Holyrood is 17.6 times better than Westminster at this one key thing – Paris Gourtsoyannis

It’s not the done thing to feel sorry for elected politicians, especially the ones at Westminster who refuse to give a majority to any kind of Brexit deal, writes Paris Gourtsoyannis.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 4th April 2019, 6:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th April 2019, 6:33 pm
Photographs of the House of Commons have been compared to the paintings of a Dutch master Picture: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy
Photographs of the House of Commons have been compared to the paintings of a Dutch master Picture: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy

But it’s getting to the point where a bit of sympathy is warranted – not for the job they’re doing, but the way they have to do their jobs.

Bad enough that they’re being told to cancel plans to see their families on Fridays and during recess by the needy mistress that is leaving the EU. The constant meaningful and meaningless divisions on deals, amendments and statutory instruments has also highlighted just how absurd the Commons voting procedures are.

On Twitter, Sarah Mackie – an audio engineering student from Auchterarder who’s made a number of videos from Commons business that have raised a smile – illustrated just how wasteful the voting lobbies are by comparing the time it takes for MPs and MSPs to complete a single vote.

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Holyrood, which has electronic voting, clocked in at one minute and seven seconds. Meanwhile, MPs rush about in sped-up footage from Westminster that demands to have the Benny Hill theme played over it.

Their time, at normal speed? 19 minutes and 40 seconds. On Wednesday night, the bill to force a delay to Brexit required eight votes. Think of how much time has been wasted on failed Brexit votes alone. Even for critics of Westminster, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mythologising the dysfunctional.

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Brexit: MPs talk ‘absolute nonsense’ while objecting to talks – leader comment

The House of Commons recently allowed a press photographer into the chamber during major debates and votes. It’s a great way to open parliament to the public, and the images over the past few weeks have been fascinating.

But they keep popping up on social media alongside comments that they’re “beautiful” and “look like they’ve been painted by a Dutch master”. What that really means is they capture a crowd of confused, gesticulating people milling about in a dark, wood-panelled room.

A modern democracy shouldn’t look like the inside of Hieronymus Bosch’s head. Time for MPs to vote electronically – if they get a good night’s sleep, they might get along a bit better and cut a deal.