State opening, the democratic way: Letter

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The Independent Online
Sir: Ian Hamilton is right to point out the absurdity of the Queen's Speech ("Why is Black Rod the only black here?", 22 October).

It says a great deal about Britain's half-formed democracy that the state opening of our Parliament is performed by an unelected monarch in front of unelected peers, with the lowly elected MPs jostling for a view at the back of the room. Richard Crossman described the scene as "what the real Ruritania would look like".

A modern democracy should banish such mock-feudal ritual. The opening lines of each paragraph of the speech "My government will ... " implies that we only have a parliament at all thanks to the generosity of the Crown, rather than centuries of reform and progress.

The suggestion I make in my Fabian Society pamphlet Long to Reign Over Us is that the state opening of Parliament should be a celebration of democracy, not monarchy, and be conducted in the House of Commons, where the laws will be debated.

The speech outlining the Government's programme should be delivered by the Speaker of the House. Such a state opening need not lose any of the ceremonial splendour: the position of Speaker is established and respected.

The start of the parliamentary session should not be weighed down with deference and ancestor worship. It is time for Parliament to grow up


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