#the56 SNP MPs – could they be Commons reformers?

The problem for the well-publicised SNP #56 is that they actually have very little to do for their constituents in the Westminster parliament.  The meaty stuff, the legislation that affects the people who voted for them, actually goes through the Scottish Parliament, and will do so in even greater form after the increased devolved powers are given.  So what to do in Westminster?

Well one thing they could have a significant impact on is a change in the way parliament – and especially the House of Commons – actually does things.  In a sense, the SNP MPs have arrived as rather good-natured insurrectionists.  They have been sent to parliament by voters who see Westminster as the enemy.  Many of these new MPs share that view.  They’ve arrived in the hallowed halls of Britain’s finest active museum as bewildered outsiders wondering what the hell is going on.  And they’ve lost little time expressing their frustration, being arguably the best group of politicians to co-ordinate a message on social media to date.

Too many MPs use social media as a tool for utterly dull, mind-blowingly tedious tweets; or else they make a careless slip when pressing the camera button which ruins them forever.  The SNP, on the other hand, seem to have been able to use their twitter feeds not just to create a unitary image – #the56 has become a great way of generating trend traffic – and to quickly communicate with the voters back home.

Take their views of yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.  As the session veered into its usual melee of noise and unillumination, SNP MPs were quick to express the sort of outsider’s contempt that has long been the view of those who are not MPs.  The Huffington Post recorded a number of the tweets here, but the general theme was the same – how is this noise a proper method of debate and accountability?

Now of course the SNP could just be being mischievous, playing to their outsiders’ image for political gain.  They did after all start their 5-year pilgrimage to the mother of parliaments with selfies, seat-napping and provocative applause (although maybe applause is better than shouting?).  But if they wanted to find something genuinely positive to do, this group of fresh-air breathing Scots iconoclasts could do everyone a favour if they chose to push for a more appropriate, representative and effective modus operandi in the House of Commons.  SNP as constitutional reformers?  Who’d have guessed.


Philip Cowley gives his assessment of the SNP here.