The Daily Telegraph
Faithful and faithless line up to swear allegiance
“WHY aren’t they working?”, fulminated the disgusted-of-twitter types as MPS trooped into the Chamber to swear allegiance to the new King.
The republicans, still smarting from recent events, weren’t too happy about it either. But there was something touching about this conveyor belt of parliamentarians queuing up, school trip style, to make their pledge.
Afterwards, they’d sign a register and receive a blessing from the Speaker, who would smile and clap them on the hands, like a jolly headmaster handing out prizes on speech day.
MPS could choose either a secular affirmation or a religious oath, with most opting for the religious one.
Jewish and Muslim MPS requested an Old Testament, Torah or Koran; Catholics a Jerusalem Bible – though not Boris Johnson, despite his Westminster Cathedral wedding. Rishi Sunak took his oath on a Gita, Craig Whittaker a Book of Mormon. Most encouragingly, no one asked for a Good News bible.
MPS delivered their oaths in a variety of accents and languages. Robert Buckland swore allegiance in English and in lilting Welsh that lent romance to the oft-repeated sentiments. Afzal Khan delivered his in English and Urdu. Jim Shannon went at it in thundering Ulster-scots, while Scott Mann performed his in Cornish.
Initially, at least, affirmations seemed an overwhelmingly Labour habit; Margaret Beckett, Hilary Benn and Lucy Powell went in quick succession. But not exclusively so; Wes Streeting performed a great booming oath to the King James Bible.
Some of the more old-school Tory MPS specifically requested it. “I’ll go for the Bible if I may,” said Desmond Swayne – the nearest thing Parliament has to a 17-century Cavalier. “I hope it’s the King James Version.”
As the devout Sir Edward Leigh ambled over, the clerk pre-empted him: “I presume you’d like to swear.”
There were a few Tory dissenters. Pork pie plotters Alicia Kearns and Dehenna Davison both plumped for the secular affirmation.not since Catesby and Fawkes have religious nonconformists been so united in their desire to bring down a government.
In terms of religious fervour, this was a mixed ability group. Anne-marie Trevelyan requested a “St James’s Bible” while Andrew Griffith asked to do “the oath thing”. Others were more discerning. SNP MP Lisa Cameron, a devout Christian, didn’t just ask for the KJV, she double checked it to be sure.
But perhaps my favourite oath came from Andrew Mitchell: “I was going to affirm but I think I’ll swear – there’s no infidels in the trenches.”