Why the Westminster Parliament is outstanding in some respects but also nuts – Kenny MacAskill

The new Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has work to do to bring the House of Commons into the Digital Age (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
The new Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has work to do to bring the House of Commons into the Digital Age (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
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In the Commons, votes are carried out by MPs trooping into different lobbies and giving their name to a clerk. Why can’t they just vote by pressing a button, wonders Kenny MacAskill.

When asked about life at Westminster, I say that I’m almost overwhelmed by the volume of information but hugely underwhelmed by the institution itself. Far from being impressive it’s rather shabby. That said, the quality of briefings provided are outstanding and the level of debate is high.

In comparison to Holyrood, it’s bound to excel in some aspects, given both available resources and numbers participating. Where it falls down is in some of its arcane procedures. Preserving history and ensuring the dignity of the institution is one thing, being stuck in a time-warp quite another.

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My major gripe is the voting system and my views simply echo those of party colleagues and perhaps others who have been there a while.

Trooping through the lobbies to give your name to a clerk is frankly archaic. With letters to answer, calls to make or simply a home to go too, it’s nuts. In a busy day, it’s the last thing you need or want.

I’m told it’s because it affords some the chance to “bend the ear” of a minister. That’s a fat lot of good to me as I’ve not been in the same lobby as one yet and besides there are other ways to contact them or places to meet them.

By all means, maintain some of the theatre and language but, for goodness sake, can we not just press a button on the parliamentary laptops provided so we can get on with our work?

Kenny MacAskill is the SNP MP for East Lothian