PMQs sketch: Zoom bingo could become national pastime as Commons goes digital

There could probably be a large-scale psychological study on what the different backdrops MPs chose for the first virtual session of Parliament says about them.
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From Nick Fletcher’s fetching wallpaper, to Ian Blackford’s signed footballs, Stephen Kinnock taking a standing pose for his question, or Sally Ann Hart’s oil paintings, there was something slightly more human about PMQs.

Looking like you’re participating from a far flung Aunt’s spare room earns extra points.

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Triple score if you’ve bothered to adhere to the dress code from the waist down too, it is surely only a matter of time before a backbencher appears in their pyjamas.

MPs take part in virtual PMQs. Photo: Parliament TVMPs take part in virtual PMQs. Photo: Parliament TV
MPs take part in virtual PMQs. Photo: Parliament TV

Odd though it was, bereft of the schoolboy shouting and jeering usually a key part of the Wednesday staple, the virtual PMQs showed the country what a grown-up Parliament might look like.

One where the public could dial in and hear the questions asked by their representatives, and since many of us are now stuck in our homes the viewing figures are probably higher than ever.

Of course not all of the worst parts of PMQs could be absolved by relying on Zoom. Many opportunities for party loyalists still exist, regular viewers will recognise these keen backbenchers by questions which begin with “does the First Secretary agree with me that…. [insert easy hitter here]?”

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But those coming via screens erected around the historic chamber gave the whole thing a slightly dystopian vibe.

Even more so when during questions to Health Secretary Matt Hancock afterwards Barry Sheerman, who officials clearly decided had been going on a bit too long with his question, was cut off mid tirade.

I suppose some things never really change, you can usually rely on Huddersfield MP to liven proceedings up a bit.

There are still things to iron out - it’s not quite clear how voting will work yet with MPs spread around the country, and MPs who may have previously bobbed up and down to catch the Speaker’s attention now have no process of doing so - but as it stands this virtual Parliament seems to fill the scrutiny chasm that had been left in the extended recess to some extent.

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And if nothing else, a game of Zoom bingo, counting off connection problems, children interrupting a meeting, embarrassing backgrounds, and accidentally being on mute, at least it gives the nation some distraction as we are stuck at home.

First one to get a full house wins a House of Commons gift shop bottle of gin.