Protests and a ‘load of nonsense’: MPs take different approaches to swearing in

Protests and a ‘load of nonsense’: MPs take different approaches to swearing in

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On paper, the swearing-in of new and re-elected MPs at Westminster sounds like one of the most monotonous events imaginable.

Over the course of three days, 650 people line up to swear loyalty to ‘King Charles, his heirs and successors’ before they’re able to take part in debates or vote.

But thanks to the immense diversity of the new House of Commons, there have been a number of eye-catching moments from this ceremonial formality in the past couple of days.

Ahead of the process kicking off, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle warned: ‘I remind the House that the swearing-in and the proceeding of the House is recorded by television cameras, and that anything said or done by Members may appear on television, […] or be picked up by microphones.’

Certain politicians in the chamber may have taken note of that fact.

It’s worth noting that there are a couple of different ways of swearing it: you can either take an oath on a religious text or take a non-religious affirmation.

Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, swore on the Bhagavad Gita, while Keir Starmer is thought to be the first prime minister since Ramsay Macdonald in 1929 to opt for the affirmation.

Among the other religious books that can be used are the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Dhammapada and different versions of the Bible – available in languages including Gaelic and Welsh.

There are slipcases on the despatch box for books that may not be handled by non-believers.

Ex-PM Rishi Sunak took his oath yesterday on a copy of the Hindu holy text the Bhagavad Gita (Picture: EPA)

All MPs are required to say the oath in English, though they are allowed to repeat it in one of three different languages: Welsh, Scottish Gaelic or Cornish.

In this session, we’ve heard Welsh oaths from the four Plaid Cymru MPs and Cornish ones from all six of Cornwall’s new MPs – from both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.

But what about those MPs who don’t support the monarchy? Is there an option for them?

Well, not technically, but they’ve found a way. The two MPs for Northern Ireland’s SDLP, who support the reunification of Ireland, both made it clear they did not support the wording of the oath.

Party leader Colum Eastwood prefaced his oath by saying: ‘I’ll read out this empty formula in order to represent my constituents, but it’s under protest.’

He then finished off by saying: ‘My true allegiance is to the people of Derry and the people of Ireland.’

Keir Starmer shakes the hand of Speaker Lindsay Hoyle after saying his affirmation (Picture: EPA)

His colleague Claire Hanna gave a similar sentiment ahead of her oath, speaking in Irish before repeating her words in English: ‘In friendship and in hope of a reconciled, new Ireland, my allegiance is to the people of Belfast South and Mid Down and I say these words in order to serve them.’

Labour MP Clive Lewis, a republican, said: ‘I take this oath under protest and in the hope that one day my fellow citizens will democratically decide to live in a republic.’

Perhaps the most famous republican in Westminster, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, didn’t add any extra wording when taking his affirmation.

But ahead of reading out the text for his 11th time since first being elected in 1983, he was heard muttering: ‘This is such a load of nonsense, isn’t it?’

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