After I promoted a post on political absurdity, a Google+ user, Andrew Knighton, wrote to say that “when Caroline Lucas [Member of Parliament for the Green Party] became an MP she received a ceremonial dagger on a ribbon days before she received the computer equipment she needed to do her job. I love absurdity as much as the next man, but as a Brit I’d really like to see the traditions swept up and replaced with decent processes.”
I can’t disagree—what happened is completely batty and I’m sure politics would make more sense if they stopped handing out ceremonial daggers and started handing out computers—but you have to admire the sheer insanity of it all. Or at least, I do.
Before I go on, I should either remind or inform you that Parliament likes to call itself the Mother of Parliaments. I’m not enough of a historian to know if that’s a fair claim, but it does at least explain the title I used.
With that behind us, I should tell you that I tried to confirm that whole dagger business by googling variations of Caroline Lucas, ceremonial dagger, and so forth. I ended up with articles on Sikh ceremonial daggers, The Vampire Diaries (I’m sure there’s some connection but I didn’t click through and try to figure out what it is), fracking as a dagger pointed at I didn’t click through to find out what—the heart of England, if I had to guess—and so forth. I did click through to something about the City Remembrancer, whose role dates back to 1571 and who does I didn’t read enough to find out what but damn, wouldn’t it be fun when someone asks what you do to say, “I’m the City Remembrancer”?
Anyway, I can’t confirm that the thing about Lucas and the dagger is true, although I’m sure it is. It’s too batty not to be. What I did find was an article by Lucas on what no one tells you before you enter Parliament.
Among other things, she reports that although the parliamentary smoking ban dates back to 1693, snuff is available at taxpayer expense. She’s never seen anyone dip in, but she did try it once, just to see what it was like. She says Parliament is like Hogwarts meets Gilbert and Sullivan. In the old palace, “The wood panelling is gloomy, the carpets have come straight from a 1970s pub, and there’s a pervading smell of school dinners.” Ah, the majesty of it all.
MPs don’t refer to each other by name when they’re speaking in the chamber. They call each other “the honorable member from [wherever]” or if the person being talked about is of higher status “the right honorable. . . .” She capitalizes all of that. There’s probably a rule about that too. These people can talk in capital letters. Me, I can manage italics once in a while, but I’m sparing with capital letters.
She also writes that most MPs have no idea what they’re voting on, so they have to follow party discipline and vote the way they’re told.
She doesn’t mention daggers, but I recommend the article anyway. Whether you agree with her politics or not, this woman can write. And she’s got a sense of humor.