of Chief Whips

On Friday, the Government Chief Whip, Patrick McLoughlin, spoke to students on our second year British Political Parties module.  The next visiting speaker on that module is a former Chief Whip, Jacqui Smith.  That’s two Chief Whips in a couple of weeks.  So what’s the collective noun for Chief Whips?

Believing in the wisdom of crowds, I asked twitter.  And answers included: a threat, an obeyance, a clusterf**k, a black book, a thumbscrew, a crack, a dungeon, a coven, an inquisition, a flail, a discipline, a lash, a sewer, a headlock, a fist, a golden shaft, an omerta, an Urquhart, a looming, a panic, an oppression (that one even came from a former whip), a McAvoy (a Westminster in-joke), a walnut (very clever), and a persuasion.

It’s fair to say that whips have got an image problem…

Professor Philip Cowley

Published inBritish Politics

One Comment

  1. David Boothroyd David Boothroyd

    There’s a relatively touching portrayal of a Chief Whip in Trevor Griffiths’ ‘Bill Brand’ (Thames TV 1976). Spoiler alert but Chief Whip Cedric Maddocks begins by threatening the lefty MP Bill Brand but they end up conspiring together against the Roy Jenkins figure who becomes the new PM, because he knows the PLP will split over the new PM’s policies.

    A nice touch is the photograph of a flock of sheep on the wall of the Chief Whip’s office. All in all quite a different character from the real chief whip of the day, the bruiser that was Bob Mellish.

    Maddocks was played by Peter Copley who was an ex-Communist and active socialist in his personal life.

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