12:07, June 16 129 0 theguardian.com

2018-06-16 12:07:33
Wrecking ball Christopher Chope v upskirting bill? Alas, no contest

In a week of so much parliamentary nonsense, we rounded off with Sir Christopher Chope objecting to the law that would have stopped perverts taking pictures up women’s skirts. That parliament still has procedures that allow bills to be stopped by one backbencher is one in a long list of stupidities about our parliament. I’d explain it to you but I don’t understand it and, unlike Chope, I have a life.

The bunch of MPs who spend their Fridays filibustering to dismantle the hard work of backbenchers trying to change the country claim that they do it for parliamentary scrutiny. They invent a million ways of exclaiming that the only reason they stop new laws is because they find some tiny element of the bill imperfect. Have a look at Hansard from any Friday and see Chope and Philip Davies intervening on each other over tiny detail, then constantly congratulating the other for their brilliance like some kind of legislative circle jerk.

Chope will no doubt lean on this defence to explain why he objected to a bill that would have made sexual offenders of perverts who instead of calling their mothers are using their iPhones as their only chance of ever seeing a vagina. He will exclaim that the bill needed more scrutiny. I dare say he will claim he fully supports the bill. I call bullshit on that. He doesn’t care less about women who have suffered this indignity.

I was part of a group of MPs who tried to put forward a bill that would have allowed mothers’ names to be listed on marriage certificates. The Tory MP who was taking the bill through parliament sheepishly approached me and said it wasn’t going to pass because he’d had a chat with Chope who didn’t like the bill because of something some vicar in his constituency had said to him. So our old friend Chope and no doubt an imaginary vicar trumped a nation of mothers. That was that. I searched for him in the corridors of Westminster that day in order to give him a bollocking, but couldn’t find him – it wasn’t a Friday and I can’t say I have ever noticed him doing anything but wrecking bills.

Chope is fully within his rights to stop these bills in their tracks. He has more rights for his tomfoolery than I have to appear on the marriage certificate of my sons or to keep my pants to myself. Our democracy surely is a wondrous thing. Parliament is full of such archaic practices and even fuller of dinosaurs who want to protect them.

Preceding Friday’s filibustering asshattery were the endless votes on the Lords amendments to the EU withdrawal bill. Round and round the lobbies we went, 11 times on Tuesday, eight on Wednesday. It took hours and each of the 11 times we got exactly the same result.

Pacing through the lobbies endlessly were three heavily pregnant women. Jo Swinson was five days off her due date.

This week, we expect even more closely fought contentious votes. Assuming Swinson’s baby arrives on time on Monday, parliament will expect a woman who has given birth two days earlier to rock up and vote. Chope, who campaigned against changing one of the many bars in parliament into a nursery, probably thinks this is the exact bloody problem with allowing pesky women into the Commons.

Swinson could be paired with a Tory so that they cancel out each other’s votes, but if the government majority is down to one, I wouldn’t trust that any more than Dominic Grieve should have trusted Theresa May. Why on earth can’t parliament allow a proxy vote for people on maternity leave? We’ve asked for it and been told it will probably, definitely, possibly happen one day, sometime soonish. Since then, lots of men in the Commons have muttered to me what a ridiculous idea proxy voting is – as if when they walk round and round the garden like a teddy bear through the voting lobbies that it somehow takes some skill no one else could manage.

Parliament is ridiculously old fashioned and stupid in so many ways, the worst being that it allows the old guard to rule the roost. Chope isn’t special or clever – he is just the bastard child of old-fashioned ideals and a broken system. We could stop him if only parliament weren’t terrified of changing its ways.

For now, we just have to fight back ourselves. I’ll be writing “Cheers Chope” on the gusset of every pair of knickers I have. I suggest you do the same.

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