Voters deserve a modern parliament – rather than just old customs and pageantry

We should not reject measures that can improve the functioning of democracy just because they have not been done before, writes Mary Dejevsky

Thursday 04 June 2020 18:18
MPs queuing up to vote outside parliament
MPs queuing up to vote outside parliament

here was something at once very human and deeply abject in the close-ups of Alok Sharma’s suffering in the House of Commons on Wednesday. For those who had questioned the wisdom of recalling parliament while around 8,000 people a day are still being diagnosed with coronavirus, the pictures offered a miniature morality tale. Whatever his test results say, the powerful message was that illness still stalks this land.

I tended to support the decision to reconvene parliament in its proper place. With the government calling on schools to start reopening and those with jobs incompatible with home-working to return to work, it seemed entirely reasonable to expect our elected representatives to follow suit. But the summary end to remote participation, even for those with cast-iron reasons to stay away, seemed a ban too far.

Before the recess, it had been as impressive as it was surprising to see how (relatively) quickly big screens had been installed in the House of Commons and how smoothly even the first virtual and hybrid sessions ran. The online House of Lords was initially a creakier affair, but it is gratifying to see that their lord- and ladyships are now getting the hang of the technology (as we are all trying to do), curating their backdrops, and dressing appropriately for screen time.

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