Thursday, July 19, 2018


"Pairing" is an arrangement whereby two MPs on opposite sides of a question agree through their respective party "whips" office that neither will vote, effectively cancelling each other out, to enable them to carry out other work such as a constituency function or representing the country overseas.

Most such arrangements have been honoured but there have been rows going back to when I was at school (and probably well beyond) about occasions when it was alleged that someone broke the deal.

The latest such instance is that during one of the recent Brexit votes, Party Chairman Brandon Lewis was told by the Whips office to vote when he should have been "paired" with Lib/Dem MP Jo Swinson who is on maternity leave. The Chief Whip, Julian Smith, says that this was an honest mistake and both he and Brandon Lewis have apologised to Ms Swinson.

It is important that MPs are seen to be acting with honour and I would always argue that when such arrangements have been made they should be kept.

To put this in context, the Guido Fawkes website has listed here the number of instances when pairs have been broken, writing that

"A former veteran Tory whip texts:

There have been 2,000 pairs arranged since the General Election. 66 have been broken. 14 pairs have been broken by the Government and 52 pairs have been broken by the Opposition (of which 7 were broken by the Lib Dems, despite them having only 12 MPs). 

There is a lot of faux outrage about.

It turns out Labour, and proportionally especially the LibDems, are by some distance the worse offenders when it comes to breaking pairs. It does seem to happen a fair amount – around 3% of pairs are broken, and four-fifths of the broken pairs were committed by opposition parties."

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