How do the whips persuade people to vote their way?

We should expect plenty of stories about how the whips try to reduce the numbers of Conservative MPs planning to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement. I was surprised to be contacted by a journalist on Monday who asked me if I had changed my mind about voting against the Agreement, and who went on to ask what the whips had offered me to change my mind. I was able to say I did not plan to change my vote and I had not been offered anything.

Let me reassure some readers who take a low view of what goes on. I have never been offered an honour or some other gift by the whips on any occasion to get me to change my mind and vote for the party line. There have been various times over the last 8 years when I have not supported the government on EU matters, as I took seriously the promises we made in each Manifesto not to transfer more power to the EU. If anyone in future did suggest I might receive an honour to switch my vote I would say No and explain why that would be an abuse of the system. Honours are not tools for whips to use to secure a vote.

There have been some suggestions in the press that maybe others are being offered honours or inducements. It is difficult to see how this works for the government were they to be susceptible to such bad practice. Once they have announced an honour they cannot withdraw it, and the individual in receipt of it cannot be contracted to behave in a certain way thereafter. There have been plenty of cases where MPs have received honours, only to be very critical of the government and leadership shortly afterwards, as the two issues are not related and should be unrelated.

I have even seen it claimed some are offered peerages. That sounds ludicrous. If anyone were to be offered an immediate peerage they would of course have to resign from the Commons and create a by election. I can’t think of any example when it has been alleged an MP was offered a peerage to get through a particular Commons vote.

So how do whips try to get MPs to vote the party line? The first round is to put the government’s case in more detail and more strongly to the MP to consider. This may include inviting the MP to have a meeting with the PM or relevant Minister, to hear directly why they want them to vote a certain way. Junior and ambitious MPs may well be told that their path to Ministerial appointment will be easier and smoother if they travel the loyal road, though history shows some rebels also have to be given jobs to provide some balance in the team and to bring some rebels into line by accepting the discipline of Ministerial office. Then there are arguments about the political consequences for government and party from defeat, use of friends of the MP to try to persuade them, and threats of consequences for the policy/party/government if the proposal is defeated. Good whipping is ad hominem. Different MPs respond to different types of pressure or appeal.

The PM seems to want to try to put pressure on MPs by seeking to persuade the party and the voters to back her deal, over the heads of the MPs. This is a route fraught with difficulty. MPs resent fellow MPs trying to whip up their constituents against them, whilst it looks as if the Conservative party membership is more strongly against the Withdrawal Agreement than the MPs on average.

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More false forecasts

Remain return to their Project Fear like moths returning to the heat of a light which might destroy them. Prior to the referendum they forecast big job losses, house price falls and a recession in the first winter after a No vote. We now know this was completely wrong. Using their language, these were “Catastrophic” forecasting errors. They took themselves “off the cliff edge” of bad forecasts.

This time they have decided to play it safer by going for long term forecasts. That means they cannot be proved wrong any time soon. It also means many Remain spokesmen and women will misrepresent what these new studies show. They all show us better off in ten years time, with or without Brexit. The so called losses are lower forecast gains, not actual losses. It also means if they assume marginal shortfalls in growth from Brexit, they add up over a long period of time to larger sums. Remain should understand this, as our growth rate throughout our time in the EEC/EU was slower on average than in the post War years prior to entry. They got their long term forecasts wrong when we entered, expecting faster growth. If Leave supporters played back their approach we could show substantial long term losses from membership. The big losses thanks to the Exchange Rate Mechanism disaster in the middle of our membership were particularly costly and were actual losses or declines in income and output,not just slower growth.

Instead of parroting imprecise long term forecasts from people who got their short term forecasts wrong in 2016-17, they should be trying to make amends. Journalists should cross examine them about how they can possibly know what our economy and the rest of the world will be like in ten or fifteen years time. If we leave and take back control properly next March we could pursue an economic, trade and spending policy that would give a good boost to our economy and its output. These forecasts concentrate on seeing negatives for our trade, without thinking about all the positives from saving the money we send to the EU, substituting home production for imports, and lowering tariffs in general when we set our own schedule. The main reasons they think growth will be a bit slower is assuming a net increase in trade barriers, and assuming much lower inward migration.

