It’s the SNP’s conference in Aberdeen over the next few days, and the first day today had an amazing speech from Tommy Sheppard MP that can be seen here.There’s an article in the Guardian giving a quick rundown of Sheppard’s fabulous speech here.
1 First past the post
That was a “democratic outrage”, he said, because it allowed the Tories to govern with the support of less than one person in four on the electoral register.
This first-past-the-post system is the most corrupt and corrupting practice in a democracy and I would for one resign my seat and give it up tomorrow if they would bring in a system of proportional representation in this country.
2 The House of Lords
MPs can lose an election but return to parliament as members of the Lords, he said.
Within members of parliament, we have a situation unique in the civilised world where we actually accept that most of our members of parliament are not elected by the people. And that seems to me an anachronism whose time has come. And if we do nothing else, we must advance the case for the abolition of the House of Lords.
3 The ability of former MPs to be allowed a pass giving them entry to the Commons
My first occasion walking into the terrace of the House of Commons was to come across no less than three people whom we had just defeated at the election in Scotland, standing there with the same pass that I had, with the same access and privileges that I had. And that’s because, once you join the House of Commons, you are members of a club. And you can stay a member of the club even if the electorate decide you are no longer fit to be there.
4 The uniforms worn by the door staff in the Commons
This is, quite simply, Georgian pantomime dress. You will have seen these men, quite literally, in tights and swords, and the most ridiculous part of the uniform that I have come across is a curly ruffle thing that they wear down their back which is called a wig bag. It seems to be just unfair to these poor souls to make them put on this costume in a chamber which is meant to be about making political and important decisions for the country and for the world.
5 The way prayers are said in the Commons
Every Commons session starts with prayers, he said. (This takes place in private; you will never see it on TV.) But it is conducted just for members of the Church of England, he said.
6 The voting process (having MPs ticked off by hand as they go through a lobby, instead of having electronic voting)
You will be appalled when I tell you this but we are paid by the taxpayer for up to three hours a week on a busy business week to simply stand in a corridor and wait to give our name to a clerk to explain whether we are voting for or against the proposition. This is a parliament, by the way, that you would almost think was sponsored by Apple, given that we are all given a free iPad when we get there. If we cannot begin to look at electronic voting and coming into the 21st century, it seems to me just dreadfully archaic.
He also complained that MPs were not allowed to abstain, because there was no proper way of recording an abstention.
7 The fact that MPs are not allowed to applaud
Applauding is a “natural human reaction”, he said.
What’s more bizarre than that, whilst we are not allowed to applaud, there seems to be no restriction whatsoever on the number of animal impersonations that the Conservatives are allowed to do in the middle of the debate.
8 The fact that the Commons was deliberately designed so that seating is only available for half of the MPs entitled to attend
That seems to be be fundamentally contemptuous of the whole idea of people in this country being represented in a chamber.
9 The adversarial layout of the Commons chamber
The lines on the carpet in the chamber are two sword lengths apart, he said.
10 Not being allowed to call MPs by name in the chamber
Many MPs have got into trouble for using a person’s name in a debate, he said.
It’s a cracking speech. I recommend clicking the link above, but if you fancy listening to the other speeches the full session is below.