David Davis said something remarkable yesterday. In a debate on the membership of the Committee on Standards, he told MPs that the Tory deputy chief whip has 203 proxy votes. If Davis’s numbers are right, that is more than half the Tory parliamentary party.
Obviously this is a consequence of Covid. But it has profound constitutional implications. If MPs can simply let their whips vote for them, they won’t have to think about what they are supporting in the same way they would if they had to walk through the division lobbies. The system will also, if left unchecked, lead to pressure on MPs to simply give their whip their vote and exercise it by proxy.
The pandemic has inevitably forced changes on Parliament. But as soon as possible, this bulk issuing of proxy votes must be reversed. Otherwise it risks unbalancing the constitution, strengthening the power of the executive and reducing that of parliamentary scrutiny.
A full list of all MPs eligible for a proxy and who their proxy is can be found here.