Westminster Diary: We have fair votes for MPs so why not the general public?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 10 February 2020

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, addresses the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament Live TV

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, addresses the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament Live TV

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Welcome to my Westminster Diary. Each week, I’ll be giving a light-hearted behind-the-scenes take on what life is really like as a new MP. From jeering and bobbing, procedures and prayers, I’ll be lifting the lid on the mother of all Parliaments. Think ‘The Thick of It’ not ‘House of Cards’!

Huawei dominated the public debate in Parliament last week but behind the scenes, we MPs were back at the ballot box: choosing between colleagues vying to become select committee chairs. 

Candidates used any opportunity to lobby fellow MPs: in the lift, on the escalator, on your way in and out of the Chamber... even in the ladies! Someone joked that the Parliamentary debate on Huawei had become an "official hustings" for the Foreign Affairs Committee, given the constant bobbing and impassioned speeches of those looking for that committee's top job. 

Some MPs tried to win us over with amusing leaflets. One, running for transport committee, put his name across a big red bus. Brave, given Friday was 'Brexit Day'. One had a picture of a tractor. Someone running for defence committee was posed like he'd walked off the set of Top Gun. The best though was a guy who just stuck a massive photo of his pet dog on the front. I have no idea which committee he was standing for, but we all agreed his dog would do a very good job. 

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On voting day itself, a committee room was set up like a polling booth.

Going to vote was like running the gauntlet, with all the candidates lined up on either side of the corridor shouting out things like "Daisy, I liked what you said about X - happy to chat!", "Daisy, congrats on getting elected - now vote for me!" 

In all seriousness, a good select committee chairperson can make merry hell by scrutinising the government, so it's definitely worth putting some effort into deciding who to vote for. 

Some committees have to be chaired by an MP in the governing party, and others have to be chaired by an MP in the official opposition. So it was the first time in my entire life I've voted Conservative and Labour! 

Finally, we didn't just put a "X" in a box: we ranked the candidates 1, 2, 3. This is meant to produce a less divisive, fairer outcome. When Parliament next debates fairer voting systems for the country, I'll be sure to challenge my opponents with the inconsistency of fair votes for MPs but not for the public.

You can contact Daisy at daisy.cooper.mp@parliament.uk


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