Johnson facing Tory revolt over plans to end remote voting in parliament

Support us and go ad-free

Boris Johnson is facing a Tory revolt over controversial plans to end online voting in parliament, which could exclude vulnerable MPs from representing their constituents fully during the coronavirus crisis.

Senior conservatives including select committee chairs and a former Cabinet minister have tabled amendments to government plans to force all MPs to vote in person when they return on Tuesday.

MPs have been able to either attend parliament in person or contribute online during the pandemic, but Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg plans to bring this to an end.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

When returning from recess, MPs will have to vote on the proposal which could see them forming kilometre-long queues in order to obey social distancing rules – despite the Lords planning a move online.

Robert Halfon is among the senior Tories who say the move will turn individuals who, like him, are shielding and those who are ill, self-isolating or based far away from Westminster into “parliamentary eunuchs”.

The chair of the education select committee accused Rees-Mogg and his superiors of lacking empathy and acting like Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who has imperilled his people by dismissing Covid-19 concerns.

“Clearly in this case, sadly Jacob and the powers that be are being harsh and unbending. The MPs who genuinely cannot come in, our democratic rights are being snipped away and we’re being turned into parliamentary eunuchs”, Halfon told the PA news agency.

“They take the attitude of President Bolsonaro that Covid is just the sniffles and, if you can’t come in, ‘tough luck, we don’t care’. And that to me is entirely wrong.

“Not only will the hundreds of MPs, who for one reason or another will not be able to come in because they are affected by Covid, will not only be denied their fundamental rights but their constituents will not have a voice in parliament because they will not be able to vote.”

Halfon is backing moves to allow digital voting to resume in amendments to Rees-Mogg’s motion led by Conservative former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley.

She is joined by Caroline Nokes and Julian Knight, the Tory MPs who chair the women and equalities, and the digital, culture, media and sport committees, respectively.

The SNP has criticised the creation of a “conga line Parliament”, with Scottish MPs and others representing constituencies far from Westminster facing a challenge to travel to parliament.

Rees-Mogg told his ConservativeHome podcast that he was planning to introduce measures to allow shielding MPs a way to play a limited role in Commons proceedings.

He said the changes were necessary because legislation was on a “go slow” due to constraints on committees operating, with only around a third of the usual level of legislative activity.

“We would simply not have been able to deliver on the manifesto if we had not brought parliament back,” Rees-Mogg said.

Labour and other opposition parties are united in their criticism to the plans, which the Electoral Reform Society says pose a “real threat for democratic representation and political equality” if vulnerable MPs cannot vote.

Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle was forced to draw up plans to allow MPs to vote safely on the proposals in person on Tuesday, but he has called on the government and Labour to agree on a safe compromise.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us