Whips have always aroused curiosity. Their peculiar title, which suggests coercion and social control, derives from ‘Whipper-in’, a man who keeps headstrong hounds running with the pack. The packs, that is to say the parliamentary parties, are heterogeneous associations of independent and egocentric individuals, not at all the sort to shy away from dissent and rebellion. Between 1966 and 1970 the Labour Government faced backbench opposition on almost every major policy; the 1970–74 Conservative Government was actually defeated five times by its own supporters. Still, although it may well be true that ‘the golden age of ultra-disciplined parties is past’, when the time comes to march, and regardless of the issues involved, most Members seem ready to follow a lead: remarkably few bolt upon reaching the division lobbies. Even the recent ‘undisciplined’ record must appear to administrators everywhere as very successful social control indeed.