Chris Bryant: All right, Guy Fawkes night was incorrect – but please let's keep the bonfires

A Political Life

Share
Related Topics

Remember, remember. Bonfires. Scorched faces. Warm, peaty smoke. Stamp-your-feet coldness that rises through your shoes and socks. Sparklers. Fireworks. Adults drinking hot punch.

And of course, weeks of children hawking overstuffed strangely transvestite dummies dressed in mum's old stockings and a hideous anorak in a wheelbarrow asking for cash. Eventually the Guy would end up on some teetering bonfire. All very pagan. All very satisfyingly incorrect. Remember, remember.

But it feels as if it was just memories now. Yes, there will be bonfires tonight. Don Valley Grass Bowl, Ottery St Mary, Sticklepath near Okehampton will all be singed. But I realised yesterday evening that although you can't move for (American-style) Hallowe'en tat in every supermarket in the land, I haven't seen a single Guy this year.

Guy Fawkes Night was all very incorrect. Burning the Pope in effigy was, after all, a ritual dreamt up in the late 17th century to inspire us to such heights of anti-papistry that we would shuffle the Catholic King James II off the throne and welcome the gloriously Godly (ahem) Protestant William and Mary to our constitutional bosom.

It's of a piece with the hideously pope-ophobic Westminster Confession and our succession laws, which not only insist that the monarch or heir cannot marry a "papist" (which the Government is rightly changing), but that the monarch must swear to be a faithful Protestant, to uphold the Church of England (and the Church of Scotland) and join in communion with the CofE. All summed up beautifully in the casual Anglican superiority of 1066 and All That: "The pope seceded with all his followers from the CofE."

Leaving aside the fact that I'm intrinsically suspicious of worldwide hierarchies and prefer religious autonomy, I have my complaints about Catholicism. The only role model for a faithful woman seems to be an immaculate mother. The policy on contraception and HIV has meant poverty and ignorance have flourished in much of Africa and Latin America. And the Catholic bishops got their soutanes in a terrible twist on gay adoptions, admitting that Catholic adoption agencies place children with single gay men and women, but refusing to do so with a gay couple. What price the church's respect for commitment? The tragedy is that the Catholic agencies used to do a brilliant job at placing some of the most difficult children – and gays took many of them.

Yet, even though it can't be right to keep on burning Guys, I wish we could go back to Bonfire Night rather than Hallowe'en.

Disobedience Cherie Blair-style

Incidentally, I remember visiting Tony Blair when we were changing the law to forbid discrimination in the provision of goods and services, and there was a rumour that Blair, at Cherie's behest, was sympathetic to an exemption for the Catholic Church. We played it carefully, taking along a Labour MP called Pope, whose brother is a Catholic bishop. We needn't have bothered. Tony's first words were, "Cherie has asked me to tell you that if anyone thinks she would do something just because a bishop had told her to, they really don't know her." Oddly, that seems to be the attitude of most of my Catholic friends.

The devil is always in the detail

There was a rather odd contribution from the Archbishop of York in the Lords debates on the Health and Social Care Bill on Wednesday. It was all about whether to include the words "physical and mental" in Clause Two. The Archbish was opposed because "human beings are psychosomatic spiritual entities". So far, so good.

But then he went on to tell a story about a young girl who had visited a witches' coven where a goat had been sacrificed. He had been asked to see her as a young vicar in south London because she was terrified of being the next sacrificial victim and had taken to screaming in the middle of the night. Apparently there was a "presence" in the house. "All that I could do," he said, "was to say a prayer in that little house, anoint the girl with oil and light a candle." Apparently it worked.

Now, I don't want to be cynical about exorcisms but I just wonder how the new-style (privatised) NHS is going to ensure universal access to the casting out of demons.

Ogmore, twinned with Gomorrah?

This week the Rhondda Labour Party celebrated its 100th anniversary with a packed dinner in the Penygraig Labour Club. The spirit of the party was formed in the dark and the damp and the danger of the mines, but it was the brutality with which the Tonypandy riots of 1910 and 1911 were put down, with the connivance of the Liberal Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, that finally inspired the local trade unions to apply to join the national Labour Party on 31 October 1911. We've been Labour ever since.

My next-door neighbour, Huw Irranca Davies, is envious of our centenary. The Ogmore constituency party was created in 1918 and, thanks to the boundary changes, he suspects they will never get to 100. Mind you, a change of name for the constituency might be in order. Spellcheck corrects Ogmore to Gomorrah. What that says about the neighbours I don't know.

Political lewdness? There's an app for that

Last week was self-proclaimed "Parliament Week", celebrated with fanfares and special events. There's even a Parliament Week iPhone and tablet app. Sadly it's available only to over-12-year-olds. The bearded Lib Dem Deputy Leader of the House, who has lost a lot of weight of late, explained on Thursday that this was because it might include "mild or occasional sexual content, nudity, fantasy violence, alcohol and drug abuse, profanities and crude humour".

I've obviously been missing out on all the fun of late, although I do recall listening to the Lords debate the Sexual Offences Bill on 19 May 2003 when they considered an amendment that didn't make it through the parliamentary email filter. Lady Noakes moved the amendment, "leave out 'genitals', and insert 'penis'". Delightfully, she called it a "probing" amendment and withdrew it.

Twitter.com/ChrisBryantMP

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower