Friday, 2 July 2010

Parliament - an Act

Now taking bookings for Xmas Panto's

Just thought I'd let you all know how thoroughly modern, transparent and up to date our Parliament is. I mean, what we need is a functioning machine that can address real issues quickly, make important decisions of behalf of us, protect us from tyranny and work in our best interests, right?

For all new MPs, firstly, they must learn the ropes. None of this simply sitting down and getting on with the job we pay them to do nonsense. No, no, that would never do.

1. "Excuse me, mate?" - you wish. You may not call a person by their real name in Parliament. It has to be "the honourable Member for Mogadishu East" for example and if they are in the same party as you, it has to be "my honourable friend". Anything else and you get sent home. Especially "you". They hate that most of all. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all.

2. Stand up, sit down - You cannot simply speak in Parliament. You have to be "called". And then you have to stand up. And if the speaker stands up, you have to sit down or you get sent home. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all.

3. Morning prayers - yes, really. Every morning, they say prayers in the House before the day kicks off. Fairly simple you'd think? Nope. They have to turn and face the wall behind them to say prayers. All of them. Really. And the public are not allowed to see you praying. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all.

4. Sitting down. Anyone who watches Prime Ministers question time will notice that certain people get to sit in certain places on benches. Front bench, opposition bench etc. Amazingly, there are no rules to this, they just do it. If I was an MP, I would sit anywhere I liked just to see if they sent me home. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

5. Wandering about - Nope. You can only be called to speak (stand up, but not if the speaker stands up) if you are sitting down. Wander about at your peril. Do not walk across the floor but stand still in the same place you stood up from or it doesn't count and you will be sent home. Really. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

6. No speeches - really. You can only use notes, you may not read a speech you have prepared earlier. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

7. Rude words - blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor. You cannot use these words, even if they are true and you will be sent home. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

8. Getting sent home - If you disobey any of this arcane rituals, you will "be named". That means your real name will be read out and you have to go home. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

9 - No briefcases are allowed in the house - Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

10. "Who goes home?" - I don't even know where to start on this one. At the end of the day, two people in funny costumes shout "who goes home?" as they stand by the doors. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

11. Hats - Very complicated indeed but it appears that no hats can be worn by strangers and stuff. I quote :

"At all times remove your hat on entering the House, and put it on upon taking your seat; and remove it again on rising for whatever purpose. If the MP asks a question he will stand, and with his hat off; and he may receive the answer of the Minister seated and with his hat on. If on a division he should have to challenge the ruling of the chair, he will sit and put his hat on.

If he wishes to address the Speaker on a point of order not connected with a division, he will do so standing with his hat off. When he leaves the House to participate in a division he will take his hat off, but will vote with it on. If the Queen sends a message to be read from the chair, the Member will uncover. In short, how to take his seat, how to behave at prayers, and what to do with his hat, form between them the ABC of the parliamentary scholar

Like I said, complicated. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

12. Snuff - yup, you heard correctly. There are snuff boxes at the entrance to the chamber, guarded by the keeper of the snuff. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

13. Norman French - If a bill is changed by the Lords, it must be recorded in Norman French. "Soit baillé aux communes". If a bill is agreed by the Lords, it is also recorded in Norman French. "A ceste Bille les Seigneurs sont assentus". Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all

14. Strangers - fancy visiting the House as a member of the public? Then you are officially a "Stranger" and not to be trusted. You cannot wear a hat but you can drink in the Strangers bar if you are a guest of a member or the sibling of a boy in the upper sixth rowing team. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all.

Wonder why shit never gets done? Wonder why MPs appear to be on a different planet than the public? Wonder why so many public schoolboys from Oxbridge end up in Parliament? Wonder why they feel so superior to us mere mortals? wonder why so many idiotic laws and rules are made by these people?

This isn't "quaint". This is utter insanity and no way to run a country.



Billy Blofeld said...

I did enjoy "hat gate" on last years November 5th stroll.......

