The Labour leadership has abandoned plans to effectively neuter the party’s whips office after realising it is quite useful, Coffee House has learned.
I understand that John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn had considered making the whips’ office more of an administrative entity which didn’t try to herd MPs into the right lobby. There had also been plans afoot to get rid of Rosie Winterton, the party’s chief whip, as she had initially been identified as someone hostile to a Corbyn leadership who represented the old way of doing things.
But the vote on the fiscal charter this week was much less troublesome than the Labour leadership had anticipated, thanks to Winterton’s efforts. She managed to whittle down the number of rebellious abstentions to just 21, which was a relief to the leadership.
It still remains to be seen how the whips office will function in the long run, given 21 rebels in the first few weeks of Corbyn’s leadership is still pretty miserable stuff. The Labour leader now has to work out how to play the vote that the SNP will force on Trident – and doubtless he will find himself relying on the skills of Rosie Winterton once again.