Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Voting in his slippers.

Angus MacNeil MP is usually a canny lad so why he has left an open goal for opponents with his early day motion on remote voting is a bit of of headscratch. I understand his frustration, I know the distances, but viewed from the "centre of the universe" in London this looks like he's trying to schlepp off work. The EDM has attracted only one signature so far - his own.

In any case here's the Herald story:

A plan by SNP MP Angus MacNeil to allow MPs to "vote in their slippers" from the comfort of home when the journey to London is impossible has been dismissed as an attempt to turn Westminster into an X Factor television gameshow.

Mr MacNeil, the MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, faces the longest commute of all MPs, claiming £37,000 a year to travel backwards and forwards from his constituency home on the Isle of Barra, where he grew up.

Frustrated by constant delays on his weekly odyssey - consisting of two flights, a ferry journey and a mini-bus ride - Mr MacNeil has tabled a parliamentary motion calling for a "limited number of opportunities during each parliamentary year to vote remotely on divisions in the House" when weather or technical issues prevent attendance.

Marching through the division lobbies in the Commons is regarded as sacrosanct in Westminster but the MP for Na h-Eileanan na Iar insisted his proposal was a serious, not an excuse to stay at home during the lambing season.

The MP, who left Barra at 9.45am on Monday morning for constituency business in Stornoway spoke to the Herald from Glasgow airport yesterday afternoon and expected to make it to London about 9pm on Tuesday.

"Say there is a hung parliament and the SNP has the balance of power it would become crucial to be able to vote," said Mr MacNeil. "For many people London is the place that is remote and maybe two times a winter there are real travel difficulties and democracy should not be a casualty of that in a technological age," said Mr MacNeil.

His proposal, which he said could save on Westminster’s carbon footprint, was ridiculed by rival MPs. Jim Sheridan, chair of the Scottish Labour group, said that there was no place for MPs to behave like participants in a TV game show. "Westminster is not X factor and Mr MacNeil is no Simon Cowell," said Mr Sheridan. "It is unacceptable for MPs to sit at home and vote when they should be scrutinising and holding the government to account. If he feels the job is too much for him he should step aside for someone more enthusiastic."

Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem MP for far flung Orkney and Shetland, who faces an equally challenging round trip to Westminster each week, found the suggestion of remote voting "quite bizarre". He said: "If it’s worth voting its worth turning up for. We should be looking for ways to improve the House of Commons’ part in the national debate not marginalising it by calling for voting in our slippers."

No comments:

Post a Comment