MPs and Voters Denied a Voice

18/09/2020 News

Coming on the back of a highly publicised Government attempt to breach international law and undermine their own Brexit agreement, the farce of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s anti-remote Parliament was thrown into stark relief on Wednesday when MPs had to again form a 1km+ long queue just to vote.

The cancellation of remote proceedings back in June has effectively disenfranchised millions of voters as MPs that need to shield have no way of voting or being heard in Parliament. Let’s remind ourselves: these MPs are following the Government’s own COVID-19 advice and doing the right thing to protect themselves or vulnerable members of their household. 

Why should they (and their constituents) be punished for that?

This week, even Keir Starmer was denied the ability to remotely question the Prime Minister when a potential COVID-19 case in his family consigned him to his home.

A hybrid arrangement existed in Westminster until June and it worked. Fair Vote UK’s report Democracy in the Age of Pandemic commended the sensible mix of social distancing and remote functioning. Similar arrangements continue to work in Scotland, Wales and even the House of Lords.

When the House of Lords is more modern than you then something has to be wrong.

This may not seem like the biggest problem in the world right now but it goes beyond merely inconveniencing MPs with a long and boring wait.

Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West, has called the arrangement a symptom of a wider problem. Namely, this Government’s willingness to sideline Parliament and run roughshod over our democratic traditions and conventions. Ironically, Davies’ own bill seeking to address the problem had to be presented by Dawn Butler MP as the former is himself shielding.

The people of Swansea deserve better. Everyone in this country deserves better.

As Davies wrote: ‘The taxpayer has already invested heavily in technology that worked well until June in the House of Commons, so the purpose of my Bill is to reinstate this entirely functional system.’

What could be more reasonable than that?