Anyway - I see parliament has got a new film coming out:

no longer anonymous said...

Would you rather we had a "modern" and "efficient" parliament that makes it easier for politicians to run our lives?

Incidently under this archaic system we once ran 1/4 of the world and a relatively libertarian polity (which I would have thought you favoured).

Indeed, it was attempts to rationalise and modernise that made it easier for the state to grow. See this excellent article for illustration:

JD said...

"This is utter insanity and no way to run a country."
I agree, but would prefer 'to serve a country', which is how I see their job. JD.

Dame Davina Pancake said...

Oh Holby - I normally agree with so much of what you say, but a little tradition really doesn't hurt anyone. The real threat is the bloody politicos rather than the background stuff - I rather like watching Brenda and the troops parading for the opening of Hogwarts. Having known & hugely respected Bernard Weatherill, what really pisses me off is watching our current squeaker downgrading the office - if we are going to have tradition, then let's do it properly (I'm with Mad Nad on that one). However, as I say, the ceremony is not what we should be worried about. I'm more concerned about Spelman's lobbying connections; expenses; corruption generally and all the rest of the political shit that blights our lives. I certainly don't want to see Parliament converted into some asinine version of the Welsh Assembly - it would cost a ruddy fortune and the end result would be the same bunch of wankers passing continual, shit legislation.

Sorry for the rant, but really!

Davina x

Jenni Jackson said...

Agree or not with the individual points, it's simply not true that no-one knows why these things are done. It may be a fun device to use, but constant repetition doesn't make it any truer! Even I know the origins of a lot of those traditions. Doesn't mean to say they're right or that we shouldn't be modernising the way we're governed, but that's a different question. Which would be a good idea, so long as we get rid of the most archaic institution of all - the monarchy!

Old Holborn said...

I put it to you that such insanity exists to STOP our elected representatives doing their jobs. They are far too busy putting their hats on the lower peg to get anything done other than that requested by the dozen idiots in cabinet.

Uncle Marvo said...

Close, but no cigar, OH.

That insanity exists for the same reason that bishops dress up in silly frocks. Now people DO know why that is.

Need I say more?

Google will reveal all.

I think Boateng & Demetriou are entirely free of personality disorders. said...

This article is bollocks in my rarely humble opinion.

Oh and I know why they don't address each other personally.

Tradition is Good said...


Nobody knows why people retouch the Cerne Abbas man. Yet they have done it for centuries.

Should they stop because of that?

Or is that part of the British character and way of life?

B and D were never breast fed said...

"Wonder why shit never gets done"?

OH, I recall I fine article by yourself with a transcript of a talk you gave. In it you suggested that although wankers New Labour had been highly successful in following their agenda.

Does that view contradict your quoted assertion?

Peperbarmi said...


I bet somewhere deep in the vaults of Parliament, there is a hunchbacked little old man shuffling bits of parchment around in the gloom who knows why these traditions exist.

I know one,the two red lines you see either side of the despatch box,well there just over a swords length apart,from days of old when men carried swords.

If any Mp crosses it during debates there are howls of derision.

No dont thank me!.

Phil Free said...

Sorry OH, I often agree with you but have to raise a Point of Order. All that tradition is in my view the only good left in Parliament now. It all stems from precident, built up over hundreds of years. Parliament itself and its tradition is not the issue, the problem is the the shower of lobby fodder gobshites that infest it these days. If we lose the ceremony and quirky rules, all we will have left is (as commented by a previous poster) a sterile regional assembly still infested with the same political class parasites.

Anyway, totally untrue that "nobody knows why...nobody at all" I do, many others do. Don't take my word for it, The Information Office in the Commons have even produced a nice little guide addressing some of your examples. See link -

Google should answer the rest for you.

Phil free said...

Just occured to me that you seem to have lifted most of your text from that commons info guide I linked to so you must already have it. Apologies. My comment stands though.

Catflap said...

