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La reine le veult

Parliament just prorogued. That doesn’t mean it has come out in favour of rascals. [Pause for polite laugh. Pause lengthens. Pause abandoned.] It means the parliamentary year is finally over. It signals that the struggle to hammer out half-decent legislation has petered out, and everyone can relax after the frantic last-minute deals to get it all done in time.

Alert readers will have noticed that Parliament resumed just over a month ago, after a three-month break. July, however, was not the end of the parliamentary year. No, like any sensible organisation, they go away for three months almost before they've signed everything off, then come back beholidayed and bewildered for the final manic rush.

Now there is just under a week before the next parliamentary year begins. The state opening of Parliament is next Wednesday, complete with massed ranks of ermine and Her Nibs on the throne reading out whatever Tony’s wonks have shoved in front of her: “This year my Government will be cascading vertical rollouts, going forward.”

The chamber is full for prorogation, bulked out by MPs who come and stand at the end of the room to hear the Lord Chancellor read out the end-of-year speech. It’s pretty much the Queen's Speech from the beginning of the year, but instead of “The Government will pursue delirious fantasies about ID cards at ruinous cost”, this time it’s all in the past tense. I can’t find any pictures online of this occasion because no-one bothers to cover it; not only is there less finery—apart from six senior peers sat on the woolsack in full ermine trim and tricorn hats—but it would be pointless to show what little ceremony there is, as it’s all overshadowed anyway by the gaudy showstopper the following week.

A highlight of prorogation, though, is watching Royal Assent. A clerk reads out the name of a Bill that is due to become an Act. A nod from the assembled Lords by the throne confirms that it has Royal Assent. The Clerk of the Parliaments turns to face the MPs stood at the back and announces grandly, in Norman French, that “La reine le veult”—the Queen desires it. He turns back to face the throne. The clerk reads out the next Bill. The Clerk of the Parliaments turns to face the MPs. “La reine le veult,” he says, again. That continues for some considerable time. This tradition is, as the use of Norman French implies, hundreds of years old. I offered a crisp £50 for the first Hansard reporter with the balls to send the Clerk of the Parliaments a puzzled note asking, “Please confirm: ‘Lauren Laverne’?”, but my money was safe.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 8th, 2006 03:40 pm (UTC)
It's very considerate of them to have put nice red beds in the front like that. And one of those things for if you want to read a book in the bath.
Nov. 8th, 2006 03:57 pm (UTC)
Can you do a Venn diagram showing the intersection between people who own Kenickie albums and Our Noble Lords?
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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