The Godless Labour Shadow Cabinet
It has been observed that there is a distinct divide between the Libservative and Labour frontbench teams.
A clear majority of the Government frontbenchers swore allegiance under the religious form of the oath, while the Labour Shadow Cabinet was dominated by those who chose to affirm their loyalty in a secular form.
The majority of the Cabinet, led by David Cameron, took the oath: one by one they made a solemn declaration on pain of divine or preternatural wrath:
I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg declared:
I do solemnly, sincerely and most and affirm I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.Oliver Letwin was the only other Coalition frontbencher to affirm using the non-religious oath. Senior Liberal Democrat figures Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, David Laws and Chris Huhne all opted for the religious oath.
But the Shadow Cabinet revealed their godlessness as the Almighty was set aside. David Miliband, Alistair Darling, Harriett Harman, Alan Johnson, Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper, Bob Ainsworth and John Denham all successively chose to ‘affirm’ rather than ‘swear’ allegiance.
During the swearing-in process, one backbench MP was caught on microphone observing: "Presumably in other times in our history the oath has been used to work out who is Catholic, who is Anglican, and all that?"
"Or who's religious and who's not," the clerk suggested.
It was, of course, nothing to do with discerning who is ‘religious’, and the Clerk really should have known better. Religious restrictions in the oath effectively barred individuals of certain faiths (Roman Catholics, Jews and Quakers) from entering Parliament for many years. But servants of the Crown have sworn allegiance to the Monarch since Magna Carta. Over the centuries this developed into three distinct oaths: of Supremacy (repudiation of the spiritual or ecclesiastical authority of any foreign prince, person or prelate); of Allegiance (declaration of fidelity to the Sovereign); and Abjuration (repudiation of the right and title of descendants of James II to the throne).
In 1953, the Queen swore on oath at her Coronation ‘to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom according to their laws and customs’. She promised ‘to maintain to the utmost of (her) power the Laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed religion established by law’. She declared, with Bible in hand: ‘The things I have here before promised I will perform and keep. So help me God.’
In swearing this, she committed herself and the Crown-in-Parliament to uphold the supremacy of Scripture. Thus every Member of Parliament swearing their Oath of Allegiance, while not being constrained in their individual conscience to profess the Christian faith, is declaring their commitment to defend biblical Christianity. Allegiance to the Queen must, at the very least, demand a defence of her oaths and promises to her subjects.
Thus those Members of Parliament who opt simply to ‘affirm’ their allegiance are, in fact, dedicating their lives to upholding the institution of Monarchy and therefore to defending the Coronation Oath.
Ergo, whether they ‘swear by Almighty God’ or ‘affirm’, MPs are making a formal declaration of the supremacy of the Protestant Reformed religion established by law.