Not a litle old man in the basement but what they call 'Officers of the House'run the tradition.
The old system is mainly shit because the new cunts running it are mainly shit.
Gill Paye the current 'Serjeant at Arms' joined parliament straight in as a 'head office keeper' late in her working career.
Predictable PC promotions later and you now have a useless Twat in charge.
The coveted post of 'Doorkeeper' has been thrown open to all sorts as well.
An institution is only as good as the people put in it.

Jake Stardust said...

We are ruled by lunatics. No normal person could tolerate working in such an environment.

Anonymous said...

You? Try living here in Thailand only 50.000 web site are banned 15 years PER OFFENCE for les majeste that would have me banged up for a few thousand years in the UK .In the English language there is only one word for "you" here there are many depending where you are in the sliding scale of preference.
The Uk exports twats as well, the current prime minister was born in Newcastle upon Tyne educated at Eaton and Oxford, supervised the killing on unarmed men and women last month and is continuing the persecution of anyone that criticises the goverment. Welcome to the Land of Smiles.

remingar said...

"6. No speeches - really. You can only use notes, you may not read a speech you have prepared earlier. Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all"

Yet Brown and others regularly had one in front of them and could sometimes be seen running his finger along the words. Is it one of those funny rules that only applies when they want it to?

It isn't the traditions that are preventing MPs representing us, holding the Government to account and preventing abuse of authority, it's that many of them just don't want to. A glorified social worker is what many of them are happy to be.

Mama Peperbarmi said...

Mr Holbonkery,

I like the picture of the pretty hats with the flowers,who are they, and why are they squatting like that?,are their medals heavy?,*titter*.

caesars wife said...

Well OK OH you cant see the value of the way parliament runs , Erskin & May a half baked attempt then at ensuring a functioning democracy ?

Think about it : the reason they use hon mem for its because the person represents the constituancy , and does not assume any surname associated with it . Hon friend shows party affilaition , simples really .

as for lords using french probebely somthing to do with william the conqueror .

As for monarchy , sorry, I like it sorts a lot of problems out , name one president that isnt corrupt and as in USA family dynasties constantly vying for top job .With our monarch all that is sorted and balanced with role of government as sorted out in last civil war .

does anyone know there UK History any more ??

by enlarge its works and we have been a world power , CW does not think you will be better looked after under another system , despite the glossy secution.

Nick2 said...

I don't think that the original reasons for Parliamentary traditions are lost in the mists of time - even I know why about half of the examples that you list exist.

Whether they should still exist is another matter. The primacy of the Speaker is still needed - although the Lords do without one, proceedings in that house are glacially slow. I certainly think that Morning Prayers could be dispensed with - as well as the tradition that acts are inscribed on parchment (do they really still do that?!?). The real problem is that Parliamentary procedure is controlled by the House (& the Queen?). And all of their administrators are amazingly conservative (in all senses of the word).

Jonathan McCormack said...

Goodnight Vienna said...

Give it a break, OH. We shouldn't be attacking procedures but content.

The tradition in the House is highly symbolic and it isn't there to make MPs feel superior; it's supposed to represent a pact between Crown, People and Parliament. The fact that the symbolism is lost on f/twittery MPs and Speaker Bercow is not an indictment of the tradition but of Bercow and the MPs themselves.

If you're feeling continental and want a horse-shoe, consensual arrangement you should concentrate your fire on the European Parliament - where true influence and power resides.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's do away with the archaic because that guarantees efficiency, effectiveness and integrity, like the EU.


Dennis said...

Religion is a belief system which needs the trappings of fancy frocks and pretty dresses and lots of synthetic symbolism and toys to fascinate and inspire awe in its "captives".
Politics and Royalty are an offshoot or another branch of religion. It is a belief system based firmly in myth.

Scottish rationalist. said...

Seriously half of you get the governance you deserve, I just pity the other rational half.

This is why I will be backing Scottish Independence.

Leather Apron said...

Very weak OH. How long, exactly, does it take to put a hat on/take a hat off? Hardly gets in the way of business does it.

