A Moment in History
His Grace writes this morning about how Parliament is at the verge of one of those historic events that shape our corporate political life for decades, if not centuries.
This Wednesday, Her Majesty comes to the Palace of Westminster for the State Opening of Parliament. The cellars shall be searched by the Yeomen of the Guard in order to prevent a modern-day Gunpowder Plot, and the Crown will take a member of the House of Commons to Buckingham Palace as a hostage to guarantee the safety of the Sovereign as she enters a possibly hostile Parliament. Her majesty will outline her Government’s legislative agenda in the House of Lords, for no monarch has entered the House of Commons since 1642 when King Charles I entered the Commons Chamber and attempted to arrest five members. Speaker Lenthall famously defied the King, refusing to inform him as to where the members were hiding. As Black Rod tries to enter the Commons’ Chamber, the doors shall be slammed in his face – symbolising the independence of the Commons and its right to debate without the presence of the Queen’s representative.
It may all appear to be archaic, obscure and a complete waste of time. But it is steeped in centuries of tradition, and laden with constitutional significance.
If Mr Cameron has not by Wednesday received a satisfactory explanation from Speaker Martin for the arrest of Damian Green and the searching of his parliamentary offices, he should boycott the State Opening and instruct all Conservative members to do the same, on a three line whip.
It has been suggested that Conservative members (along with concerned Liberal Democrats and Labour members) should instead gather instead at Runnymede for a commemoration of Magna Carta.
Cranmer would rather they petition Her Majesty directly, and create one of those ‘Black Rod’ moments which will go down in the annals of parliamentary history.
I want to suggest again (as I have done below), that there is one action which would make Wednesday an historic day in the political life of this country. The Commons should demand the resignation of Speaker Michael Martin on the grounds that he has betrayed the House by permitting one of it’s members’ privacy (and that of his constituents who he represents) to be invaded and abused. In his place the Commons should elect the one man who now represents the sovereignty of the Commons above any external power that would attempt to impose its will upon the voice of the people.
I call upon MPs to drag Damian Green to the Speaker’s Chair this Wednesday afternoon, to act not only as their chief officer but also as the guardian, and icon, of their historic freedoms.