Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"You don't pick and choose traditions"

Nadine Dorries is annoyed that the Speaker of the House of Commons no longer wears the traditional dress. This used to include a wig, knee breeches, silk stockings and buckled shoes. John Bercow wears a plain black gown over his lounge suit ("business" suit if you must.)

Despite the simplifying of dress, it seems that MPs are still expected to observe the tradition of standing still with their backs to the wall and their eyes diverted when the Speaker walks down the corridor. Nadine Dorries has rebelled against this tradition, causing great annoyance to the Speaker by doing so. She writes:
My response: if you want to drop the tradition of wearing the Speaker’s dress, then don’t expect me to honour the tradition of standing still in the corridor when you move along it. You don’t pick and choose traditions. If you do you begin to erode away at what brings millions of pounds into this country each year via our tourism economy. You erode the authority of the Speaker’s chair and, by doing so, erode the authority of Parliament itself.
Something doesn't seem entirely right here: I am not sure that flouting one tradition is a good protest against the loss of another. Nevertheless it is interesting to read an MP on the importance of tradition; and she is right that you can't just pick the ones you are "comfortable" with.

A question I would ask is "Why bother with the gown?" Plain and simple it may be, but if you are not going to wear the proper stuff, what on earth is the point of wearing anything distinctive at all? It rather reminds me of priests saying Mass in jeans and a t-shirt with a stole thrown over. Why do they wear a stole?
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