Wendy Chamberlain has to miss key votes because of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s stubbornness

Poor Wendy Chamberlain hasn’t had much luck this Summer. She was pinged not once but twice by the app before the rules changed which meant she had to spend much of July cooped up in her London flat. She was still able to take part in votes in Parliament, though, and speak, because she was able to take part virtually.

But all that modernity was too much for Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg. As soon as the rules ended, so did the chance to participate remotely in Parliament. That is out of step with many workplaces which are moving to some sort of hybrid arrangement.

So, when Wendy again found herself having to isolate yesterday while waiting for the result of a PCR test, she had to voting last night and she wasn’t happy.

Watching the House of Commons proper freaks me out. Seeing MPs crammed together in what is a pretty small space seems to me to be an unnecessary risk. And when did we get to the stage where wearing a tiny bit of material across your mouth and nose to protect others becomes a political issue, not a matter of basic courtesy and consideration. The opposition benches are full of people who are wearing masks when they are not speaking yet only a few Conservatives have them on. I know that there are medical exemptions, and that’s fine, but they apply to a very small number of people. I can’t imagine that this applies to virtually every single Conservative MP.

It’s likely that MPs will be disrupted by the need to self isolate in that sort of environment and more constituents will be deprived, unnecessarily, of their voice. It’s interesting that in the rest of the parliamentary estate, staff presence is being kept to a minimum and there are risk assessments and control measures in place.

The Government is unlikely to lose any votes because of its massive majority. If this was two years ago when all the Brexit stuff was going on and they needed every single vote, I expect that they would be falling over themselves to ensure as much virtual participation as possible.

The Commons arrangements set a very poor example to the country. Covid is still a very real danger, something that hit me this week when someone we know, who was double vaccinated, died of it. While hospitalisations and deaths are way down on their levels in previous waves, the NHS is not an easy place to work in at the moment. Staff are exhausted, having been at full pelt for the past year and a half. We know that schools and universities going back is going to have an impact on case numbers and even yesterday ministers were denying that there are plans for a circuit breaker lockdown in October.

What annoys me the most is that it is MPs, not the Government, who should be deciding the meeting arrangements in Parliament. It should be councillors, not Government ministers, who decide whether councils meet in person or not.

I just hope that nobody becomes sick or worse as a result of the parliamentary arrangements – and you have to include everyone MPs come into contact with like their constituents, families and staff in that. Because those consequences are entirely preventable.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Here’s a first, Caron I completely agree with you.

  • Brad Barrows 8th Sep '21 - 5:42pm

    Pairing is a civilised way of making provision for those who can not attend a vote in the House of Commons. Let’s not knock it when the real target is the lack of proper covid rules for workplaces in England.

  • Peter David Roberts 8th Sep '21 - 5:49pm

    Yes, It has been a positive move by the Welsh Government to retain the potential of virtual meetings within the code with the decision being with the individual councils once the work from home rules change.

    Personally, given that some colleagues will be driving for up to two hours to get to a meeting I think it should be retained permanently with the exception of a few set-piece events like the AGM and budget meeting as part of our contribution to cutting CO2 emissions.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Sep '21 - 10:27pm

    Yes to every sentence Caron!

  • Simon Horner 8th Sep '21 - 11:10pm

    The Scottish Parliament still allows remote participation, so today we had the Gilbertian phenomenon of Douglas Ross active in two legislative chambers, 600 kilometres apart, at more or less the same time. The Scottish Tory leader ‘remotely’ criticised Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid response ‘at’ Holyrood and then went through the Commons division lobby to support the increase in National Insurance rates.

    Of course, thanks to the antediluvian attachment of his own party to Westminster traditions, he can’t do it the other way round. In these circumstances, isn’t it just a tad hypocritical to take advantage of Scotland’s more enlightened approach.

  • Mike Falchikov 9th Sep '21 - 5:44pm

    I presume Rees-Mogg took advice from his nanny

  • James Hardy 13th Sep '21 - 3:44pm

    @Simon Horner I really think that double-jobbing should be eliminated (though as a non Scot I don’t really have any say in how Scotland runs its elections). The Northern Irish Assembly, The Senedd and the EU Parliament all now forbid it.

    In fact from a purely political motive, I am surprised that the SNP have not already done it as it would force Ross to either quit his Westminster seat and force a by-election in an SNP/Tory marginal, or quit his Holyrood seat making his opposition from Westminster less effective.

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