What is the whip? What does it mean in politics to have it suspended, losing the whip and role of chief whip

Matt Hanock is the latest MP to have the party whip suspended after announcing he is to appear on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here

The decicion to have Hancock appear on the show has not only had some scratching their heads, but has left others furious with the news. This includes the MP’s own party, the Conservatives.

The party has now suspended the whip from Hancock in punishment for choosing to appear on the show. But what exactly does this mean? And what is the role of the party whip? Here’s everything you need to know.

Matt Hancock is the latest MP to have the party whip suspended. (Credit: Getty Images)

What is the ‘whip’?

The ‘whip’ of a political party in the UK is a specific role within the party. An elected MP normally holds the role, in the same way an MP holds the role of Chancellor or Home Secretary.

The main purpose of the whip is to ensure that MPs vote for legislature in line with the party’s overall policy. The process of getting MPs to vote with the party line is sometimes referred to as ‘whipping’, and is traditionally undertaken by the Chief Whip.

Outside of ‘whipping’ the MPs into voting with the party, whips are also responsible for organising their party for parliamentary business. This includes acting as a communicator between MPs on votes.

What does it mean to ‘lose the whip’?

Losing the whip or the whip being removed from an MP mean that the politician in question has effectively been removed from the parliamentary party, but they do not lose their seat. This means that if the MP has not has the whip re-installed by the time they contest their consituency seat, they must stand as an independent.

There are many reasons why an MP may have the whip suspended. It can happen at any time in the parlimentary year.

A ‘three-line whip’ is a major or significant vote in parliament in which all MPs are expected to vote in line with the party’s position. The caveat for a ‘three-line whip’ is that if an MP vote against the party, the whip will be removed from that individual.

An MP may also have the whip suspended if they are found to have broken Ministerial Code, party rules or they conduct themselves in a poor manner. For example, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has had the party whip suspended after choosing to accept an offer to appear on reality TV show I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Our Of Here while parliament is in session.