GIVEN the departure of two cabinet ministers within a week, a growing sexual-harassment scandal and the general air of pandemonium that permeates the party, it is easy to forget that the Conservatives still have a country to run. Yet the wheels of government have to turn. The people with the job of keeping the show on the road are the whips: the MPs who corral their colleagues into backing their party’s policies. But the “neglected toilers in the engine room of Parliament”, as one former whip calls them, are showing signs of flagging, too. A parliamentary institution whose origins stretch back to the 18th century is starting to creak.
The multiplying allegations of sexual misbehaviour by MPs on all sides demonstrate the flaws of an ancient system in a modern age. A complaint to the whips is one of the few avenues available to young parliamentary staffers with little job security. The whips’ office has to fill the void where a proper human-resources department should be, says Rob…Continue reading