One doesn’t often reminisce about dank December afternoons in London. But last week I found myself doing just that, recalling the events of December 2, 2015. I was a postgraduate student and thought it would be interesting to head over after classes to the nearby Westminster Palace. Anti-war protesters were gathering in large numbers outside the centuries old home of Britain’s two houses of parliament, brandishing large “Don’t Bomb Syria” banners. Inside the packed House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government was locked in fierce clashes with the opposition over plans to conduct air strikes in Syria , against Islamic State . The opposition Labour Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn was forced by divisions in his party to give his MPs a free vote. Corbyn’s hard-left allies were ardently anti-war like him, but many others in the Labour Party thought the air strikes were necessary for humanitarian reasons. Why Syed Saddiq’s new youth-centric party will not help Malaysia’s political tussle It was quite the quandary for these centrist Labour MPs: do you save your party leader from an embarrassing blow, or vote with your conscience? Some 66 of 219 Labour MPs went on to vote for the air strikes, giving the government a comfortable victory. The lasting memory of that evening for me was huddling around a friend’s smartphone watching the live-stream of a speech by Hilary Benn, Corbyn’s foreign policy chief. The 15 minutes he took to make his case – in favour of the government’s plan – is quite possibly one of the great moments of political theatre in the 2010s. He spoke calmly and without conceit. He revealed his decision to rebel against Corbyn right at the end, in what a commentator described as “the climax of symphonic argument”. No fancy words, just plain speak and mostly single syllables. He said: “Our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. My view is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria.” One of the anti-war supporters I watched the speech with was visibly moved by Benn’s speech. I thought of that moment last Friday, as the government of Singapore , my home country, at long last announced that it would allow live streaming of parliamentary proceedings. Singapore to live-stream parliamentary debates The “in principle” decision – pending technical deliberations – was a major U-turn for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). In power for six decades, the PAP had until now scoffed at live casts of legislative proceedings, saying it would promote theatrics and erode the sobriety of discussions. Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said the administration continued to have these worries, but understood citizens’ greater desire for “transparency, accountability and accessibility” in parliament. Both the government’s continued reservations and its stated aims for the mooted live streaming of parliament are reasonable. In fact, I would wager that citizens in Singapore and even Britain, our former colonisers whose system of parliament we copied, do not want clownery – in the form of heckling, shouting and jeering – in their legislatures. A recent survey by the British polling firm Opinium found 51 per cent of respondents hoped the chaos and “Punch and Judy” style argument that is part and parcel of House of Commons proceedings does not return in the post- Covid-19 era. Don’t cry Unclos! South China Sea dispute legalese likely to focus at Asean meeting Proceedings have been far more muted – and focused – recently as MPs have taken part in debates remotely. That said, the example of Benn’s tour de force speech shows just why live streaming of parliamentary proceedings is very much in the spirit of democracy. It is a fundamental right of citizens, having voted MPs into office, to be able to bear witness in real time to key debates that will directly impact their lives. The move will also enhance accountability. Tony Blair, who was the Labour Party’s longest-serving prime ministers and one of the most skilled political orators of his generation, said upon retirement that he did not miss “being led to the execution table” each week for prime minister’s questions. And so it should be. Live streaming parliamentary proceedings will further ensure lawmakers prepare for debates and participate in good faith, without resorting to ad hominem attacks or logical fallacies. With citizens eyeballing them through their smartphones, such behaviour will draw immediate blowback.