After the SNP suspended Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry a couple of years ago, there were various articles in the unionist media gloating about 'the mystery of the vanishing SNP MPs'. It might be worth noting, then, that other parties seem to have recently mastered the art of shrinking their own parliamentary representation. This is the direction of travel since the general election in June...
Composition of the House of Commons:
Conservatives 314 (-2)
Labour 258 (-2)
SNP 35 (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 12 (n/c)
DUP 10 (n/c)
Sinn Féin 7 (n/c)
Independents 5 (+4)
Plaid Cymru 4 (n/c)
Greens 1 (n/c)
Conservatives 10 seats short of a majority
(The Speaker and Deputy Speakers are excluded from the above figures. Note also that Sinn Féin have not taken up their seats. Theoretically they can do so at any time, but in practice are highly unlikely to.)
Of course in one sense the Tory and Labour losses might be viewed as a mere technicality, because Jared O'Mara can still be expected to vote in line with the Labour whip and Charlie Elphicke can still be expected to vote in line with the Tory whip. But I do wonder if there may eventually prove to be a distinction between an MP who still harbours realistic hopes of being readmitted to the party fold (such as Anne Marie Morris), and an MP who is accused of something of sufficient seriousness that it becomes hard to imagine any way back. In the latter case, such a person may feel they have nothing left to lose, and the whips would have nothing left to bribe or threaten them with.
Those of you with a long memory may recall that nine Eurosceptic rebel Tory MPs had the whip withdrawn in late 1994, which technically and temporarily meant that John Major's majority was wiped out. Robin Oakley, then the BBC's Political Editor, assured viewers that this was a masterstroke by the Tory whips, because suspended MPs typically show obsessional loyalty in an effort to be readmitted as soon as possible. But the MP Rupert Allason, who'd had the whip withdrawn a year earlier, predicted that precisely the opposite would happen, and he was proved correct. The whipless MPs became an informal grouping, and with safety in numbers became emboldened to vote against the Major government even more often. They were eventually readmitted without providing any guarantees about their future conduct. That was merely embarrassing for the Tories, but it won't even be regarded as a credible option now if the reason for an MP's suspension is suspected wrongdoing of a serious nature (unless the individual is completely cleared).