Project Fear did not work first time round for the Referendum. Each time it is tried it is even less effective, as we saw through the lies the previous time. It reminds us that Remain never have a positive case for membership of the EU or for a close economic partnership with it. They just bang on about what could go wrong, and assume the rest of the EU will behave as badly as possible towards us.

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Is this the EU’s best offer?

The EU’s bad offer to the UK has been conditioned by what the Prime Minister asked for. Mrs May and her team were trying to cherry pick in the way the EU told them not to, so they have ended up with no deal at all about the future relationship after two and half years of talks. If she had asked for a Free Trade Deal along the lines of Canada plus, with various arguments about how the Irish border would work we would be in a much better position. There are plenty of technical and practical ways of handling the border on existing technology, so we would have found out if these issues had been pressed whether the EU was up for a Free Trade deal or not. The Prime Minister’s refusal to table a free trade agreement, and her long delay over pressing more practical solutions for the Irish border has led to the current impasse with the UK Parliament and the complete lack of a Future Partnership Agreement other than a few pages of vague aspirations and plenty of negotiation to come.

Once Parliament has voted down the Withdrawal Agreement – as MPs currently say they will – the UK government needs to return to the EU with the individual detailed issues that are best resolved prior to just leaving, and to table a full Free Trade Agreement. We will then find out for sure whether the EU is serious about an FTA or not, and can in the meantime get on with fulfilling the pledge to leave. Immediately anyway the UK government should publish its tariff schedule for March 29 2019, set out details of how we will run our own borders from that date, and provide the necessary permissions for continuing trade and activity.

Mrs May rightly says the country wants shot of all the arguments and delays about Brexit. That is another good reason why we must veto the agreement she has come up with, because it sentences us to an indefinite future of endless talks about our future partnership, shorn of our bargaining position by all the concessions made in the Withdrawal Agreement.

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The Prime Minister’s letter

Mrs May’s first ten points and last point are all ones I want to see happen. The trouble is they do not happen any time soon under the Withdrawal Agreement she wrongly wishes to lock us into and maybe never.
Most of the rest of her points are things that re create many features of the E$U after we have left in ways Leave voters do not wish to do, or vague promises of future co-operation which we can easily enjoy without signing this disastrous Treaty. Some are bizarre – “Gibraltar’s sovereignty protected” – it was not at risk until the last minute concessions – and no hard border in Northern Ireland – I never thought the UK was planning one!

This letter and the further concession on Gibraltar are likely to tip more MPs against this Withdrawal Treaty. I remain strongly opposed.

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Migration White Paper to appear at last

According to the press, the government will soon publish its long delayed Migration White Paper. Mrs Rudd in office never got around to doing this, though she was lobbied regularly to do so. Apparently government thinks Eurosceptic opponents of the Withdrawal Agreement will be won round by proposals for the future on migration. I have no idea why they think so.

Their first problem is we will not be allowed to have our own migration policy all the time we rest in the unsatisfactory limbo land of so called Transition. With no guaranteed way out that the UK can use on its own without EU permission, what is the point of talking about how we might use freedoms still to be won in negotiation?

Their second problem is the alleged policy itself. Apparently they want to make it easier for people to come to the UK to take well paid jobs, whilst coming up with some plan to restrict someone in a low paid job to an eleven month stay. That would create a revolving door of people coming to take low paid jobs, whilst increasing problems over housing and access to services to those who come to work for the least money and are most in need of help from the state. Why would Brexit voters find that attractive?

It shows a continuing misunderstanding of why many people voted Brexit. We voted to take back control of our laws, our borders and money, not for any particular answer on migration. Vote Leave did not campaign on migration, though answered on it as others did. Highlighting the fact that under Transition we have not taken back control is unhelpful to the government, whilst their particular scheme sounds mean without controlling numbers in the way voters concerned about this issue would like.

This is another badly thought through policy which is irrelevant were the government to secure its dreadful Withdrawal Agreement.

