A good new year resolution for Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis would be to enforce the discipline so necessary for the proper functioning of Cabinet government in our parliamentary system.
An egregious example of a minister breaking the code of collective responsibility occurred in a debate towards the end of last year when Marco City MP Michael Pintard opened fire on his own Cabinet colleagues.
Pintard, the minister of agriculture, was surely trying to burnish his bona fides with someone or some group. Question is: to whom was he genuflecting? Perhaps he was trying to prove to his cultural community posse that playwright Michael Clifton Pintard bows to no one, except, maybe, of course, them.
He could not possibly have been serious with his attack on the whip process used not just in the Westminster parliamentary system, but in most disciplined political enclaves — perhaps because it is so effective.
A party appoints a whip or whips, whose job it is to help organize debates and ensure that the members stay united when it comes voting time, save and except for those votes in Parliament where the party leaders expressly communicate that a particular vote will not be whipped. On those occasions, members can vote as they want. The so-called free vote.
Usually these would be either conscience votes (such as on the death penalty) or other votes that have no direct bearing on policy or the government’s legislative agenda.
Pintard needs to understand that the whip doesn’t fall under the purview of the House itself. Whipping votes is exclusively a matter for political parties.
Whipping is a tool that enables the governing party to maintain discipline, to pass and amend laws, or conversely – for the opposition party – to stop the passage of laws or amendments.
When Pintard accepted his party’s nomination to run in Marco City, he implicitly signed a contract to follow the whip. In exchange, he got to call himself an FNM (Free National Movement) candidate and to campaign as such. He may not like it, but that is our system and he ought to have known about it before he donned his red shirt.
There were two things particularly egregious about Pintard’s diatribe. On the one hand, he is a member of the Cabinet, which triggers the whole business of collective responsibility. If Cabinet ministers can’t vote and speak in unison inside and outside of Parliament, then why bother faking any attempt at being a government?
The second is his verbal non sequitur that because he is a black man (and supposedly because whipping votes was created by a white man in the UK Parliament), then any reference to him being under a whip connotes imagery of slavery and the inhumanity of that abhorrence.
Give us a break, Michael. Save your faux outrage for your next short story.
The creator of the parliamentary whip was observing how bloodhounds were kept in pursuit of a hapless fox by a whipper-in.
That cruel blood sport has lately been outlawed in England but whipping in Parliament has been going on since at least 1769, a full 40 years after our Parliament first sat.
The African slave trade had its roots back in the 15th Century thanks to the Portuguese, although the transatlantic slave trade did peak around the same time that the parliamentary whip was first being used.
But only in Pintard’s fertile imagination can you conflate the two and turn a useful political tool into a supposed affront to his ethnic consciousness.
If his soul is so offended at being under the party whip, shouldn’t we be expecting the trifecta of letters of resignation – from Cabinet, from Parliament and from his political party?
The next time he wants to vent about nonsense, perhaps he should invite some of his thespian friends ‘round for a session of Brer Bookie and Brer Rabbi stories and a meal of baloney sandwiches.
– The Graduate