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Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party have banned the official House of Commons Twitter account from publicising the outcome of Parliamentary votes because informing the public about how their elected representatives have voted is supposedly ‘biased’ against the government.
In July, the Tories encountered severe criticism after voting down a Labour amendment designed to ensure the NHS could not be included in any future trade deal.
As Evolve reported at the time, in addition to protecting the NHS from foreign control, the amendment also contained numerous other measures to protect the NHS, including:
– Ensuring the ability to provide a “comprehensive and publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery” was not compromised by any future trade deal
– Protecting hard-working NHS staff from having their wages or rights slashed by any future trade deal
– Protecting the quality and safety of health and care services
– Protecting patient data from being sold off
– Protecting the NHS from so-called investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) – clauses which allow foreign investors to sue national governments for any measures which harm their profits
However, despite repeatedly pledging to protect the NHS during their 2019 election campaign, Boris Johnson’s government used their massive Parliamentary majority to comfortably vote down the amendment by a margin of 340 to 241.
Following the July vote, a routine tweet posted by the official House of Commons Twitter account reporting on the outcome went viral – gaining more than 17,500 retweets.
The Commons Twitter account was set up in 2012 to provide real time information about debates and procedures in Parliament, and to ensure the public are properly informed about how their elected representatives have voted.
However, after numerous Tory MPs began receiving furious emails from constituents asking them why they had voted against protecting the NHS, the party made a complaint blaming the House of Commons Twitter account’s tweet for sparking the furore.
MPs from Boris Johnson’s party argued that the tweet had supposedly broken impartiality rules because it used the description taken from the explanatory statement written by the MP who proposed the motion.
Yet, despite this being the method the account has always used to describe all motions, the government forced them to delete the tweet and issue an apology:
The House of Commons Twitter account has been forced to delete their mega-viral tweet yesrday reporting that the Tories voted down an amendment to protect the NHS in future trade deals.
Looks like the government told them it broke "impartiality" rules.
It had over 12k retweets. https://t.co/KpgiujsC8r
— Evolve Politics (@evolvepolitics) July 21, 2020
And as a further consequence, it has now also been revealed that the government have completely banned the House of Commons Twitter account from publicising the outcome of all future Parliamentary votes – with a Commons spokesperson confirming the change by stating:
“Division results are updated in the dedicated CommonsVotes app as soon as possible after the vote. We are aware that numerous commentators already provide analysis of division results, and believe that our responsibility is to provide the result itself as speedily as possible.”
“Parliament has also recently invested in a number of new ways of keeping the public updated on parliamentary business and division results, including further development of Parliamentlive.tv and ParliamentNow, and we regularly link to these from our Twitter account to keep followers updated.”
Conservative MPs were fully aware that voting against such a motion was wrong, and that doing so would completely destroy the repeated promises they made to the public on the election trail about protecting the NHS.
However, rather than taking responsibility for the consequences of their own disgraceful actions, Boris Johnson’s Tories have once again resorted to blaming anyone else but themselves.
In banning the Commons Twitter account from upholding their duty to inform the public, it’s almost as if the government don’t want voters to find out they’ve been well and truly duped.
So much for transparency and accountability. And so much for supposedly being against “cancel culture”.