I went to the theatre tonight to see a hilarious new play with Richard Wilson and Robert Bathurst (from Cold Feet) about being a Whip. The Whips Office is pretty much anathema to most of us - which is described in the play like being "the personnel department of a business". But the Whips are essential - they keep the business of Parliament flowing, they run the voting and speaking schedules of MPs, and ultimately they maintain loyalty in the ranks - and it is the latter that is the main theme of the play.
Now I know absolutely nothing about the theatre so I couldn't tell you if this play was well directed, if the set was properly lit, if the actors mucked up the execution of their lines, but what I do know is that this play is hilarious. I was laughing out loud from the opening line.
Basically it is set just after a General Election with a Tory majority of 3. The Whips are desperately trying to prevent a rebellion and using every tactic possible. A new MP is given the full treatment from smarm through to thinking someone is being physically beaten in the next room; others are wined and dined; indiscretions, love poetry, bar bills become bargaining chips - and all whilst pledging allegiance to the cause. There are a few topical jokes included - which I won't spoil for you - but be prepared for some pretty foul language!
I imagine the fear of the "dark arts" of the Whips is greater than the reality, but then again having worked for a former Whip maybe not...