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The great opportunities from leaving with no Withdrawal sell out

I have often set out the advantages of just leaving next March, here and on the media. I have just sent a pamphlet making this case off to a possible publisher.I am urging like minded MPs to help make the case for the WTO exit.

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What should primary schools teach?

The Education Secretary has said he wants primary schools to lace their curriculum teaching children to read and write with more adventure, outdoor activity and risk.

I invite you today to say what you think about this suggestion.

Are the things he has in mind like climbing trees and watching a sunrise things for schools, or are they opportunities for families and leisure time? Do we have to ask the schools to do these things, when children spend far more time out of school than in it?

The state ensures everyone has an education, and provides a network of local schools throughout the country to give all have the chance to learn. Almost all of us agree that a good grounding in the basics at primary is central to being able to get more out of secondary education, and necessary to be able to navigate the complexities of adult life.

I saw sunrises, skimmed stones and climbed trees as a boy, but never at school.

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The Withdrawal Agreement should be renamed The Stay in and Pay up Agreement

The EU does have a sense of humour. The so called Withdrawal Agreement is designed to keep us in whilst making us pay up. No sensible person could regard it as being Brexit, and no good negotiator would ever say Yes to a one sided proposal. Worse still it completely undermines our negotiating strength for the next prolonged phase, negotiations on the so called Future Partnership. This is not a deal for the future, and it does not end the uncertainty. The quickest way to end the uncertainty is to leave without signing it. Leave voters did not vote Leave in order to subjugate ourselves to new EU Treaties that we can’t get out of.

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Is that it? The Political declaration with the EU

As expected, the latest draft of the Political document about our possible future partnership with the EU is empty of any enforceable content of benefit to the UK. It is an invitation to trade and customs talks extending over an unspecified period, delaying our exit from the EU. Far from taking back control of our money, our laws, and our borders, this Agreement if signed alongside the Withdrawal Agreement which is legally binding means we stay in and have no unilateral right to leave if the talks prove fruitless.

Under this non binding proposal our fish are still in play for a future negotiation. The Irish backstop remains etched legally into the Withdrawal Agreement, with words about a future technological solution as a possibility. There is plenty about the need for future regulatory convergence and for the UK to keep adopting EU laws we have no say over. The proposed format of the Future Partnership would be an EU Association Agreement. These Agreements are designed to bring potential member states of the EU progressively into line and under legal obligation to the body they wish to join.

This disappointing document confirms that this negotiation does not deliver Brexit, and does not give us control of our laws, money and borders, any time soon, with the risk that it might never properly do so.

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Central Bank errors can cause recessions

Last night I was privileged to give the inaugural annual Trustees lecture at the London Institute of Banking and Finance.

I used it to examine why we had large recessions in 1974-6, 1990-3 and 2007-10. In the UK we lost 4% of our output and income in 1974-6 (Labour), 1.1% in 1991-2 (Conservative) and 4.5% 2008-9 (Labour). In each case we lurched from rapid credit and money growth to a dramatic tightening of credit and money in an effort to curb past excesses. In each case two errors were made – the initial excessive credit build up, and the decision to stop it by rapid tightening.

In the 1974-6 period there was lethal inflation which reached 27%. Lots of jobs were lost but unemployment peaked at 5.5%. In 1990-2 inflation hit 10.9% but unemployment rose to a worrying 10.8%. In 2007-10 unemployment hit an unacceptable 8.1% whilst prices started to fall as the crisis intensified, such was the extent of the monetary tightening.

The 1990s crisis was entirely the result of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. As I had written before we adopted it as policy, it was a destabilising system. We started with the markets trying to force sterling up, which meant printing lots of money and keeping rates low to stop them. This resulted in a surge of credit. Then the pound wanted to go down, so the reverse took place with a major tightening of money and credit leading to recession.

The 1970s and 2000s crises were the result of mistaken views of the Central Bank and commercial bankers that they could take more risk and lend more money without adverse consequences. This was followed by too rapid a change of tack. Today we do not yet face a similar policy induced recession, but we need to be aware that the Bank of England is tightening too much which is visibly slowing the economy. Money growth is also being slowed a bit in the USA and China.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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