It’s a good job that Michael Dobbs has already made his thousands and thousands out of Francis Urquhart, the ruthless chief-whip protagonist of the Home of Playing cards novels. Dobbs’s extremely entertaining creation relied on the popularity of chief whips – and particularly Conservative ones – as being ruthless, Machiavellian figures who had been to not be messed with.

Gavin Williamson, chief whip beneath former UK prime minister Theresa Might, seemed to be influenced by the character of Urquhart. By all accounts, he even stored a tarantula named Cronus on his desk in an obvious bid to lend himself an intimidating air. Williamson’s persona was a tad try-hard, however no less than he had a go.

Sadly, the mystique across the chief-whip place has now completely dissipated, due to Wendy Morton, who held the put up throughout the ill-starred premiership of Liz Truss final 12 months. Ms Morton has simply had an official criticism of bullying upheld in opposition to Williamson, from the transient interval when she was in control of parliamentary self-discipline and Williamson was a backbencher. Regardless of the parliamentary commissioner for requirements, Daniel Greenberg, initially clearing Williamson of the cost, this was overturned by the Impartial Professional Panel (IEP) this week.

The flashpoint between the 2 involved Williamson’s disgruntlement at not being invited to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II final September. Williamson’s semi-literate textual content messages are definitely peppered with the language of a jerk. As an illustration, he describes his exclusion as ‘very shit’ and warns Morton ‘don’t puss me about’ (presumably he meant ‘push’).

However Morton’s texts are literally far worse. They deploy the arse-covering lingo of a contemporary human-resources supervisor. ‘There’s completely no want so that you can take this tone Gavin. I’m attempting to assist’, she says.

Positive sufficient, a proper criticism of bullying adopted from Morton to parliament’s Impartial Complaints and Grievance Scheme. She instructed the authorities: ‘He was attempting to push me round… It began to really feel a bit like a way of energy over me.’

It’s surprising sufficient {that a} chief whip would inform tales on an MP from her personal occasion on this method. And it’s totally gobsmacking that she would then name on the parliamentary authorities to intervene. It’s akin to a headteacher complaining to the board of governors about being intimidated by a third-form pupil. Or the captain of a ship being diminished to a gibbering mess by the insubordinate perspective of a junior crewmember.

Resilience, gumption and a willingness to manage self-discipline should be pre-requisites for all these positions; college head, ship’s captain, authorities chief whip. You don’t complain to the authorities – you are the authorities. Or no less than you should be, in case you are in any method competent.

Williamson is now being packed off on a ‘behaviour coaching’ course. It is a additional grim indication that the tough previous commerce of politics is being totally subsumed into ghastly middle-class wimpdom.

Urquhart, and even the ridiculous Williamson himself, might have considered a thousand higher methods to carry a stroppy backbencher into line. Revenge might have been a dish served both sizzling or chilly. An prolonged stint on an obscure standing committee that sits anti-social hours may need adopted. Or maybe a really awkward story might have landed within the lap of a journalist within the errant MP’s constituency. But it appears Morton couldn’t consider a single lever to drag aside from to make a written criticism of bullying. Clearly, she was as unready to be chief whip as Truss was to be prime minister.

There was a phrase – ‘industrial language’ – to explain the sturdy method through which directions had been communicated and obtained in high-pressure workplaces. Within the sporting world, Sir Alex Ferguson was famend for his deployment of the ‘hairdryer’, an in-your-face bollocking approach that left the recipient recoiling from his sizzling breath. These disagreeable however intensely human methods are being changed in lots of walks of life by desiccated procedures – formal warnings, behaviour programs, ‘assist’ packages. These all purport to be humane, however are in truth designed to be box-ticking steps on the highway to redundancy or dismissal.

Celebration chief whips shouldn’t want any of this nonsense. They’re presupposed to have little black books filled with compromising data on parliamentary footsoldiers and elegantly phrased warnings of unlucky potential penalties to come back. They’re meant to be above all this.

Boo to Gavin Williamson for being such a thin-skinned and histrionic light-weight. However a much bigger boo by far to Wendy Morton. In each current political ‘bullying’ scandal – assume Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and now Williamson – the supposed bullies could be flawed, however the folks levelling the allegations are extra of a menace by far.

Patrick O’Flynn is a former MEP.

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