Tories should boycott the State Opening of Parliament
The High Court of Parliament enjoys all the privileges of any court in the land, and more. Parliamentarians should be immune from arbitrary arrest and invasive searches. Members of Parliament are not above the law, but the law is certainly not above them in the proper execution of the duties.
Mr Cameron has demanded of the Prime Minister an explanation of why the Shadow Spokesman on Immigration, Damian Green, was arrested and questioned by the police for simply making public information that the Government wanted to keep secret.
Explanation came there none.
Mr Cameron has called on the Prime Minister to condemn this infringement of the sovereignty of Parliament and the privilege of MPs.
Condemnation came there none.
That the Queen’s Prime Minister and Cabinet appear to be complicit in this constitutional outrage demands that Her Majesty be made aware of the severity of the situation. Fortunately, Damian Green was not a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council – the Queen’s closest advisors who give confidential advice on secret affairs of state – but there appears to have been little regard for his personal effects had he been so. The police did not ask David Cameron or Boris Johnson if Mr Green was a ‘Right Honourable’. If he were sworn of the Privy Council – as many senior politicians are – and they had confiscated his means of communication and searched through his private papers, we would not be talking merely of police interference but treason.
That aside, it remains a mystery why the police forewarned HM Leader of the Opposition and the Mayor of London, but (apparently) said nothing to the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, or even to a Home Office minister.
This Wednesday, Her Majesty comes to the Palace of Westminster for the State Opening of Parliament. The cellars shall be searched by the Yeomen of the Guard in order to prevent a modern-day Gunpowder Plot, and the Crown will take a member of the House of Commons to Buckingham Palace as a hostage to guarantee the safety of the Sovereign as she enters a possibly hostile Parliament. Her majesty will outline her Government’s legislative agenda in the House of Lords, for no monarch has entered the House of Commons since 1642 when King Charles I entered the Commons Chamber and attempted to arrest five members. Speaker Lenthall famously defied the King, refusing to inform him as to where the members were hiding. As Black Rod tries to enter the Commons’ Chamber, the doors shall be slammed in his face – symbolising the independence of the Commons and its right to debate without the presence of the Queen's representative.
It may all appear to be archaic, obscure and a complete waste of time. But it is steeped in centuries of tradition, and laden with constitutional significance.
If Mr Cameron has not by Wednesday received a satisfactory explanation from Speaker Martin for the arrest of Damian Green and the searching of his parliamentary offices, he should boycott the State Opening and instruct all Conservative members to do the same, on a three line whip.
It has been suggested that Conservative members (along with concerned Liberal Democrats and Labour members) should instead gather instead at Runnymede for a commemoration of Magna Carta.
Cranmer would rather they petition Her Majesty directly, and create one of those ‘Black Rod’ moments which will go down in the annals of parliamentary history.
But, sadly, with the increasing prevalence in the Commons of supine neo-functionaries, there is no sense of theatre, no appreciation of the dramatic, no understanding of the significance of the occasion or any appreciation of an opportunity for making history. Mr Cameron may have accurately identified a ‘watershed moment’, but it remains to be seen if he may be possessed of the mighty spirit of Pitt / Disraeli / Churchill, or even the wise humility of Speaker Lenthall.