London (CNN)The British Parliament has seen many historic days over the centuries. Yet it will have experienced few stranger than the spectacle that took place on Wednesday afternoon.
Bedspreads, bookshelves and nostrils laid bare. British politics in the WFH era
Spotty internet connections, up-the-nostril camera angles and garish drapes. Welcome to Prime Minister's Questions via zoom; the mother of parliaments reimagined as a regional managers' team meeting.
For the first time ever, the UK's lawmakers were asked to grill their government via videoconference, as social distancing measures meant that the famous green benches -- usually packed with more than 600 Members of Parliament for the weekly session -- were nearly empty.
In the spaces usually occupied by excitable MPs were signs showing where it was safe to sit. Above their heads were television screens, displaying the faces of those lawmakers asking questions from outside the chamber. The parliamentary press gallery, which wraps around the back of the famous Speaker's Chair, was home to only 16 journalists.
When the time came for the first virtual question, there was visible concern in the chamber as Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the Commons, announced "David Mundell, we've been unable to connect." Mercifully, this was the only major hiccup and the rest of the questions from those not in the chamber went relatively smoothly.
For the rest of the session, viewers were treated to rare glimpses of their MPs living rooms, bedrooms, home studies and nostrils.
Political obsessives on Twitter were transfixed by how some lawmakers opted to wear suits, despite working from home, their choices of home decor and what they deemed appropriate to have in the backdrop. Highlights included: Vintage footballs on top of a varnished table, a bedroom that looked very similar to a budget hotel and the jaunty angle at which Labour frontbencher Stephen Kinnock decided to stand in front of his iPad.
Among those not physically present was the Prime Minister himself. Boris Johnson has been delegating to his deputy, Dominic Raab, who is recovering since being hospitalized by the virus.
But everyone's eyes were on the occupant of the opposite seat -- Keir Starmer, the newly elected leader of the opposition Labour Party, whose first outing at PMQs was keenly awaited by political observers.
Traditionally, any new leader's first appearance is met with a raucous cheers from their own benches and pantomime jeers from those opposite. But the relative quiet and emptiness of the Commons chamber was perhaps the most striking element of Wednesday's historic proceedings.
The stillness of the famously combative chamber took the sting out of many of the barbs tossed across the dispatch box. The most tense exchanged, in which Starmer accused the government of being "slow on lockdown,