Don’t Swear

Queen ElizabethThere’s not much I’d agree about with Sinn Féin. Well, I’m sure their manifesto contains all sorts of progressive and right-on stuff, but I’ll start to believe they mean it once the party shows signs of not being a heirarchically-controlled, intolerant, undemocratic, fascist machine. Like once the party bosses lose the odd Ard Fheis vote, or councillors and assembly members begin to use phrases they have made up themselves instead of quoting the catechism.

Sorry, I got a bit digressed there. Let’s just say that I rarely see eye-to-eye with the Nationalist-Socialists, but one issue where I think their position is reasonable is the parliamentary Oath of Allegiance. Just to remind you, I can quote it in full — it’s very short: “I [name] 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.”

There’s an appoved non-religious variant which replaces swearing to God with a solemn affirmation, but if I was ever elected MP, I wouldn’t feel able to swear that one either. Swearing allegiance to another human being? Strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

No-one bit a rampant monarchist could swear that oath and mean it seriously. Therefore, we must conclude that the majority of the UK’s elected MPs are lying hypocrites. Oh yes, we knew that anyway. A few of them (22) tabled a motion in 2008 to have the oath replaced by a promise to serve their constituents and the nation and uphold the law. (All of them would have to have sworn the original oath, since it’s impossible to take part in parliamnetary affairs without doing so.) Curiously, prior to the reforms which removed most of the herediary peers from the House of Lords, there were 260 of them (including three with the rank of Royal Duke) who rfused to take the oath, and so could not attend or vote.

The elected members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly must take the same oath of personal allegiance to the Queen, but not the members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Assembly members instead must take a ten-point Pledge of Office, a reasonable list of principles of responsibility, democracy, law and fairness. A similar pledge would be a much more honest and democratic promise for UK parliamentarians, and we could add “I swear to claim only those expenses which were unavoidably incurred in the execution of my duties” just to be sure.

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