At least some Tory MPs understand what true conservatism is all about.
Acting on that insight, Crispin Blunt has proposed that parliamentary proceedings should no longer start with a prayer.
Parliamentary prayers, he explained, are “not compatible with a society which respects the principle of freedom of and from religion”.
As a lifelong champion of progress and secularism, I couldn’t agree more. Alas, some, mercifully few, unrepentant reactionaries agree quite a bit less. In fact, they don’t agree at all.
Their turgid arguments don’t deserve to be repeated, but I’ll mention them anyway, just to show how grossly they misunderstand the essence of today’s conservatism.
Thus they claim it would take a major constitutional shift to free Britain from the overbearing yoke of religion. They even dare to remind us that, unlike some other Anglophone countries one could mention, Britain has a state religion.
In fact, and I’m ashamed even to think of this, our reigning head of state promised on her ascent to maintain “the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel”.
Those fossils should look at the calendar. It’s 2019 now, and that oath was taken in 1953. This means that those alive at the time are now either dead or at least in possession of bus passes.
In other words, these wrinkly reactionaries are the same scoundrels who tried to derail the train of progress by voting to leave that most progressive of all political arrangements, the EU. Off to the knacker’s yard with them – or the euthanasia clinic if you’d rather.
The rest of us must march on to the beat of modernity because the dial of civilisation is reset in every new generation. In one era, out the other, that’s what I say.
Today’s vibrant, progressive generation needs no God, no Queen (we do need many queens, but that’s a separate subject) and – between you and me – no Britain, oh so self-righteous about her precious sovereignty.
Another specious argument is that parliamentary prayer has been around since 1558. But that’s precisely the reason to bin it now.
You wouldn’t drive a 1958 car, would you? No ABS, no automatic transmission, no seat belts, no GPS – who needs that piece of antiquated rubbish? Why then would you want to keep an antediluvian practice that’s 400 years older than that?
However, my good friend Crispin and I may be progressive Tories, but Tories we are. That’s why we think twice before wantonly abandoning anything.
Hence, rather than dumping parliamentary prayer out of hand, we ought to make a good fist of bringing it up to date in accordance with the progressive standards of our time.
Crispin and I have been trying to do just that, but it’s still work in progress. So we’d welcome any suggestions from our fellow progressive Tories, and proponents of other progressive beliefs too, come to think of it.
Meanwhile, this is where we’ve got so far, editing this outdated document word by word.
“Lord, the God of righteousness and truth…” It should be instantly obvious that the word ‘God’, unless implied in the acronym OMG, has no place in a modern legislature.
‘Lord’, however, can stay, provided we specify which lord we have in mind. Mandelson? Adonis? Or, if we’re after blind allegiance, Blunkett? We’re still debating that, but you catch the drift.
“… grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit.” OMG, one doesn’t know where to begin.
But Crispin and I are sufficiently adept to turn this passage into something meaningful with just a few minor tweaks. Our current thinking is in favour of this wording: “…grant our queens in government and Parliament the guidance of the Maastricht spirit…”.
Short, to the point and no silly superstition in sight, that’s a bit of all right, as Crispin likes to say.
“May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals…” Now this is silly, not just obsolete.
Our parliamentarians wouldn’t have stood for their seats if they didn’t love power. They have, goes the new phrase around Westminster, “the convictions of their power”. Rather than the other way around, get it?
So it stands to reason that, if our MPs didn’t love power, we wouldn’t have any MPs at all, and the whole discussion would be pointless.
As to the other two phrases, Crispin and I both feel they undermine democracy. At a pinch, your representatives may have no ideals at all – in fact, as real Tories we’d prefer it. But, by definition, they can’t have unworthy ideals because, if they did, you wouldn’t have voted for them.
And what, pray tell, is wrong with the desire to please? If they don’t please you, you’ll vote them out, and they won’t be able to exercise their power.
All in all, our preferred wording is: “May they use their power to please enough voters to stay in power.” There, that’s much better.
“… but laying aside all private interests and prejudices…” Excuse me?
The whole idea of democracy is tossing all private interests into a giant cauldron and boiling them together to produce a tasty, homogeneous stew.
That delivers public good even if those private interests are stupid and subversive. A negative times a negative equals a positive, that mathematical law has never been repealed.
So our MPs’ private interests, rather than being laid aside, should take pride of place. As should their prejudices, provided they don’t include faith in the bearded chap up in the clouds, whose nonexistence has been decisively proved by Darwin, Dawkins et al.
“…keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind…” This we like, but the brief is too broad: ‘of all EU’ makes more sense, and it also encourages us to remain, as all true Tories wish.
“… so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed.” Whichever lord we decide to worship, be it Mandelson or any other, we certainly don’t want him to become king even if he’s already a queen.
Nor do we want his name to be hallowed, whatever that means. Hence we propose to omit this meaningless and redundant phrase altogether.
There, our parliamentary prayer is finally taking shape. It’s brave, it’s new, it’s worldly – and so, so us.