“We don’t give a fuck about the virus anymore” or so at least the message oozing from the Conservative government seems to suggest. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, leader of the House of Commons and 2016 meme of the year, introduced plans to end the hybrid voting system, in fact MPs are voting on it as I write this. The hybrid voting system was introduced in the context of the Coronavirus lockdown, quite a surprisingly pragmatic solution that introduced a bit of the 21st Century (via the medium of everyone’s new best friend – Zoom) into the notoriously antiquated British parliamentary system. It meant that MPs could continue to vote on behalf of their constituents or attend debates, question time and so fourth, from the comfort of their own home without having to cramp up the commons socially distant style. This, given the Covid context, was crucial for MPs shielding themselves or family members, it meant MPs from the devolved regions and anywhere far away from London, no longer needed to make cross-country travels just to perform their job. It meant even Dehenna Davison, MP for the Bishop Auckland constituency in Durham – home to Barnard Castle, was able to conduct her parliamentary duties from afar, without having to travel the 260 unnecessary miles from Durham to London! As a quickly introduced and new system, it was mostly a success, so much so, even the US looked at Westminster and thought, “hey – why wasn’t our much younger and better democracy able to adapt as quickly and efficiently?” So with the UK’s Covid-19 death toll tragically surpassing 50,000 and the science continuing to warn of the virus’ dangers, why on earth is Mogg ending the hybrid system?
Well first off, the attitude just smacks of the Tory arrogance that has riddled the UK’s response to this pandemic. There really is no other word for it, arrogance. We saw this arrogance most blatantly when the UK flippantly ignored the WHOs advice of contact tracing and test, test, test. Boris & co ignored this advice, abandoning tracing fairly early on and placing a strangulating criteria upon who qualified for testing – which Boris met by the way, but frontline nurses didn’t. The UK’s shambolic early stage response to the pandemic and the arrogance of it all is well documented and is, unequivocally, indefensible. It’s why they had to shift the blame so vigorously, “we were guided by the science, guided by the science” jog on Raab, you were guided by your pocket and your ringmaster. But now we are entering the next episodic reminder of Tory arrogance, they were slow in responding to the virus and implementing lockdown, but they are bloody quick at lifting it. Last to the party and first one to leave.
A fair number of punters have pointed to just how prematurely the British government is acting, particularly given that the daily death toll remains in the hundreds, and people can’t fully grasp the concept of 2 metres, is it three fridges or two? No wait, it’s half a queen-size bed right? But the inability of individuals to practice social distancing is not the problem here, its a symptom of the much bigger problem, Conservative government arrogance. Our social media streams are awash of busy beaches and sunny gatherings wherein the statutory 2 metre distance appears not to apply, people disregarding the advice and flouting the rules, wonder where they learnt that from? Would it be from Boris ignoring the advice of the WHO? Or from Dom’s daytrips to Specsave- sorry Barnard castle. A thinly veiled attempt to reopen the economy and get the cash flowing back into theirs and their pals pockets, that’s what this hasty relaxation of restrictions is. By no means, am I suggesting that getting people back to work and ending the lockdown is a bad thing, trust me I don’t hold great hope for an indefinite nationwide house arrest at the behest of a Boris bloody Johnson. But I do believe people should only be working, shops reopening, and beaches crowded, if it is safe to do so and frankly, it isn’t and evidently, the Science is not guiding them.
Bringing it back to our Rees-Moggian issue at hand, why are the Tories so intent on lifting elements of lockdown which don’t yet need lifted? This is supposed to be a phased relaxation, surely enforced in-person voting should not be so early in this phasing? The hybrid voting is a prime example of that, it is doing no harm, in fact it’s doing a lot of good, why end it? Even outside of a lockdown context, it could arguably make for a better parliamentary system wherein people could contribute or vote while attending urgent constituency or personal matters, it’s a 21st century progression for Westminister to make. But god oh no, christ no, says Mogg, absolutely not, we couldn’t be seen to be doing something that might benefit MPs with parental responsibilities or other pleb like concerns. It is baffling that this isn’t permanent. Crucially, what’s most incomprehensible about Mogg’s return to in-person only, is that it will blatantly disenfranchise entire constituencies where an MP is shielding. It is ludicrous, and upon first inspection, a completely unfathomable insistence from Mogg and his handlers.
Except of course, forcing a return to in-person voting and banning the use of Zoom isn’t ludicrous or unfathomable if you’re a Conservative partisan, the empty chamber has completely incapacitated the party’s leadership by way of refocusing the spotlight on the questions actually being asked. Boris has looked a right tit at the dispatch box without his corralling brigade of suck ups to cheer and laud whatever insubstantial response he provides. Instead, we have seen a bewildered Boris, stumbling and bumbling his way through as Starmer, which I think even a three-year old could do at this stage, forensically points out his mistakes. The hybrid system has deprived the Tories of their antiquated playhouse of Commons for too long, god forbid anyone sees Boris attempting to string a coherent defence of Tory policy any longer, without his raucous band of Etonian brothers. Atop of this weekly public embarrassment of his party leader Mogg wants the abolition of the ad-hoc hybrid system and return of stringent in-person policy why? Because it represents progression into the 21st Century, something his brand of politics is petrified of.