08:38 GMT +322 July 2019
Listen Live
    Britain's Deputy Chief Whip Julian Smith leaves in Downing Street, London, Britain, November 2, 2017.

    Toughest Job in Politics: Is This Man Capable of Delivering Brexit Laws for May?

    © REUTERS / Toby Melville
    Europe
    Get short URL
    0 10

    Theresa May appointed Julian Smith as her new chief whip, replacing Gavin Williamson, who was promoted to defense secretary. Is Mr. Smith up to the task of corralling 316 Tory MPs to vote in favor of what may be very controversial Brexit legislation?

    On Thursday, November 2, Theresa May replaced Michael Fallon as defense secretary with Gavin Williamson, but she also made an equally important appointment.

    Williamson's chief whip position was given to Julian Smith, who will have a pivotal job over the next 18 months as he tries to cajole Tory MPs and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to vote for various Brexit bills which were outlined in the Queen's Speech in June.

    Compared to his predecessor, Smith is quite a colorful character.

    In 2015 Smith, who is MP for Skipton & Ripon in North Yorkshire, argued for parliament to be moved temporarily to the North of England while repairs were carried out to the Palace of Westminster.

    Wanted Paper Prosecuted Over Snowden Files

    Smith once called for The Guardian newspaper to be prosecuted after they published allegations from former National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden.

    "The Guardian focused on sending abroad revelations not about the American NSA or whistleblowing. They chose to distribute information about our own intelligence agents and GCHQ… To communicate, not just publish, any identifying information about GCHQ personnel is a terrorist offence. This is not press freedom — this is the Guardian's devastating impact on national security," Smith said in 2013 when he called for a debate in Westminster Hall. 

    The priority for Mr. Smith however, will be steering a mountain of legislation through parliament regarding Britain's exit from the European Union.

    Campaigned for Remain

    Ironically, Mr. Smith campaigned before last year's referendum for the UK to stay in the EU, and his website still carries a statement in which he argues passionately for a Remain vote.

    "From all I have seen in business and as an MP, I urge you to vote Remain," it ends.

    ​He has now, like many Tory MPs, done a complete U-turn and will be in charge of the effort to force them to vote for Brexit and for changing numerous UK laws which are currently tied into European legislation.

    A former recruitment executive he was elected to Parliament in 2010 and joined the whips' office in 2015.  He has now been promoted from Deputy Chief Whip.

    Echoes of House of Cards

    The chief whip role is one traditionally reserved for rather bruising characters, who are able to intimidate fresh-faced backbenchers in particular, into towing the party line and overcoming any qualms they may have about contradicting promises they may have made to their constituents.

    Williamson was seen as a "sinister" figure and even kept a tarantula in his desk.

    In the original 1990s TV drama House of Cards, which was set in Westminster, the main character was Francis Urquhart — played by the late Ian Richardson — a Machiavellian figure who was the chief whip in a Conservative government.

    Urquhart manipulated and even blackmailed MPs into doing his bidding and eventually maneuvers himself into becoming prime minister.

    Kevin Spacey — currently under investigation over sexual assault allegations — reprised the role in Washington as Congressman Frank Underwood, the House Majority Whip.

    Related:

    Mr. Who? May Replaces Fallon as UK Defense Secretary With an Unknown Quantity
    Westminster Sex Scandal Unlikely to Damage May Government - Rodney Atkinson
    Brexit More Serious Than MP Behavior but More Gov’t Heads Could Roll - Economist
    Brexit 'Uncertainty Already Affecting' British Households, Living Standards
    Tags:
    whip, Vote Remain, MPs, vote, Brexit, UK Government, House of Commons, Conservative Party, European Union, Julian Smith, Gavin Williamson, Michael Fallon, Theresa May, Britain, United Kingdom
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik