Tuesday, May 5, 2020

@TheEconomist on a hybrid #VirtualParliament.

"Back to Abnormal"
Bagehot, The Economist, April 25, 2020
available at https://tinyurl.com/y8xn8dyb
This past week the Economist's Bagehot columnist wrote about the implementation of what are Zoom meetings for the United Kingdom's House of Commons, and some of the practical consequences. Adrian Wooldridge writes the column at this time. It is named after Walter Bagehot, a former editor of the Economist and author of "The English Constitution" (one of the books I kept from undergrad). He's also known for his rule for central bankers in a panic from "Lombard Street ("lend freely and at a penalty rate"). Both have been very practical of late, given COVID-19.

I wonder how we will regard the hybrid approach described herein in a few years.  While change has come for everyone, not least the "Mother of Parliaments" (churches were closed in the UK this year for Easter for the first time since apparently 1218), the piece makes clear the essential work that elected officials must do to support newspapers in their efforts to scrutinize the government. In the UK it is essentially only MPs that possess the combination of three critical tools -- they may ask written questions that the relevant ministers are obliged to answer, they have detailed knowledge of their own local constituencies, and they have the ability to speak on behalf of the voters.

Perhaps the "hybrid" we should be watching is not online versus in person meetings of Parliament. Instead it may be that recognizing that government accountability in the United Kingdom increasingly depends upon cooperative joint scrutiny by MPs and the press. Perhaps it would be best to call this the era of the dual hybrid Parliament ...

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