I am writing this article on the day that new MPs, following the May 2010 election, will take their oaths to the Queen.
In the UK only avowed monarchists can sit in the Houses of Parliament. Before taking their seats in the commons those we elect as MPs have to take an oath of allegiance to the hereditary monarch. I think this is a terrible state of affairs and it is time for a gentle, quiet, democratic revolution. If the Lib Dem MPs, and the Green, all of whom have stood on manifestos to remove the monarch’s role in Government, stuck to their principles and simply promised to serve their constituents and the country, rather than taking an oath to the Queen then there is no doubt in my mind that the revolution would happen. I think this would strengthen and reinvigorate democracy, it would help create a true democracy in the UK.
During the election campaign I spoke to Julian Huppert; and asked him if he was intending to take the oath. He replied to say that while he was very much a republican he thought he had to pick his battles and thought that this wasn’t one worth fighting. He confirmed he would swear allegiance to the Queen. I think that if even one English, Welsh or Scottish MP refused to take the oath and took their seats regardless, never mind all the Lib Dems refusing, that would in itsself force the change. I suggested to Mr Huppert that he underestimates the amount of influence that he as Cambridge’s MP has. I think not grasping the power they are given by the electorate is a problem endemic within the Liberal Democrats. When I spoke to Mr Huppert he explained to me that his worry was that if he and other Lib Dem MPs didn’t take the oath then the Parliamentary authorities would make life difficult for him and his colleagues, for example preventing him from being able to table questions and preventing them from speaking. Again this worries me because it appears that he hasn’t grasped that we, through him and the other MPs, run this country not the “authorities”.
I think that it would be a terrible start to a Parliamentary career to put strongly held principled views to one side for convenience.
The people of Cambridge surely wouldn’t accept it if the person chosen by the city to represent Cambridge in Parliament was unable to do so as a result of standing by the position on which they were elected.
Oaths will be taken by MPs on the 19th of May 2010, on the night before a ludicrously dire warning has been linked from the front page of Parliament’s website stating:
Until the oath or affirmation is taken, an MP may not receive a salary, take their seat, speak in debates or vote. They could also be fined £500 and – more important – have their seat declared vacant “as if they were dead” if they attempt to do so.
As I have noted previously when outlining my view that Monarch should not have a role in the government of the UK there are many MPs who have taken the oath, but who openly disagree with it. Tony Benn prefaced his oath with the words: “As a dedicated republican, I solemnly swear …” and I have tonight written a tweet to Julian Huppert saying:
@JulianHuppert You can add words before/after the oath. How about: “As a republican under duress I solemnly swear…”?
I would like to see Julian Huppert take a stronger stance against the oath than the one he gave me when I asked him about it, then he said: “I will not say it with joy and rapture”.
It is not only with Julian Huppert and his Commons oath that we see the Lib Dems actions failing to match up to their stated beliefs. The Liberal Democrat run Cambridge City Council still starts its meetings with a Mace (representing the monarch) being brought into the room, councillors stand for its entry and it sits on a stand infront of the Mayor throughout the meeting.
After writing this article I learnt that MPs elect a speaker before taking their oaths. Oath taking starts at 15.00 on the 19th of May