MPs and their screens: should mobile phones be banned from the hemicycle?

If we want to make sure Neil Parish is the last MP to watch porn in the Commons, there’s an easy way to do it, Michael Deacon told The Daily Telegraph. Just ban cell phones from the bedroom. Politicians shouldn’t use them there anyway. In my years of observing the chamber as a sketch writer, I increasingly saw “rows and rows of MPs staring indifferently at their phones, like a vast room full of bored teenagers “.

These MPs are likely engaged in “perfectly innocent, even useful activities: answering emails from constituents, or WhatsApp messages from party whips”. But that’s rude and destroys the whole point of being there. When asked in a 2016 interview why so many of his colleagues had gaped at their screens as he delivered Labour’s response to a fall statement, John McDonnell replied: “It didn’t. doesn’t look good, but that’s what’s happening now.” Well, it shouldn’t.

There is no justification for this, agreed Patrick Maguire in The Times. Given that Speakers have long banned MPs from reading newspapers in the chamber, it makes little sense that our Representatives should be allowed to sit and play with their phones. Voters are entitled “at least to an appearance of concentration. As in the case of justice, this control is seen as being as important as the control itself. It’s time to switch off.

Indeed, MPs would do well to rethink their whole relationship to smartphones and social networks, believes Sebastian Payne in the FT. They have developed an unhealthy attachment to Twitter, treating it as a constant sounding board and source of ideas. It’s a mistake, because it’s “phenomenally unrepresentative” of voters’ concerns. It’s a “self-selection bubble” where angry partisanship and novelty trump reason, and hot topics “come and go in hours.”

It was Twitter, usually, that convinced Labor MPs to appoint Jeremy Corbyn to challenge the leadership to ‘widen the debate’. The party leadership is determined not to let the platform lead them astray again. As one influential shadow cabinet member put it: “As MPs, we should all be spending less time on Twitter and more time knocking on the doors of marginal seats. Wise words.