Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 27 November 2009

"What a load of nonsense," whispered a fellow MP to one of his party colleagues while we crammed into the House of Lords waiting for her Majesty to start reading the script written by the government, "the sooner we abolish it the better!" His comment was not about the contents of the Speech, which I might have shared, but about the ceremony that surrounded it.
But I enjoy the time-honoured pageantry that surrounds the state opening of Parliament. Of course these traditions have to be constantly reviewed to make sure that the ceremonial does not get in the way of the substance, but once a year – is that too much to ask to roll out the Crown Jewels, the red carpet, those magnificent horses and all of the splendour? I think not.
Combining heritage with the current is something our country does well. Tradition on its own can become death; modern practices with no root can fall over in a storm – it is the bringing of them together that yields the fruit.
It would be possible for the speech setting out the government's priorities for the year to be read by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons with no reference to the Head of State. But would we be any better off? And what would we lose? Who would tune in to that? This annual celebration is a reminder that our reigning monarch is our Head of State; it is her government, made up of members of parliament that the country has elected. A very effective arrangement and long may it continue.
To appreciate Britain we must understand the delicate, largely unwritten, nuances that make up our constitutional settlement, these invisible threads that bind our society together. At the other end of the scale, in every community, other forces are at work: the myriads of small organisations and charities and voluntary groups that do such much on the ground to keep our communities vibrant and cohesive. It is a joy for me, as I trundle around the constituency each weekend, to encounter the selfless work that so many of these do.
One of them is the Plympton Community Council and they are holding their Christmas Fair at Harewood House Plympton between 10 am and 1pm on Saturday 5th December. I mention it partly because it will be wonderful and partly because they have threatened to do nasty things to me if I do not.

posted by Gary @ 07:49