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Old 03-13-2019, 09:59 PM
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Party discipline is strong in the UK parliament - it is usual for parties to direct their members how to vote on every issue; a "free vote" is very much the exception. However the party direction (the "whip") may be expressed more or less strongly. A one-line whip indicates the party's policy; members are not required either to attend or to vote as whipped, but they may not vote against the whip and can expect to be disciplined if they do. A two-line whip indicates that the member is expected to attend and to vote in support of the party line, unless he negotiates prior permission to be absent, for which he will generally need a colourable reason. And a three-line whip indicates that attendance and voting with the party is a compelling obligation, breach of which can be expected to lead to serious disciplinary sanctions.

The sanctions are sanctions imposed by the party; they can't remove you as an MP. But they can involve dismissal from any party or government office you may hold (about 100 MPs are "on the payroll"; they have government offices of one level or another, and another 30 or so hold party offices); temporary or permanent exclusion from the parliamentary party; refusal of renominination to stand as a party candidate at the next election; and generally finding that your representations to government offices on behalf of your constituents are about as well-received as a case of amoebic dysentery.

Backbencher: an MP who does not hold any government office, or any party office (in any party, whether government or opposition).

Shadow minister: an MP from the opposition party who has been nominated as that party's spokesperson in relation to a particular government portfolio. So, for example, the current UK Foreign Secretary is Jeremy Hunt of the Conservative Party; the Shadow Foreign Secretary is Emily Thornberry of the Labour Party.