Democracy – removing our representative rights

1st June 2020 / United Kingdom
Democracy - removing our representative rights

By TruePublica: The letter sent to MPs from the Speaker Lindsay Hoyle last Friday spelt out a request by Tory Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg to reconvene parliament.  The request really means only 50 MPs will be in the Commons Chamber from next Tuesday. The new hybrid online system that was working will end but there’s no real reason to stop using it. This action by Rees-Mogg represents little more than a blatant attack of Britain’s democracy in times of crisis.

The Electoral Reform Society says – “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. 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.”

Rees-Mogg knows that 650 MP’s rarely attend the Commons for voting – but with the lockdown and social distancing rules, the number of MP’s available will substantially fall. And those that do attend will have no choice but to vote on all manner of Bills without taking advice. The House of Commons is a totally out of date building, unsuitable for modern-day politics and especially unsuitable for social distancing.

This request really means that only 50 Mp’s will be in the debating chamber, while 600 are shut out of democracy.

If parliament must reconvene and the House of Commons is unsuitable there are plenty of conference centres in London and the home counties that are currently shut due to the virus that could more safely accommodate a socially distanced parliament. Many MP’s are in a health classification that would exclude them from going to the House of Commons anyway, such as being in a high-risk age group or are BAME, pregnant or have specific health risks.

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As one high profile democracy campaigner says: “In November 1940 due to the repeated bombing of Westminster, both Houses of Parliament left their respective Chambers and moved to the Church House in nearby Dean’s Yard. In June 2020, with due to coronavirus can they not move to The QEII conference centre? The QEII centre isn’t likely to be hosting events or conferences anytime soon, have an experienced in-house IT team and the main hall can surely accommodate all MPs observing social distancing of 1 meter (other countries & WHO guidance) as almost every Parliament is doing including Nigeria.”

The QE conference centre was being considered anyway as the parliament building needs considerable renovation.

One member of the public has rightly mentioned the obvious: “Is the London Knightingale in use? Could this be converted into a temporary parliament house in the same ‘record’ time? Surely dismantling it won’t take as long and they have experience of using it as a conference centre.”

Another point to remember here is the shocking exclusion of all MP’s who are not located in England. Electoral Reform Society again – “Are we about to witness an ‘England-only Parliament’ after this week’s recess” and talks about the “rash and reckless end to virtual proceedings.”

The primary role of MP’s is to act in accordance with the wishes of the people who elected them, not to be bound and gagged as democracy is withdrawn.

The suspicion here is that the Tories are looking to weaken democracy even further than they have already attempted and push through Bills that would ordinarily come up against much stiffer opposition in the House of Commons in normal times. But these are not normal times – are they?

 

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