The Government’s move to end remote voting for MPs is not only irresponsible and discriminatory, but epitomises Parliament’s refusal to modernise to a level fit for the 21st century.
On the 6th May, it was announced that MPs would be able to vote on laws without being present in the House of Commons, to mitigate the risk of potentially spreading the coronavirus among Members of Parliament. This decision was received positively by MPs from across the political spectrum, as it ensured the safety of MPs and their families whilst still allowing them to vote on laws and legislation just as frequently as before. With many MPs either in a vulnerable category themselves, or having family who are vulnerable, remote voting gave them the peace of mind that they were not going to cause harm to themselves, their closest family, or any other members of the public. Votes in the House of Commons are public knowledge, unlike public elections - so the issues with voter fraud that e-voting in elections would cause are not applicable.
Despite all these positives, the Government has ended remote voting just a month after introducing it. Now MPs have to queue up - keeping a two-metre distance from every other MP - before votes, resulting in voting taking up to three times as long as it usually would. In addition to making the process far more time-consuming, it means that far fewer MPs are now able to take part in voting because they are still shielding, or are unable to travel between parts of the UK, causing many constituents to be completely unrepresented in parliament for the foreseeable future. This is unacceptable in a modern democracy.
The use of remote voting is crucial for health and safety during a pandemic - but it also has the potential to hugely improve engagement and access to voting within Parliament. Roughly two-thirds of constituencies in the UK are more than 100 miles away from Westminster. MPs are elected as representatives of local areas, yet many of them are unable to spend enough time in their constituencies, because they need to be in London for so much of their working week. How can they be expected to accurately represent their constituencies and do what is right for their constituents if they spend the majority of their parliamentary careers in or around London, hundreds of miles away from the people who elected them? Reinstating remote voting - not just for the rest of this pandemic, but after it as well - would allow MPs to be more engaged with and present in their constituencies, resulting in better representation for the electorate as a whole.
The Pirate Party UK believes that the UK has always been a leader in Internet-based technology, and that our Parliament should set an example by utilising technology that will enable better and smoother operation of the business of government. Debates should include MPs who are unable to be present in the Chamber; committee meetings should include participation of witnesses who need to be physically remote (including those who are overseas); and voting should be electronic and carried out remotely if necessary. By streamlining these aspects of government and by embracing new technologies, we believe that Parliament can lead the country into becoming a more dynamic - and fair - democracy.
Image of the Houses of Parliament from Graham-H via pixabay.org, free for commercial use, no attribution required
About the Pirate Party
The Pirate Party in the UK is a fledgling political party. It has fielded a few candidates in European and National elections, but like most small parties it is significantly constrained by the UK electoral system. Despite this, the Pirate Party has started to poll alongside major parties and is looking to build support from the grassroots. The party stood ten candidates in the June 2017 General Election and briefly held two community councillors.
Find out more about the UK Pirate Party on our website or contact [email protected]