Time to ditch the mumbo jumbo?

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

12 thoughts on “Time to ditch the mumbo jumbo?

  1. You’re absolutely right, this mumbo jumbo has no place in the modern world. In particular, I noticed the phrase “Deeply impressed with a sense of my own unworthiness” in your 1839 quote. Not a sentiment many modern politicians could relate to: not at all New Labour, in fact I thought perhaps just a little Old Labour …

  2. Peter… I loved the phrase @”Deeply impressed with my own unworthiness…..” I shall be using it!

    It really was bizarre….. made my morning… now better geyt on with some day job nonsense.

  3. If memory serves, barristers shouldn’t wear full kit on fleet st anyway, they should robe and .. de-robe (?) inside the RCJ. The only exception was when going from chambers in Lincoln’s Inn through the Carey St back door.

    What makes Straw’s dress particularly bizarre is that he was wearing a lounge suit beneath the robes. If you’re going to dress up you might as well do it properly.

  4. Liadnan

    You are right… I have seen the odd barrister in robe/bands in Fleet St… and I did point out to my friend that I thought they were supposed to disrobe. He smiled wanly at me! It was a few years back.

    Yes… a lounge suit below robes made it even more bizarre. I am buying a pirate hat… I think they are rather fetching.

  5. In the eighties, legwarmers were the obligatory accessory for those participating in aerobics. Perhaps, in the noughties, the pirate hat will become the de rigeur accroutement for followers of smokedo.

    The manouvre whereby the particpant repeatdely doffs one’s pirate hat whilst puffing merrily away on a Marlboro can be known as Strawing. A fittingly absurd tribute to the man.

  6. May I suggest that a tricorn hat can be had with little effort by visiting the RCJ judicial costumes display. The Hailsham exhibit has a particularly fine example which, with judicial use of a hammer, could be set free. There are also two walking sticks, a silk gown, two rather nice wigs and what can only be described as a silver man bag – dressed in which a life of buccaneering would surely beckon.

  7. I followed the link to Stainey’s blog and what did I get?


    I got …

    The Server tried all of its options before returning this page to you.

    You are looking for something that is not here now.

    Perhaps he is an illusion 😉

  8. White Rabbit… sorry about that…. not intentional!

    Have corrected the link. I can’t even plead that I was pissed. I posted at Breakfast. Not even I drink at breakfast (Save on Christmas Day and my birthday in May… the 17th.. should you care to take a note of it for future reference!)

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