With Parliament in recess, there were deep concerns over a potential lack of scrutiny in April, as major decisions over the pandemic were made every day.
If Parliament was going to return, it required a shift to virtual proceedings – something that had never been done here before.
The ERS were at the front of the debate on plans for a ‘virtual Parliament’. With politicians unable to meet in person, democratic innovations needed to be developed quickly.
Our proposals on this front were picked up by the BBC (several times), and rapidly gained wider attention. Alongside over 100 MPs, we called for a ‘virtual PMQs’ – a move that was adopted by the Commons authorities.
Darren Hughes wrote for LabourList calling for the newly-elected Labour leader, Keir Starmer, to make robust (virtual!) scrutiny a priority.
It was a real win for voters when the Commons did back the virtual Parliament proposals. We welcomed the move with feature coverage across the board, from Sky to Holyrood magazine. Our work was picked up by the Press Association, spreading the message to the Daily Mail, PoliticsHome and more.
Sadly, the House of Lords did not go choose to live-broadcast its virtual proceedings – instead opting to initially hold them in private. We were featured in outlets across the country calling for transparency from the unelected Lords – with an exclusive in the Independent on the woeful lack of openness in the second chamber.
We learnt that – despite this secrecy – the Lords were lobbying for full expenses. Working with the Telegraph we helped shine a light on this behaviour, becoming a major story in outlets from the Express to Scotland’s The National. (The Lords is now – finally – live-broadcasting its proceedings, but expenses will be backdated to the start, when proceedings were in private…)
Darren wrote for Comment Central about the Lords’ secrecy – read it here.
Dr Helen Pankhurst called on the public to join the Electoral Reform Society in a Telegraph piece – on the positives we must take forward after this pandemic.
A new report called for automatic voter registration to bring in the ‘missing millions’ – noting the ERS’ proud support for the policy.
And extensive analysis of the 2019 General Election by the Electoral Commission once again called for greater transparency for online political ads. We renewed our support for these calls in the Independent, and urged action before the next round of elections next May.
The concerns over loopholes in our electoral law were neatly echoed by ERS Research & Policy Officer Michela Palese, in a joint Constitution Unit piece on misinformation at the start of April.
We also saw a fresh push to extend the franchise, with a long Daily Express feature on the issue – including the ERS.
In case you missed it: Over on our blog we asked ‘who benefits from Westminster’s warped voting system?’. Have a look at the latest on our News and Comment page.