Washminster

Washminster
Washminster

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Around Westminster

A little late today - my apologies. I've spent the morning doing a tour of the Palace of Westminster. There is so much history here - and much of it "accidental". By this, I mean that many of the revered practices at Westminster have arisen through an accident of history.

Members of the Commons go through the division lobby, bowing before their vote is counted. The reason is not some obscure courtesy to a person; office holder or place, but because when Cavaliers in the 17th Century approached the door of the lobby, they had to duck to avoid their huge hats being knocked off. Similarly MP's bow to the Speaker's Chair. The reason can be found below - the Chair replaced an earlier piece of "furniture".

Even the shape of the Commons Chamber and its layout results from an accident of history. MPs were thrown out of the Chapter House in Westminster Abbey - because they were too rowdy!!!. They hired rooms, but these were some distance from the Palace of Westminster - and petitioned the King for a permanent meeting room. They wanted the then redundant St Stephen's chapel. It was in the very centre of the Palace - and it was "available". The Speaker's Chair was placed on the site of the Altar - and MPs sat in the choir stalls - which faced each other - perhaps the two party system would have developed without it - but some are convinced that the layout influenced our style of government.

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