The Remote Parliament That Almost Was?

04/06/2020 News

Next week will see the launch of Fair Vote UK’s report: ‘Democracy in the Age of Pandemic’.

At the start of this crisis it quickly became clear that democratic institutions and practices were particularly vulnerable to the new threat. It was in an attempt to work out solutions that Fair Vote UK launched a consultation in April. 

This report has been drawn from the 80+ brilliant responses that were received.

The responses and our recommendations focus on two key areas: Parliament/Government functioning and elections.

On the former, early drafts of the report were full of praise for Parliament’s response to the pandemic. Though it had been slow off the mark, Westminster’s hybrid solution – part social distancing, part digitisation – had been a sensible and welcome mix of familiarity and innovation.

The farcical scenes this week of MPs forming a gargantuan queue outside the Commons and shielding and vulnerable MPs being unable to travel and vote have completely jeopardised the good progress that had been made. Indeed, it appears it may have also led to a minister inadvertently speaking from the dispatch box while displaying symptoms, potentially exposing dozens of MPs – and the Prime Minister – to the virus.

Abandoning the virtual Parliament was an irresponsible decision that should be reversed. 

A poll published today by YouGov found that 76% of British people think MPs should be allowed to continue working remotely.

‘The emergence of a “high-tech”, modern and robust Parliament could be one of the ways this crisis inadvertently improves democracy’.

That had been a line in our report before this week.

It could still be possible.