I’M BACK in my office at the Commons, having just witnessed the official ceremony for the prorogation of parliament.
Essentially, this is just like the ceremony for the official opening of parliament: those MPs who haven’t headed home after the last vote wait in the chamber for Black Rod to arrive from the Lords. When he’s in sight, one of the Serjeant-at-Arms staff alerts the Serjeant-at-Arms (sitting in her place in the chamber) that Black Rod’s approaching. She slams the door in his face (at which point Stephen Pound shouted out: “We’re not in to canvassers!”), and Black Rod batters lumps out of the door until she relents and lets him in, then he summons us to go with him to the Lords. So we all troop along, through Central Lobby, into the Lords where a very odd ceremony involving much hat-doffing and Norman French takes place. Lots of “heretofores” and “Lords temporal and spiritual” and that sort of thing.
Then the Lords make it clear we’ve outstayed our welcome and we troop back to the Commons to listen to the Speaker read out more or less the same speech we just heard in the Lords. And then, at the end, we all file past Mr Speaker, who shakes our hands before we head home.
Now, I know that there are a lot of people out there who think this is all a load of nonsense and who think we should (shudder) modernise, and get rid of all the pomp and circumstance. You will be unsurprised to know that I am not among their number. I love all this stuff. And yes, of course it’s nonsense, and of course it doesn’t seem particularly relevant to a 21st century democracy. But what would abolishing it all achieve? Nothing whatsoever. And in the meantime it serves as a useful reminder to MPs (and Lords) that we’ve inherited a remarkable history and are incredibly privileged to be our democracy’s current stewards.
So, now that my own little spurt of pomposity is out of the way, I’m going to concentrate on how to kill time between now and the departure of the sleeper to Glasgow.