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Shock! Horror! Conservative MP suggests an end to whipping

By Paul Goodman

Steve Baker I've just caught up with the following exchange during yesterday evening's debate on whether or not the Youth Parliament should be allowed to sit in the Commons Chamber once a year.  It took place between the excellent Steve Baker, one of ConservativeHome's CentreRight contributors and my successor as MP for Wycombe, and Philip Davies, the independent-minded MP for Shipley, and went as follows.

Baker asked Davies -

"Also, does he agree that this is possibly the most vibrant, passionate and sincere debate we have had in this Parliament, and that that is, perhaps, a case for ending the system of whipping?"

- to which Davies replied -

"I am sure my hon. Friend's comments will have been noted diligently by the Whip on duty, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill). Some of us in this House believe that all votes are free votes really, and that, at the end of the day, Members can vote entirely as they please. They might want to take heed of what the Whips are encouraging them to do, however, as I must say to my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) that usually their advice is very sound, but occasionally it is not, and I suspect that on this issue it may not be quite as sound as it usually is.

"I am sure my hon. Friend's suggested innovation will be taken seriously by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Robert Goodwill). Indeed, he is sitting in his position on the Front Bench and writing diligently as I speak, so I think the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe has gone in the book. I wish him well for his future career, but I fear it may be as elevated as mine."

It almost goes without saying that Baker's no less a supporter of the Government in the Commons than any of his Conservative colleagues.  But this may be the first time that a Tory MP's suggested that there's a case for whipping to be ended, and ConservativeHome should mark the occasion for posterity.


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