At the end of a long day in Parliament, following Theresa May’s decision to delay the meaningful vote on her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, a Labour Member of Parliament has caused a stir and broken Parliamentary protocol.
MP Lloyd Russel-Moyle picked up the ceremonial mace following the postponement of the vote and attempted to leave the House with the important ornament.
The ceremonial mace is a symbol of Royal authority. It reminds Parliament and the Government that they are working for Her Majesty the Queen. It is a silver gilt ornamental club, and around five foot in length. It’s a symbol of our great parliamentary tradition, and the mace itself dates back to the reign of Charles II, who became king in 1650.
On every day that the House of Commons is sitting, the mace is carried into the Chamber by the Sergeant at Arms and is placed on the table between both sides of the House. It is left untouched by Parliamentarians, and removed by the Sergeant at Arms at the end of sessions.
Russel-Moyle didn’t randomly decide to do this. He knew that what he was doing has some precedent as a gesture of protest, and of course, he wanted some attention.
This has happened before. Labour Party Member John Beckett did it in 1930. Beckett was suspended for attempting to leave the Chamber with the mace in protest against the suspension of another member of the House.
A Conservative Party Member of the House, Michael Heseltine, once removed the mace, in protest against Labour MPs signing the socialist anthem "The Red Flag" in Parliament. For the most part, though, this is a Labour tradition. Along with John Beckett, Ron Brown MP did it in 1988, John McDonnell did it in 2009, and now Lloyd Russel-Moyle has done it.
Russel-Moyle is unlikely to face any disciplinary action other than being suspended for the day, but his actions have shown that Parliament is in total disarray.
Theresa May surely cannot last much longer.