I was wrong – parliament needs proxy voting for new parents | Politics News
Forget Brexit and the myriad of amendments laid down by MPs – there’s another key vote happening in parliament that’s caught my eye.
On Monday, politicians will decide whether to allow proxy voting for new parents – a system where another MP can vote on their behalf, effectively allowing them to have their say without having to travel to the chamber.
In my opinion, it’s a necessary modernisation that brings parliament into the 21st century – but I didn’t always feel that way.
Three years ago, I wrote an article explaining why I didn’t think proxy voting was a good idea.
My argument was that parliament is a debating chamber, and for 750 years MPs have travelled from across the country to listen to different opinions be thrashed out in the chamber before making up their minds as to which voting lobby to walk through.
Allowing proxy voting eroded the importance of the debating chamber, I continued, and was the thin end of the wedge.
I’m sure that on Monday some parliamentarians will make the same point and it’s by no means a given that proxy voting will pass (even though it’s got firm cross-party support from the likes of Andrea Leadsom and Harriet Harman).
But sometimes in life, it’s worth admitting that you’ve got it wrong.
Earlier this month, Tulip Siddiq, the Labour member for Hampstead and Kilburn, was pushed into parliament in a wheelchair to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Heavily pregnant, she postponed the date of her caesarean in order to make sure her vote was recorded, and gave birth to her son, Raphael, days later. What choice did she have?
The current pairing system – where MPs on opposing sides of the argument agree not to vote and cancel each other out – simply isn’t good enough for these moments of huge parliamentary importance.
How could Ms Siddiq explain to her constituents why she hadn’t voted in one of the most important parliamentary moments in a generation?
Furthermore, confidence has been rocked in the informal system after pairing was broken during another crucial Brexit vote – leaving Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson high and dry while she was on maternity leave.
We have formal parental leave systems in the business world for a reason – and it’s ludicrous that the MPs who make laws for the rest of us are so out of date.
If you’re wondering why you should care about the working practices of MPs – it’s about enabling mothers and fathers to be able to keep working effectively in the Houses of Parliament after starting a family in order to maintain our representative democracy.
At the moment, it’s just not working. Men outnumber women by two to one and it’s equally stark when you look at the figures specifically for mums.
Just 20% of MPs are mothers compared to 40% of the adult population.
How can we expect our legislators to grasp the importance of laws to protect parents and mothers in particular – so often discriminated against in the workplace – unless we have people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences around the table?
So I’m glad there is finally a chance for MPs to bring parliament up to date – even if it means admitting I was wrong.