Perhaps we should also give up holding doors open for people as it 'wastes time'.

Would you prefer to have our MPs being like the Euro-drones, holding parliament in a steel and glass office, wearing cheap shiny suits.

Sam Vega said...

I'm sure I heard you @ 13.14 say "I put it to you that...".

What sort of pompous media-inspired fantasy of bourgeois legalese is that? It doesn't sound right unless you are wearing a wig and frock-coat.

Rev Peperbarmi said...

Mr Holborne,

My apologies first,I have a question that is off topic from your current post,but concern has pushed me to ask.

Do you or any of your readers have any idea what the situation is with his Grace the Archbishop Cranmer?,his blog has,well suddenly stopped for several weeks now and there has been no word on any channels of comunication that I know of.

I and many of his readers are very concerned,excuse me for the interuption,any news would be gratefully accepted.

Thank you.

SadButMadLad said...

@Mama Peperbarmi
"I like the picture of the pretty hats with the flowers,who are they, and why are they squatting like that?"

They are guards about to pick up their lanterns to go down into the cellars to look for gunpowder that might have been placed there by a descendent of Guido Fawkes! :-)

Mama Peperbarmi said...


Ooo really,I didnt know that,they are vary brave,I hate cellars,too dark and full of creepy crawlies,yuck!.

Dont be sad dear,and you behave yourself and do your homework,you seem like a sweet boy.
Night night dear.

Dizzy Ringo said...

Caesar's wife is quite correct. The norman french dates back to William the Conqueror. I think the link back to 1066 is pretty neat.

Now we need to identify which other gems date back to Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.

As to the prayers - could they be facing Westminster Abbey?

caesars wife said...

scottish rationist : and PR is success in scotchland ? no property fiddles ? secret deals ?

Ollie Grender thinks now is the time to have a new sort of government so does Simon Huges , however ed milliband exploded when constituancies of 120,000 was brooched and reduction of mps to below 600 to cut cost of poltics , CW thinks Labour may be introuble on this one socialists cant stand anything other than totalitarian rule LOL .

CW is a little dismayed that liberal elite havent got anything else better to do than want there name in history as person who changed democracy into please all badly run whelk stall .

Yes cost of politics does need reducing , but CW notes we have worked out ours over many centuries and squabbles into somthing that is clearly understood .If you live in spain what does Van Roumpouy mean to you , process manager ! multiple cultural disorder syndrome , top target sales lobbyist.

I never thought I would see turkeys voting for halloween .(or olde hallows eve in perpetuity) , do you really want be run by faux democracy run by corpratists ? really ?

Anonymous said...

Morning Prayers - why allow people with delusions to run the country?

Gallimaufry said...

Why do some muslim women wear the hijab or burka? Because they want to. Isn't that the libertarian answer? Using the same logic, why are MPs allowed to do things Old Holborn disagrees with? And is the Swiss Federal Parliament anything to shout about? It only sits for 12 weeks a year.

MonkeyBot 5000 said...

The whole stand-up to speak, addressing everything to the speaker and sitting down and being quiet when the speaker stands actually makes a lot of sense.

You've just got to stop looking of it as a parliament of grown-ups and start looking at it like a classroom full of petulant 6yr olds.

Rebel Saint said...

If nobody really knows why this stuff happens, then we ought to find out before we dismiss it. That's the problem - we always transmit HOW to do stuff but never WHY we do stuff.

There are probably very good reasons why all these practices came into being. It would be a good idea for someone to find out why and if the reason is still valid then either keep it, or modify it.

Good manners & etiquette aren't a bad idea. And neither are traditions that remind us of our past (as long as they do remind us ... and they don't if no-one tells us what they are reminding us of!!!)

Chris said...

Nobody knows why they have to do this. Nobody at all.

You know, researching the whys and wherefores of these various odd traditions would be a fascinating education in the history of Parliament.

A rare inversion: from the ridiculous to the sublime.

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