This Is What That Almighty Furore In Parliament Last Night Was All About
"I couldn't give a flying flamingo."
Good morning. Here is an explanation of why John Bercow was shouting about flying flamingos in the early hours of the morning in this, the most normal of parliaments.
No, he really was.
Allow us to explain. In the early hours of the morning, British politics was about to sign off for a bit with one of the most ridiculous things you'd see all year.
Prorogation is the name given to the dissolving of Parliament between one session and the next — it is different to dissolving Parliament, which happens before a general election. It brings nearly all parliamentary business to an end.
When Parliament reconvenes, there will be a Queen's Speech, where a new legislative programme is announced.
Usually, it happens around April or May — but these are not normal times: The 2017 parliamentary session has spanned more than two years, because of the extra legislation needed around Brexit.
And the Queen prorogues Parliament, does she?
Sort of. The Queen has the power to prorogue Parliament, but she acts on the advice of the prime minister. As per the Queen's speech, owing to a, uh, minor spat a few hundred years ago, they tell her what she tells them they have to do.
Well, that all sounds pretty simp— hang on, what the hell is going on?
Uh, yeah. So it is pretty simple, but Britain being Britain, it comes with rather a lot of bells and whistles.
Here we have five House of Lords privy counsellors, all of whom have been appointed by the Queen, entering the Chamber.
Right. And who is this guy and why is he carrying a big stick?
That, my friend, is Black Rod, who is, to quote parliament's website, a "senior officer in the House of Lords, responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House and its precincts."
Think of Black Rod as a sheepdog, but for MPs.
The privy counsellors will instruct them to summon the House of Commons. Why they can't just send a group WhatsApp, no one knows.
Anyway, bye bye Black Rod.
Black Rod fetches the MPs, and the fun really starts.
What. The. Fuck.
Yes, I know. Normal country.
Now what you see is the ceremonial greeting between the representatives of the Commons, which include the speaker, the clerk, and the serjeant at arms, and the privy counsellors. It is cool AF and in no way looks ridiculous, so shut up.
The acts that have been passed in the parliamentary session will be read out by the clerk of the crown. Those that have not passed, will not progress: They will need to be reintroduced in the next session.
Here's the punchline — as they're read out, the clerk of the Parliament announces: "The Queen wishes it," for each one, i.e., they have received royal assent and passed into law. Except they do it in...Norman French: "La Reyne le veult."
Given an act to block a no-deal Brexit was going to receive Royal Assent, this was even more amusing than usual.
After that, the leader of the house will review the past year, making this in no way like a school assembly.
The MPs then shake hands with the speaker, and at stupid o'clock, they all go home.
Well that all sounds completely ludicrous. And there was a controversy?
There was! A big one.
First, some background: While it's normal for Parliament to prorogue, and while it had been sitting for an abnormally long time, this latest request for a break was unusually long — five weeks, when the average length of break since 2010 has been about eight days.
It means Parliament is sitting for fewer days before Oct. 31 — the Brexit deadline. It gives MPs a lot less time to stop a no-deal exit from the EU, and while it would allow the government to take the existing deal back to Parliament, it would give little chance for a new deal to be agreed and implemented.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims the prorogation was normal and needed for a new legislative programme, but rebel MPs didn't believe him.
There have also been legal challenges asking for a judicial review of the prime minister's advice to the Queen. The court cases revealed Johnson had approved the plan to prorogue Parliament as early as Aug. 16.
MPs have also just voted to force the publication of private government communications about the decision to suspend Parliament. Number 10 says it will not comply.
Ah, now I'm starting to understand. So what actually went on last night?
Well, the outrage continued right up to the end: Two of those five people with the nice hats were planning to boycott the ceremony.
At the time it was announced, Speaker John Bercow was furious: "However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country," he said.
And so, when Black Rod arrived, it ALL kicked off.