Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Pageant of Galling Opulence

My morning routine at the moment involves waking up, half an hour checking the internet, followed by a shower, before heading downstairs to fix up a breakfast of a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. If the weather's good I'll eat it outside, but more often than not my first meal of the day is accompanied with some BBC News viewing. This usually entails discussions of Icelandic volcanoes, striking BA workers, or the posturings of the new coalition government, but today Huw Edwards, with his dulcet Welsh tones, was on hand for live coverage of the Queen's Speech.

Watching the State opening of Parliament for the first time, I quickly came to the conclusion that it is a ridiculous spectacle of outdated procedure and archaic pomposity. 'Here is the entrance of the Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance' Edwards announced, as an old sword and pointless piece of headgear were laid on a pedestal. The gathered spectators acted as if the Holy Grail had just been placed in front of them. Alongside our Welsh friend in the studio, Nick Robinson and the three party representatives positively salivated over proceedings and their conveyance of 'history' and 'authority'. To me it all seemed like pure tomfoolery.

Our unelected Head of State arrived, to address our unelected Upper Chamber. As the cameras panned throughout the corridors of Westminster, men dressed as if it was the seventeenth century kept the ceremony moving. In the robing room, Ken Clarke had accessorized his ridiculous garb with a regal looking, clutch bag-cum-purse in which the speech was kept. Once the Queen was eventually seated in the House of Lords some poor man was sent to tell the House of Commons to make their way over. As he made his way down the corridor a police woman yelled 'hats off, strangers', an act that was quickly trumped in rudeness my someone slamming the door in the face of the messenger. Unfazed, he withdrew a big stick and slammed the door with it until they let him in. It was all rather ridiculous.

The speech itself marked the dawn of the supposed 'new politics', but today was a stark reminder of how rooted in history our system is. Some people like that, but I fail to see any merit in retaining these ceremonial formalities. I don't see it changing any time soon, but as I took the last swig of my now lukewarm coffee, I felt rather bemused and very removed from the workings of our democracy.

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