Members responsible for the daily administration of Party business

In short

MPs who act as Party 'middle management'. Whips ensure that Party MPs are present for key votes, that the administrative details of Parliamentary Procedure are attended to, act as vote counters ('tellers') during divisions, report on any issue to senior party members and write annual performance reviews for MPs.

Being appointed a Whip can be a stepping stone to a Ministerial position and to give experience of Parliamentary activity to junior MPs.

    Whenever I encounter a new colleague who has been put in the Whip’s office, I know a lot of colleagues go ‘Ugh’, and I always say to them ‘A year in the Whip’s office is worth ten years on the backbenches in terms of learning the mechanics of how this place works, how a legislative committee works, how the handling of a bill works.’ Margaret Beckett

Hear no evil, speak no evil

By convention, Whips do not participate publicly in any proceedings, nor provide public statements to the media. A whip will not speak during debates, sign Early Day Motions, table questions etc.

So what does the work involve?

Whips are responsible for ensuring that the Members of their Party act in line with the goals of their party leadership, and that the Parliamentary goals of their party are achieved. Whips are usually allocated a number of MPs to be responsible for (usually by region) and a Department whose business they are expected to assist with.

MPs are expected to communicate through their whip if they feel discontent or unable to support a party position, particularly if they intend to abstain or rebel on a vote. Whips are expected to use their powers of persuasion to explain the inadvisability of this action.

Whips also play a role in the administration of business, though agreeing timetabling of debating (referred to as ‘the usual channels’), pairing arrangements for voting, and acting as tellers (vote counters) during divisions, and allocating office spaces to their party MPs.

If an MP commits a serious infraction or defies the Party whips too frequently, they may have the whip withdrawn. This amounts to effective expulsion from the party and the loss any privileges (pairing / prime office space) the party may have provided.

Government Whips are appointed as members of HM Household or as junior Treasury Ministers and receive Ministerial salaries.

We're talking whips, there must be a shadowy figure somewhere in a smoke filled room?

Indeed there is. A person who sits in on all the key meetings and knows where all every body in the last 20 years has been buried.

This person is a civil servant, known as 'Principal Private Secretary to the Chief Whip'. Historically, the job is held for decades at a time by an individual. In the last 100 years, only four people have held this position, and the current incumbent, Sir Roy Stone, has held the job since 2000.

    "The current Murdo Maclean [Previous Principal Private Secretary to the Chief Whip] is a guy called Roy Stone—I am sure he is very happy at my naming him on the Floor of the House—who is the private secretary to the Chief Whip. He has a buddy on the other side called Mike Winter, who is the head of the Leader of the House’s office. They are the two most powerful people in Parliament. New Members do not know who they are or where they live, but I suggest that they go round, seek them out, knock on their door and ask their advice. I am sure that they would be absolutely delighted if 40, 50 or 100 new Members came round to understanding how Parliament and Government really work."
Graham Allen - 2015


The Opposition Chief Whip is the only person other than the Leader of the Opposition who is not part of the Government but receives a Ministerial Salary broadly similar to that of a Secretary of State.

The Government Whip holding the office of 'Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household' is required to provide a daily summary of Parliamentary activity to the Sovereign called the 'daily message'. Many apparently take the opportunity to add informal observations, interesting gossip and personal observations of Parliament, which the Queen apparently enjoys. The Vice-Chamberlain is also responsible for delivering messages between Parliament and the Sovereign, and during the State Opening of Parliament is the MP held 'hostage' at Buckingham Palace to guarantee the Sovereign's safe return.