BEING slipped and paired by the whips sounds painful doesn't it?
In parliamentary jargon, 'slipping' is being allowed by the party business managers (or 'whips') to miss a vote. 'Pairing' is an arrangement between the parties which makes sure the outcome of said vote is unaffected by matching you up with an MP of the opposite party who would have voted the other way but will also be absent.
Controversial Tory MP Nadine Dorries seems to have let this traditional arrangement slip her mind when she agreed to go eating maggots in the jungle for the TV show I'm a Celebrity... without warning anybody.
Furious Conservative whips promptly suspended her from the party. She wasn't in their good books anyway, having recently called David Cameron and George Osborne 'arrogant posh boys'. Contrary to their fearsome reputation, the whips understand the need to be away from Westminster for occasional constituency events, trips or even personal engagements. I negotiated one day out last week and still managed to keep up with emails and constituency casework. But a whole month camped in an Australian rainforest with Ant & Dec, on full pay and without so much as a mobile phone? The whips aren't that understanding!
Nadine's Mid-Bedfordshire constituents can't be too impressed either. People sometimes contact their MP desperately looking for urgent help. She'll be unavailable to them too unless they can rustle up airfares and anti-malarials.
In opposition, Lib Dems backed the right to recall an MP found guilty of serious misconduct. We had expenses fiddles in mind but perhaps it's time to dust off that idea.
Highlights of the week
Monday: Voted against the Government's Growth and Infrastructure Bill with its threats to take away planning permission rights from poorly performing councils (decided by who?) and employment rights from employees who want company shares. The whips probably wish I'd requested a slip that day but I'd like a permanent one for whoever wrote this nasty bill.
Thursday: Parliamentary reception marking 20 years of the Kambia Appeal, an inspiring Gloucestershire-based charity which promotes child and maternal health in a poor district of Sierra Leone (www.kambia.org).
Saturday: Personal highlight as son Sam helps Cheltenham's East Glos Club to victory over Chalford. Watch out Andy Murray!
Sunday: Always my most solemn and important engagement of the year, laying a wreath at the cenotaph in town for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for country, peace and freedom.