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Are Party Whips Undemocratic?

When you join the usual parties of old, they have within in them what is known as a “Party Whip”.

This is a person that appointed to keep other party members in line, under strict control and told to publicly speak only what the heads of the party want them to say. Members are also told by the Whips what way they must vote on matters.

Traditionally it’s thought, when you have any number of people in a political group, in order for the public voter to be also given the PR image of party unity, the Whip must go to work and get their lash out. Dissenting on matters is one thing but not showing party unity is near taboo – in fact, being seen to disagree, that’s party heresy!

The Whip has a number of threats it can ‘pull out of its bag’. It threathes members with reducing their role as a party member. It can force its way by stripping members of party rank on committees. It can tell members to vote one way or stay silent by bullying that if they don’t, the victim will be even removed from the party.

Pretty much of the same applies for elected TD’s or Senators of old parties. The added bonus for Party Whips is that they know such threats when used, also come with financial repercussions.

A €100k earning TD might be stripped of a role on a government committee. As they ask sometimes get paid and perked also for being on these, Whips use a fear of this financial withdrawal as a further method to get their bullied way.

A TD might have a further governing role. Of course, this means more (public supplied) pay to them yet again but increased state roles also come with perks and just as important, higher pension rates for later pay out. Inducing fear to an elected person that all these might be lost if they didn’t tow the line or shut up, is another way to keep them dictated to.

The Whip also can tell members to do as they are told or else they are on their own when it comes to elections. Don’t be a good boy or girl? There will be reduced or no party financial assistance for your campaign. The party leader might ignore you and not do a PR visit to your locality – so that local newspaper image of you standing impressively beside the party just before voting day, might never come about!

There are many ways a party Whip tries to control the masses they dictate to. A lot of it is money related. Then again, a lot if it is also prestige related too. A party member (one especially running for election or thinking about it) knows that if their local people see they are being snubbed, sidelined of reduced in role, this could also mean potential loss of local votes. Loss of votes means possible loss of a job. Loss of a job means serious loss of money.

The Whip will know all this (and more) and use such matters to their best advantage in getting their target to comply.

Party Whips are the party leaders attack dogs. They are not hired or used to be a poodle. They are there for their bark upon people. The possible victims being any member of the party who steps out of ordered line.

The Conflict.

When a person runs for election, they go before their local people espousing their ideas and defined positions on matters. They also say they will work on seeing local matters finally addressed or better addressed than previously. The candidate says that they will work for their local people and community. Standard PR practice and soundbite material.

If lucky to be elected, they then walk in the gates of the Oireachtas as an elected TD. Congratulations to them.

Now however, they are not just working for their local people, they are also working for their nation. This is understood and only to be expected. In time, a question arises for a TD. Which now comes first – their local community issues and views on matters (which they know they need to address and adhere to, in order to keep local votes) or do they go for the national whipped positions that means their own personal views or issues (and that of their local voters) are sidelined or ignored completely?

The party Whip will have their own view on this question. It must be party and leaders dictates before possibly issues of local concern and their opinions on local matters.

When “Democracy” is spoken about in PR terms, it’s made out that it centres around the thoughts and actions of each individual just as much as a collective. However, in old parties of Ireland the former is reduced (as much as party spokespeopke PR spout different) in importance and the latter is not only considered more important, it is regularly an ordered, dictated necessity.

There is a valid argument that all elected in government must be united in direction, in order for there to be (a) less chaos and (b) more achieved in potential progress. There is real in merit in this view, to be sure and true.

Party Whips however, take things to another level. At its core reason for existing, it’s to ensure at times that the opinions and issues of potentially hundreds – or hundreds of thousands – of many real citizens, are to be ignored or downgraded. All conimg about by the given orders of an elite top table of a political party or individual leader.

This being the regular situation, another very important question arises. One those doing the ordering or enforcing crack-downs try to dodge or avoid being raised in the first place. The question being “Is a party Whip actually being undemocratic when they bully on others, dictates from a party top table or leader?”

Re: UnitedPeople.

To be clear, there is no party Whip in UnitedPeople (UP) . Individual members have joined UP because they believe in a general direction, a general idea and hold the same personal values. One of these values is about core true democracy and the notion that although discussions, debate and negotiations must happen in order for progress to be made, the rights of an individual must be also core respected.

This mean that no one member should be bullied, coersied or emotionally affected by another, in other for that other person to get their own way.

I personally believe in this so much, I had it inserted into the very constitution of the party at its foundation. I, no more than any other member, cannot dictate my way upon others. I made sure the core rules if the party stated this clearly. Everyone is seen as an equal and treated as an equal – all entitled to have an opinion and a right to keep one.

Absolutely, there are talks and negotiations that result in an eventually direction to head in and method decided on, how to get there.

Here is where UnitedPeople differs from many of the traditional parties though. Once a top table of people is created, those people then don’t dictate downward again to the party members. No, the top table is totally answerable to the party individual members at all times. Power comes at all times from the mass members and their democratic will rather than power dosed down from a top table of ordering elites.

Power comes from the people, not the top table elite – who answer to lower ranks and must adhere to their democratic voted dires and needs at all times. In UP power flows upward, not downward.

More modern parties including UnitedPeople have more progressive thinking. They are better trying to hold themselves to the principle of “True Democracy” than the parties of old that (a) dictate from top tables downward upon members including state elected and (b) thus by those dictates, ignore or sideline local representatives who are there to seek the desires of their more local elected. The very people they were selected by, to work for, with the same aims and local causes.

The overall conclusion of UnitedPeople is that party Whips once thought necessary by old thinking, are at core, undemocratic and an outdated way to (bully) get things done. New parties like UnitedPeople and yes, the Irish Democratic Party and others, feel there is a better way. A more modern way to do things are to treat people as individuals and see they are more respected – not whipped into shape for the gain of others.

It’s 2020, not 1820. There are better ways.

About JeffRudd

20 year barman. Re-educated as an I.T. professional, website creator, I.T teacher, digital media management & marketing professional. Studied accountancy, taxation, business management & law. Founder of UnitedPeople political party - click here. Previously the first National Chairman of Direct Democracy Ireland (DDI) & founder of the Louth branch of DDI. Author. Regular contributor to social media. TV & radio guest experiences. Appeared in the Oireachtas & Dublin Highcourts to defend the rights of citizens along with exposing many wrongs. Consistently seeks greater democracy & accountability from all elected levels of Ireland. Currently writing two books, non-fiction "Life Behind Bars" & "Better Tomorrows".

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