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Matters of conscience should not be slipped into government bills

It is time to defend the role of parliamentary whips as they are assailed on all sides. The term comes from hunting, where the whippers-in only rarely use their whips. Their main purpose is to keep the pack together. If they are not permitted to do so, the pack falls apart.

This seems to be happening at present. Some Tory MPs, chiefly new ones, appear not to understand what “taking the whip” means. You sign up for the party, without which you would almost certainly not win a seat. You must accept discipline, yes, but you also receive information, protection and guidance without which your life would be lonely indeed, and you could not rise within the system. If you see yourself as a courageous whistleblower and publicly talk about private conversations with whips, you damage the interests of all. Trust vanishes.

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