Notoriously secretive, most whips don’t disclose their tactics. “Whipping, like stripping, is best done in private,” said one former whip via his private secretary when asked by POLITICO’s London Playbook what happens in the whips’ office.However, Michael Brown, the former MP for Brigg and Cleethorpes who was a junior whip when former Prime Minister John Major attempted to push through the contentious Maastricht Treaty in the face of fierce opposition, was more forthcoming. He gave Playbook this excoriating assessment of the current state of play:Advice for whips: “[They should have] several weeks ago gone to the prime minister and said: ‘Prime minister, it looks as though we have got 60, 70, 80, 90 rebels. Every time you open your mouth you add another rebel to the total and you should not pursue this policy, and if you do, I as chief whip and all my whips will resign.”Lost cause: “There is nothing a whip can do between now and next Tuesday, neither chief whip or junior whip can go around and threaten [Brexiteer backbencher Jacob] Rees-Mogg with deselection. Are you going to ring his constituency chairman up? … Are you going to do that to 100 of your constituency associations? … Are you going to give them all knighthoods? There is nothing a whip can do.”The current chief whip: “This one probably is right up there in the competition stakes for the most incompetent chief whip this party, or any political party, has ever had.”Learning to count: “Even Larry the [Downing Street] Cat could have told her, because he sees [MPs] coming and going … that the rebellion was getting worse, not better.” Lost threat: “The most important tool that we always had available at our disposal on a really, really serious vote, which you can’t do now because of that jackass David Cameron passing the fixed term parliament act [which means MPs must now vote that they have no confidence in the government before there can be a snap general election] … we were always able to say to our colleagues, the final ace we could play: ‘If we lose the vote next Tuesday there will be a general election next Wednesday.’”Maastricht comparison? “I can honestly say that when we faced a rebellion it was nothing like on this scale over the Maastricht vote … First of all we had a majority, secondly the number of rebels that we had was on a worst-case basis 20-25.”Theresa May: “She has got tin ears, I think she has got ear plugs in her ears, and therefore any advice that anybody might give her she probably wouldn’t listen to anyway.”What next? “If she was honorable she would get up from the despatch box a minute after the vote is lost on Tuesday and say: ‘Mr. Speaker, I shall be making a statement tomorrow about the future of the government.’”This interview first appeared in POLITICO‘s London Playbook, a free daily briefing on everything you need to know about what’s driving the day in Westminster. Sign up here. Also On POLITICO ITV scraps plans for Brexit debate By Paul Dallison Unreality Check The (not so) great Brexit debate By Rosa Prince LONDON — With Prime Minister Theresa May on course to lose a key vote on her Brexit plan in the House of Commons Tuesday, her party machine is in overdrive.Conservative whips, tasked with ensuring party discipline among backbench members of parliament, face an uphill task, with estimates of well over 100 of their 315 MPs prepared to rebel against the prime minister and vote against the divorce deal she agreed with Brussels.Current Chief Whip Julian Smith was met with ridicule Thursday when documentary makers released footage of him trying, and failing, to persuade a colleague to back the prime minister.