Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Archaic drivel

"open up in the name of Her Maj: tea and Hobnobs for everyone"

Yes, I'm talking about Westminster, the imperial palace, the deathstar, London the Moribund. That's no way to run a Parliament!

I refer, of course, to the Queen's speech. "Wassat?" I hear you say (you really must try to improve your diction). Apparently, those in Westminster need to be told every year what they're going to be doing for the next 12 months. Why they don't just get on with it is anyone's guess - they could learn from the Scottish Parliament (again).

So, when she parades from her wee but 'n' ben to the Palace of Westminster, a wee fella (who gets called Black Rod for some reason) goes and tells those commoner people to come and stand in supplication while those aristocratic people get a wee seat and Her Maj reads out what was written originally by some of the commoner people. Hang on, you say, who got elected here? Quite, but some of them paid quite a bit for their bit of ermine, and they might have reserved a seat at the same time - like getting a train ticket.

Anyway - stop distracting me - she reads out what's going to be brought forward in the next wee while (always with wee qualifiers like "My Government will continue to do this, that and the other", and "Other measures will be laid before you") then the commoners get sent scurrying back to their own hovel while the aristocrats get the place fumigated and settle down for another year separated from the scruff.

Back in the House of Commons the commoners get their toys back out and begin flinging them from the pram. There's a guy in tights (part of the job, not a predilection) who reads out the speech again in case anybody sat humphing republicanism and ignored the wifie with the big jewels, then there's an argument.

Usually the debate has an old fogey and some young upstart (no-one knows why, it's just tradition), and this time the fogey was Richard Caborn. He began his speech in the traditional way - on his metaphorical knees begging permission to say thanks (actually went like this:

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom and Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament

Spiffing, what? He then went on to do the Oscars:

There are many reasons why it is a privilege and a pleasure to move the Queen’s Speech, and I should like to refer to a couple of them. First, I must mention my family, and particularly my mum. She is 91

Good to see that the UK is in safe hands.

Anyway, all this stuff and nonsense goes on for ages until he's replaced by the cheeky young scamp - in this case going by the name of Dawn Butler - I haven't heard of her, but that's apparently the point (it's Westminster, don't try to understand 'em, just rope, tie and brand 'em).

She pointed to a welcome innovation in the London Parliament of producing a pre-legislative draft of a Bill (they'll catch up eventually - it'll be pre-legislative scrutiny next). She also said

The strength of self-belief, the dignity of truth and the engagement of politics
can turn slaves into free people.

Well said that woman!

Then the beasts were released upon an unsuspecting populace; David Cameron (leader, Tory types) came snarling off the bench and swatted aside the opposition, leaving Gordon Brown shaking.

Watching the exchanges, I couldn't help feeling that Cameron was the most statesmanlike. He acted like he was the Prime Minister and Brown acted like he was the raw challenger.

Brown has to change tack if he wants to have any chance of winning the next election. He has to bring forward policies that don't look as if they fell off the back of a lorry leaving the Conservative conference. That might even mean the horror of taking Labour back towards looking like it's a Party that believes in something. He could signal that nuclear weapons are to be removed from Scotland's waters, for example, or bring forward alternative funding models to undercut PFI/PPP - but he has to do something if he wants to stave off the Conservative revival, and an ideological battle might be just the thing.

He's knackered in Scotland, of course, the SNP's winning here.

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