Donald Macintyre's Sketch: New MPs start with sit-in and swearing

On day two of the new Parliament they came, they queued, they swore

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Indy Politics

They came, they queued, they swore. Yes, it was day two of the new Parliament. But first some harmless mumbo jumbo. Having been summoned with other MPs by Black Rod, the man in tights, to the Lords, re-enter Speaker Bercow, who announced: “Her Majesty by her Royal Commissioners has been pleased to approve the choice made of myself for the office of Speaker.” Which roughly translates as “Her Maj says, ‘Whatever’.”

And then the swearing-in. Or for the more secular-minded like Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – in their first public sighting since you know when – the affirming-in. Ed and Nick chatted as they queued together to pledge fealty to the monarch, presumably doing some impromptu co-counselling.

Ed could be heard starting a sentence “I think it’s quite fair to say…” What was the rest, lost in the general murmur? “...that the polls were rubbish”? “...Yvette Cooper’s well out of order criticising me like that”? Or, like Nigel Farage in his first reaction to losing in Thanet, “...that a great burden has been lifted from my shoulders”?

More Donald Macintyre:
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Are you watching, David? This is for you

And did they try to work out for which of them it was worse? “Poor you, Ed. At least I didn’t expect to be PM.” “No I really feel for you, Nick. At least our party hasn’t lost 80 per cent of its seats.”

There were variations in swearing-in styles. The Father of the House, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Jewish (and a fierce critic of the Israeli government) naturally swore on the Old Testament; David Cameron on the King James Bible. The Lib Dems’ Alistair Carmichael and the SNP’s Alex Salmond chose the Scottish oath, which means swearing the same text with arm uplifted and not holding a bible. 

Bercow sternly warned new MPs that their oath-taking would be televised, perhaps not realising this might actually be an incentive for the odd nationalist/republican one-person mini-demo.

Yesterday the SNP’s Pete Wishart sat stolidly on the Labour front bench with his new party colleague Michelle Thomson. When the splendidly sideburned and white-tied Robin Hall, principal doorkeeper, approached the pair, Ms Thomson departed. But Wishart stayed put, even after Rosie Winterton, Labour’s Chief Whip, sat down in her allotted place adjacent to the uninvited nationalist. Ms Winterton’s words to her new neighbour were inaudible. But they are unlikely to have been “Be my guest.”

A curious element of this ritual is that after swearing in, each MP goes up to the Speaker’s chair to have his hand lengthily gripped and a little personal chat. One of the first was Michael Gove.

No doubt Bercow warmly congratulated him on becoming Lord Chancellor. After all, this was hardly the place to discuss Gove’s starring role in the failed putsch against Bercow before the election. Or the Speaker’s instruction in the last parliament  that Gove should write out 1,000 times “I must behave in Prime Minister’s Questions.”

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