The Election of a Speaker

The first Speaker? The remarkable account in the Anonimalle Chronicle of the so-called ‘Good Parliament’ of 1376 provides what is generally taken to be the first reference to a ‘Speaker’ of the Commons, Sir Peter de la Mare. The account is extraordinarily detailed and circumstantial – so unusual for an account of any event in… Continue reading The Election of a Speaker

Qualifications for the Speakership

Left: Sir Arthur Onslow, by George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend ink drawing, 1751-1758; Right: Arthur Wellesley Peel, Viscount Peel, photogravure after Sir William Quiller Orchardson, 1898, both NPG: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Often, in descriptions of the office of Speaker, Christopher Yelverton’s speech of 24 October 1597, on being elected Speaker, is quoted.… Continue reading Qualifications for the Speakership

Prorogation and Adjournment

The modern practice of prorogation and adjournment is in theory, at least, clearly enough understood. Prorogation is an act of the Crown, usually used to mark the end of one session and fix a date for the start of another. Adjournment is an act of each House of Parliament, used routinely to end each day’s… Continue reading Prorogation and Adjournment

Votes of no confidence

The principle that an administration can only function if it has the backing of a majority in the House of Commons is acknowledged to be a fundamental part – perhaps the fundamental part – of not only the British, but of any parliamentary constitution. It expresses the idea that Parliament itself cannot exercise executive power,… Continue reading Votes of no confidence

Whips and the origins of Parliamentary Whipping

Earlier this year an Early Day Motion sponsored by a number of former chief whips and signed by a long cast of others who have served as whips marked what is being treated as the centenary of the Government Whips’ office. But while the office may be relatively young, the function of whipping is almost intrinsic to parliamentary life.

The House of Commons Steeplechase

Although it has passed the world of racing by, so far as I’m aware, this month is the 130th anniversary of what was apparently the first House of Commons Steeplechase, and possibly also the first occasion on which a formal sporting competition had been organised among Members of Parliament.