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Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Thursday, 2 June 2011 10:12 UK

'The whip has had its day'


One of Labour's serial parliamentary rebels, now-retired MP Bob Marshall-Andrews, has published a memoir chronicling his years of dissent against the government.

"He was always very pleasant," said his former long-suffering chief whip, Nick Brown, whose job was to keep him in line.

"The best you could do with Bob was to talk him into going away, if he is determined to oppose what the government is doing," he told James Naughtie.

The problem for the whips, said Mr Marshall-Andrews, was that because he was not interested in a position in the government, there was not much they could do to persuade him to co-operate.

"They couldn't do much to me," he said. "That makes life quite difficult."

The former MP is no fan of the system that keeps MPs in line, arguing that in the era of coalition politics, "the whip has had its day".

But his concerns go wider than what happens in the House of Commons, to the manipulation of politicians outside parliament, particularly on the media.

"If you were coming on a programme like this [Today] you used to get a document... on the top of it it said 'the line to take,'" he explained.

"I used to listen to my colleagues come on this programme and parrot this stuff. It was dreadful for politics."

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