Tory MP John Bercow will get down to work chairing Commons proceedings after being elected Speaker of the House.
BBC: Mr Bercow got 322 votes to fellow Tory Sir George Young’s 271 in the third and final round of secret voting. Gordon Brown and opposition leaders welcomed the appointment of Mr Bercow, who stood on a platform of reform and pledged to heal public “anger”. However, he is unpopular among some in his party who feel the ex-right winger has become too close to New Labour.
Over breakfast this morning – a very fine cup of tea and a cigarette or two, enhanced with some Smokedo exercise routines – I watched the BBC coverage of the Approbation of The Speaker. It was a mildly surreal experience and I’m afraid I started to experience a mild state of hysterical laughter as Black Rod brought Speaker Bercow before the Bar of the House of Lords. There was Jack ‘The Lad Chancellor’ Straw, sitting in full regalia with a tricorn hat on his head – a Royal Commission of lords, dressed to the nines in their ermine kit and black pirate hats, beside him. As Bercow bowed, the Lords waved their hats at him. In fact they did this three times as Speaker to be Bercow moved ever closer to the Bar.
I know I shouldn’t laugh at such important matters of state but hysteria gave way to hyperventilation as another very serious looking man in the full barristerial regalia of the 18th Century stood up and read out a whole pile of mumbo jumbo from the days of yore when Britain did, indeed, rule the world.
I found this extract from Hansard in 1839 – the mumbo jumbo used for the approbation of The Speaker. It is almost identical to the words used by Bercow and Straw last night.
Mr. Shaw Lefevre said—My Lords, I have to acquaint your Lordships, that, in obedience to her Majesty’s commands, and in exercise of their undoubted right, her Majesty’s most faithful Commons have proceeded to the election of a Speaker, and that their choice had fallen upon me. Deeply impressed with a sense of my own unworthiness, I now present myself at your bar, and submit myself to her Majesty’s royal approbation.
The Lord Chancellor —Mr. Shaw Lefevre, we have it in command from her Majesty, to declare her Majesty’s entire confidence in your talents, diligence, and efficiency, to fulfil the important duties of the high office of Speaker of the House of Commons, to which you have been chosen by that House. In obedience to the communication which has been just read, by virtue of the authority therein contained, we do now declare her Majesty’s royal approbation and allowance of you, Sir, as Speaker of the House of Commons.
Straw added a bit in about it not being convenient for The Queen to pitch up and do the business herself.
Reform is on the way?
Speaker Bercow is being urged by many to reform the procedures and processes of Parliament. Unfortunately, the BBC have removed the video of The Approbation of Speaker Bercow – otherwise you would have been able to watch it. The language and garb of times gone by still prevails – and is slightly surreal to listen to – it may be the last time we will get a chance to see this quaint old ceremony. Reform may be on the way?
Before the BBC removed the Lords video – I got to see Jack Straw waving his hat about as well – and that was a good thing.
New Commons Speaker John Bercow says he will revive parliament
Guardian: Former rightwinger John Bercow defeats Tory rival in secret ballot and promises reform
Maybe it is time to get rid of the old kit, the pirate hats and red robes? The judiciary is modernising its garb (although some don’t like the new kit). The Bar has decided to hang on to their formal dress and wigs; bizarre though they look when they cross modern day Fleet Street in regalia on their way back from Court. A friend of mine told me of his irritation when a couple of american tourists asked him to stop for a picture. I’m afraid that I was almost beside myself with laughter at his pompousity when he told me and rather huffily he told me that I was a f*****g socialist… so what did I know!
Maybe he’s right. All the mumbo jumbo, regalia, pageantry is pretty harmless but it doesn’t really seem to suit modern 21st Century Britain and Europe to my jaded eye.
Maybe, as fellow blogger and surrealist, John Bolch of Family Lore suggested, we could have an annual Mumbo Jumbo day and everyone gets to dress up in the clothes of times gone by like Ye Olde Worlde Shakespeare or Dickens nonsense. Perhaps we could even go and look at it on a bus trip!
Ah well… orf to see a man about a pirate hat and an ermine cloak. Insite Law News, law reports, updates from the blogs is up… if you would care to peruse.
UPDATE: If you want to see what the ravening horde think of Bercow, with some very sharp and cutting analysis by Guido – have a look