Parliamentary peculiars

Tomorrow will see The State Opening of Parliament, and although our political masters have promised it to be the last for two years, the political commentators are predicting it won’t even be the last one this year, as we could have another election in the near future.

The State Opening has many traditions, Black Rod knocking on the door to gain admittance, the speech which is referred to as ‘A Humble Address’ or the ‘Loyal Address’.

[M]any other anomalies are to be found in the Palace of Westminster. A snuff box is situated by the door of the Commons. Smoking has been banned since the 17th century, so a full box if snuff is provided should Members require.

Hooks are provided in the cloakroom so one may hang one’s sword, they were barred from the Chamber.

The mace, which once was a weapon is carried before Black Rod. The last time the ‘weapon’ was used in anger was by Michael Heseltine. On the 27th May 1976, the government was attempting to steer the hotly contested Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill through the Commons. The vote on an amendment had been tied and was lost on the Speaker’s vote, Heseltine had to be restrained from using the mace presumably upon the Speaker’s head.

The colours of green (Commons) and red (Lords) are denoted on the carpets, benches and Westminster and Lambeth bridges, although no-one quite knows why those colours were chosen.

The expression ‘in the bag’ comes from a rather worn velvet bag, called the Petition Bag, which hangs on the back of the Speaker’s chair. Where, if you believe, shy Members could leave petitions to be considered.

Emily Wilding Davidson (who would subsequently die under the King’s horse at Ascot) hid in a cupboard on census night, so she could give her address as ‘The House of Commons’. The late Tony Benn would show his guests the stationery cupboard.

In a kind of quasi-religious icon worshiping, Members touch the statues of their favourite dead politicians when passing, they say Margaret Thatcher is particularly favoured.

The Commons Chamber can only accommodate 427 for the 650 members, Churchill was reputedly in favour of keeping the seating to a minimum after bomb damage necessitated rebuilding, so he wouldn’t have too much opposition to his speeches.

Two red line along its floor of the Commons Chamber, which are 8-foot apart, just over two sword lengths, just in case Members flout the rule of ‘no swords’ and don’t hang them in the cloakroom.

There is the talk of moving the whole of Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre while 5-years of maintenance takes place.

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