Web links: Chapter 24

The role of Whips

Many myths surround the Whips in Parliament. This is in part due to the multitude of roles they play and the associated misunderstanding about their role. Here you can find a brief explanation of the different meanings of Whip. Whilst one of the Whips’ roles is to ensure discipline within their political group, they also perform other important roles such as management and communication. Watch this short lecture by the Rt Hon Anne Milton MP on the role of a Whip, including an historical overview and an explanation of their multiple roles today. This is developed in more detail in this library Standard Note. This briefing gives access to a list of Government Chief Whips and Deputy Whip since 1945.

Tracking MPs’ voting

The tracking of MPs’ voting record has led recently to the development of numerous websites and applications specifically focused on this; as such you will find plenty of these easily enough. However, all of these websites and applications use the same source for their data: Hansard, the record of all parliamentary business and divisions, which is accessible to anyone. It is also possible to filter Hansard by Divisions (votes). It is also possible to filter this by MP (either through each MP’s individual web profile, or through the Hansard Divisions link). See, for instance, the voting record of Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady, or the one for Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake. The House of Commons has now also produced an app specifically focused on Divisions (CommonsVotes), which can be downloaded for free onto smart phones.

This library briefing lists the number of Commons divisions per year since 1945. And this one explains what Free Votes are, as well as listing how many there have been since 1997.

When MPs Rebel

MPs can show their discontent in many ways. The ultimate show of dissatisfaction with their party is through their vote. But MPs often express their criticism prior to dissenting in a vote, in private and/or in public. Listen for instance to Heidi Allen MP’s maiden speech, when she openly criticises the government policy on tax credits. A more historical example, Robin Cook used a personal statement in the Chamber to openly criticise Blair’s government policy on Iraq, following his resignation as Leader of the House in 2003.

The results of divisions (votes) are announced in the Chamber, by their respective tellers. Tellers lead the counting of votes in a division and then announce; this Glossary entry gives more detail. Watch these tellers announcing the division result on the so-called coup to de-seat Speaker Bercow in 2015, a defeat for the government.

Here you can watch the whole of the debate on the 29 August 2013 on Syria, which would result in a defeat to the Coalition Government. The announcement of the vote result is available here – see the importance of the positioning of the tellers (the winning side lines up on the left hand side facing the Speaker). Here you can access the respective division list.

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