WHATEVER happened to the parliamentary whips, once the feared scourge of Westminster? Brexit has transformed them into figures of virtual impotence.

In those days if, as a back-bencher, you fell foul of the whips by defying your party’s official line, your entire political career could be on the line.

If you were reported to your local constituency association, chances were you could be “deselected” and not allowed to stand for the party at the next election.

There was talk of the whips having black books containing details of MPs’ peccadilloes, which they would threaten to bruit abroad. And errant MPs could be denied overseas jaunts or put on tedious committees. There was even talk of arm-twisting. An altogether fearsome and all-powerful lot.

But now, nobody gives a fig for them. With scores of MPs voting all over the place over Brexit, the whips have simply lost control. It also means Tory MPs, when appealed to by the Prime Minister to unite over Brexit, simply take no notice. Despite accusations of “treachery”, they will continue to be as wayward and disloyal as they choose.

Whether once Brexit is behind us the whips will regain their former power is doubtful. Back-benchers have tasted freedom and they are not going to surrender it lightly. Anarchy will continue to reign.

THE death has occurred of Lady Falkender, formerly Marcia Williams, who “enjoyed” an extraordinary turbulent political and personal relationship with Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

She made many enemies among those who were jealous of her position and her strange influence over Wilson.

There was nothing tranquil about Number 10 in those days. One official once said: “Marcia yelling at Harold was the only kind of discussion we ever heard them have.”

It would be a gross over-statement to describe her as a latter-day Rasputin, but she could certainly wrap Wilson around her little finger.

OUR doleful Chancellor Philip Hammond, will be feeling even more Eeyorish than ever now that thanks, in part anyway, to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (who does not seem over-burdened with diplomatic finesse). The Russians have already dubbed him the ‘Secretary of State for War’.

Williamson’s announcement that he proposed to send an aircraft carrier into the Pacific so riled the Chinese that they have cancelled Hammond’s weekend jaunt to Beijing.

VETERAN Labour MP Dennis Skinner will no doubt be furious with Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has appealed to doctors to communicate with patients, where possible, by email rather than letter-writing.

Hancock has said that letters lost in the post could actually lead to loss of life among some patients. However, Skinner, who is well into his 80s, once told me that he boycotts emails, and won’t respond to constituents who use that form of communication. Skinner says that the use of emails costs postmen and women their jobs.

As the world marches on, it seems, Skinner stands still. All I can say is that it is going to take an almighty heave to shove him into the 21st century.