This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Thanks to Gordon Brown, it’s not even going to make a ripple in the ‘former Labour leaders caught on a hot mic’ stakes, but Jeremy Corbyn, the independent MP for Islington North, made a few headlines as he was sworn into parliament for an 11th time.

“This is such nonsense, isn’t it?” he muttered to Labour's Marie Rimmer. Whatever you think of Mr Corbyn and his politics, it’s hard to argue.

To be sworn in and take one’s seat as an MP, it’s necessary to pledge allegiance to the crown. Not doing so means an elected representative cannot vote, speak in debates or receive a salary.

As such hundreds of MPs must line up to declare: “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, as both Mr Corbyn and the new Prime Minister Keir Starmer did, a secular version known as a ‘solemn affirmation’ which excludes the religious bits.

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Given that Mr Corbyn is a lifelong Republican, one can kind of see why pledging his allegiance to the monarch and all his heirs might seem a bit ridiculous to the veteran MP, and others of his constitutional persuasion have used the occasion to engage in a bit of light protest.

The late Tony Benn would preface his oath with statements about his own beliefs on the monarchy before every parliamentary term, stating in 1997 that “as a committed Republican, under protest, I take the oath required of me by law”.

Dennis Skinner, his fellow Labour MP, stated he would bear true allegiance to the Queen “when she pays her income tax”, while in 2019 the SNP MP Steven Bonnar crossed his fingers during the affirmation. Four years earlier, Livingston MP Hannah Bardell had to re-take the oath after omitting the word ‘Queen’ – something she called “a genuine mistake”.

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While many find the sight of grown men and women queuing up to declare their loyalty to a Monarch, like many traditions of the British state there’s a darker past to the oath. The Liberal MP Charles Bradlaugh, an atheist, was barred from taking his seat at Westminster in 1880 after refusing to swear by “almighty God”, with the rules at the time also effectively barring Catholics, Jews or Muslims from taking seats. It was not until 1888 that the parliament permitted an affirmation, rather than an oath.

The pomp and ceremony of Westminster is, of course, reflective of its status as the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ but that doesn’t mean it’s not, in Mr Corbyn’s words, “nonsense”.

In 2018, the Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle caused an uproar during a Brexit debate. You see, the representative for Brighton Kemptown picked up a five-foot golden mace which represents the authority of the monarch in parliament, and without which laws cannot be passed. Fortunately for the future of democracy the Serjeant-at-Arms – or Black Rod – a woman bearing a sword who is responsible for the mace, stopped him.

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle picked up the authorial mace during a Brexit debate (Image: Newsquest)
This week also brought the scene of re-elected speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, being dragged to his chair, a holdover from the days where a speaker relaying bad news to the King or Queen could reasonably expect a swift “off with his head”, while the 2015 SNP intake will recall being swiftly rebuked for clapping in the chamber which is not allowed – though boorish jeering seems to be the lingua franca of PMQs.

A perceived lack of engagement from the general public in politics is often lamented but, really, who can blame them? If you’re struggling to put food on the table or heat your home during a cost-of-living crisis and happen to flick on BBC Parliament to see MPs – most of them white men, many of them privately educated – jeering at each other via the medium of the Speaker (so long as the golden mace is present, of course) why would you think those people understand, never mind speak for, your interests?

Still, next week brings the state opening of parliament, in which King Charles – to whom we must unironically refer as ‘His Majesty’ – will sit on a throne embedded with crystals, a platinum crown upon his head, and deliver ‘His Majesty's Most Gracious Speech’.

Nonsense? Never…