Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Seize the power

Want to draw attention to your point of view? Publicly seize a symbol of power.

The Mace
As the lawmaker approached the large ornamental club in the middle of Britain’s House of Commons on Monday night, his fellows chattered in the benches. When he hoisted it up, a clamor erupted: “Disgrace,” “Expel him,” “No!”

But when he turned and tried to walk out with the ceremonial mace, John Bercow, the speaker of the House, said, “Order. Put it back. No, no.”

At the exit, a white-haired woman emerged to grab the scepter from the offending member of Parliament, Lloyd Russell-Moyle. He gave it up without a fight, and she ended the brief rebellion in Parliament, an abortive heist that reflected the current chaos in Britain’s government, where confusion — about policy, authority and a mace — has in recent days reigned.

The mace, decorated with roses, thistles and pearls, represents the royal authority of the crown, from which the Houses of Parliament derive their own authority…

Has this happened before?

On several occasions, Britons angry with their government have brandished the mace and dismayed their peers…

In each instance, [Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics] said, grabbing the mace was “considered grave disorder,” because “anybody who picks up or touches the mace is kind of rebelling against the underlying function of the House of Commons.”…

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