May saw the ‘virtual Commons’ come into its own. The ability for MPs to vote and speak up remotely – as the coronavirus crisis continues to grip the country – has been a huge boost for accountability.
Sadly, it was only ever intended as a temporary shift. But the speed that it has been drawn to a close by the government should have us all concerned.
We warned of a ‘blinkered and partisan’ decision to shut down virtual proceedings at the start of next month: with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland still adhering to tight lockdown restrictions, banning virtual participation could result in the number of MPs able to participate plummeting and representatives from devolved nations being locked out, as we warned in the press in Wales and Scotland.
Are we about to witness an ‘England-only Parliament’ after this week’s recess? MPs and voters in the devolved nations are concerned, as reported in Scotland’s National.
We can learn from the best of the virtual proceedings. Support for lasting innovations is growing, with some figures calling for remote contributions to be allowed in the long-run, particularly for Scottish MPs representing island areas.
The ERS penned a letter in the Independent speaking out against the rash and reckless end to virtual proceedings, and in a news story looked at what might be worth keeping – including remote voting for ill, pregnant or far-flung representatives.
STV for Labour’s NEC
Labour was set to consider switching to the Single Transferable Vote for its executive elections in May. When the news emerged, we were quick off the mark, helping to lead the campaign for fairer representation for all.
Working with campaigners at Fair Internal Labour Elections, Open Labour, and campaigners across the party spectrum, we highlighted the broad support for change. We helped secure coverage across the Labour-linked press, from the Canary to the Morning Star. (The decision has now been delayed to June)
Lords lobbying, and ‘after Covid’
May also saw fresh rumours of a Lords overhaul in the making. (We’ve heard this one before!). A minister who also happens to be a hereditary peer soon rejected claims that the Lords would be reformed. Funny that.
Finally, we saw letters challenging the government’s voter ID plans, and were featured in a fascinating piece titled: “Building a better society after Covid – could citizens’ assemblies help?” Let us know your thoughts!