Drop the oath to the Crown – put the people first

At the beginning of September, Sarah Dyke, the recently elected Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome, began her work as an MP. Before she could take to the green benches of the House of Commons, she was required to be sworn in. Lib Dem social media channels showed a video of Sarah taking this oath. The ceremony is bland and matter of fact, what was of greater interest were the comments expressing outrage at the proceedings. Party supporters, activists, and voyeurs of the event on Instagram showed particular distain for the words of the swearing in.

Every Member of Parliament must make one of the following declarations. The first is known as the oath and the other the affirmation. Which is chosen is a decision for the newly elected MP:

I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles, his heirs, and successors, according to law. So help me God.

Or, 

I do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles, his heirs and successors, according to law.

The confusion and hostility on social media over these words of allegiance to a King and his family where clear. “Politics needs modernising, what does the King have to do with anything?” “Not one mention of the people” and, “Does that mean republicans can’t be MPs?” All reasonable statements and questions.

Oaths of allegiance to the Crown are required by members of both Houses of Parliament. MPs cannot take their seats, speak in debates, vote, or receive a salary until taking the oath. They can be fined £500 and have their seat declared vacant “as if they were dead” should they attempt to do so. Because there are no routes to taking a seat in the Houses of Parliament without declaring a devotion to the Crown, the seven republican Sinn Féin members and their Northern Irish electorate are denied a voice in this “United Kingdom’s” national parliament.

From the Promissory Act 1868 and the Oaths Act 1978, there is an allowance for the oath to be said in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Cornish. A welcome acceptance of the nations which make up the UK. But the ghost of imperial Britain does not let the national partners in the union get above their station. Before any elected member from the nations of Wales, Scotland or Cornwall are allowed to speak their own tongue, the oath must first be said in English. There is no provision for the use of Irish Gaelic at all. 

Those of a conservative mindset claim that the oath of allegiance to the Crown is akin to a declaration of loyalty to the state. This argument does not wash. An inclusive swearing in ceremony – one in which the state is at the centre – would use words which allow all parts of UK society to believe that Westminster represents them, or that it could. Traditionalists may also add that the state is embodied in the Crown, in the monarch. That is a position which alienates those who are the future of the UK – under 40% of 18-24-year-olds think that Britain should continue to have a monarchy.

The retention of the Parliamentary oath to the Crown is already being challenged in King Charles’ distant realms. Jamaica is moving rapidly towards a referendum in 2024 that would remove King Charles as the nation’s head of state. Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Bahamas have signalled support for becoming independent from Britain. In December 2022, Québec’s government passed legislation to end elected members of its parliament required oath to King Charles. 

In cleansing itself of the oath to the Crown, the House of Commons has an opportunity. Focusing a future declaration of allegiance on the people, protecting the unique environment and landscapes of the British Isles and in defending the rights of generations yet to come. That would signal to every incoming Member of Parliament just why they are there and for whom they truly work.

 

 

   

 

* Simon Hobson is a former Winchester constituency organiser, an approved Parliamentary candidate and a director of Yes Cymru - the cross-party movement for an independent Wales.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

12 Comments

  • You are ready to take on the Mail, Express, Telegraph, Sun, GB News, Talk TV, I presume.
    Actually I agree with you but who would dare to actually change it. There is a challenge.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Sep '23 - 2:33pm

    Perhaps a move to change the oath should/could come best from the monarch

  • Neil Hickman 13th Sep '23 - 4:18pm

    theakes is right, of course; the Worst Press In The World, led by the great patriotic paper which spent the 1930s praising that nice Mr Hitler, would scream the place down. And at the moment, there are probably more worthwhile hills on which to die.
    But 23 years ago, being sworn in as a county court judge, I had the same dilemma. My rationalisation was that the affirmation refers to “heirs and successors according to law”. It says nothing about who or what those successors should be. We’ve tried the alternative, and the result was the 17th century equivalent of Boris Johnson, Charles II. When we eventually decide to grow up as a nation, we will do so by changing the law. And the ensuing head of state will be king Charles’s “successor according to law”.
    Jesuitical I accept, but less of a fag than the alternative.

  • If the only argument against the oath is that it excludes Sinn Fein then I’m not sure that’s a problem?! I suppose if we had a written constitution the oath could be to that as in the US.
    I hope that Jamaica et al don’t reject the monarchy as I think that as with countries who did the same it would be a mistake and could lead to instability.

  • Ian Patterson 13th Sep '23 - 11:32pm

    This could only appear on a LD website. The subject matter is of nil relevance to the public, whose minds are on more mundane matters, such as heating bills, mortgage rates, housing rents and putting food on families tables. It’s 3rd or even 4th or 5th level matter in constitutional importance.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Sep '23 - 6:54am

    I’m not worried about what any of the news outlets mentioned by @theakes say about us. They hate us anyway, and so do most of their consumers. (If anything I’d rather they wrote more bile about us, as it would remind people what we still exist.) I do, however, agree with @Ian Patterson that it’s a distraction from issues that voters care more about. By all means have a policy on it, but don’t put it on the front page of the manifesto or make it a major campaign issue.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Sep '23 - 8:20am

    @Ian Patterson
    “This could only appear on a LD website…….”
    Are you implying that participants should only discuss matters of current high concern to the peopole of our country – and should not discuss anything else here?

    How very illiberal.

  • Ian Patterson 14th Sep '23 - 9:11am

    @Nonconformistradical – no, the Oath issue is not a pulsating issue to put before the public, who will not care one way or another over it.

  • @ Simon Hobson I’d suggest a focus on more important Royal issues than oaths which many folk cross their fingers when making.

    Take censorship : today’s Guardian, “British television channels agreed to let Buckingham Palace censor television coverage of King Charles’s coronation, according to the former boss of Sky News, John Ryley.

    According to Ryley, the monarchy imposed “extraordinary restrictions” on channels covering this year’s ceremony, including to retrospectively ban footage after it had been broadcast. Reading from an agreement between the palace and broadcasters marked “private and confidential”, he told an audience at the Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture how the palace controlled coverage: “The royal spin doctors had the opportunity to censor any pictures from the coronation before they could be replayed on the day … And the royal spin doctors dictated which clips of the footage could be shown in future broadcasts in what they called with an Orwellian phrase: ‘a perpetuity edit’.”

    Ryley’s decision to speak out has broken the omertà around the secret agreements between British television and the royal family over coverage of formal events. His comments confirm many details previously reported in the Guardian about how Buckingham Palace controlled coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and King Charles III’s coronation”.

    You could highlight IHT – paid by my modest Mum’s estate, but not from that of the Queen, and dropping the inquiry into the granting of Honours to Middle Eastern donors to Dumfries House.

    Put some beef in it, Simon.

  • Adrian Bagehot 18th Sep '23 - 11:08pm

    “of course; the Worst Press In The World, led by the great patriotic paper which spent the 1930s praising that nice Mr Hitler”

    Are you referring to the Daily Mail or the Daily Express?

    “He is a born leader of men. A magnetic and dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, as resolute will and a dauntless heart …
    I have never met a happier people than the Germans and Hitler is one of the greatest men.”

    This was written in the article “I Talked to Hitler” for The Daily Express in September `1936 by the great Liberal statesman and former UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

    The same month, In an interview with the News Chronicle newspaper (formed by the merger of The Daily News and the Daily Chronicle in 1930) David Lloyd George declared,

    “Chancellor Adolf Hitler is one of the greatest of the many great men I have ever met,”

  • Neil Hickman 20th Sep '23 - 5:33pm

    Thank you for that Adrian.
    The sometime World Champion Alekhine has been called “the pride and the sorrow of chess” (an incredible player but collaborated with the Nazis). I increasingly feel a similar label could aptly be applied to Lloyd George.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Nonconformistradical
    @Thelma Davies I don't have a problem with your views on parental responsibility. But what do you think should be done about children whose parents are irr...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Tristan Ward: Each country has its own political party system, which has evolved because of multiple factors of which the electoral system is only one. In some...
  • Thelma Davies
    @Nonconform. I'm stating that it's my responsibility & my husband's that my children were toilet trained & had basic reading and writing skills prior to...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Simon Atkinson - I am so pleased you like our musings on Max's impact within and beyond the party. And please accept my sympathies to the whole family for the ...
  • Chris Moore
    @ExLD Leeds: that's a ludicrous reason not to vote LD. Theakes is in a vanishingly tiny minority regarding the desirability of PR, as you must well know. LDs...