Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Tonight, Britain is Great

The House of Commons is an old place. It came into being in 1341, when the Parliament of England split into two Houses, the Commons and the Lords. It has been burned to the ground and bombed by the Luftwaffe. When a bomb hit Big Ben in 1941, the clock continued to keep time accurately and the bell continued to chime.

It marches doggedly on against the tide of history. Most institutions and most places get swept away sooner or later, but this one keeps plodding upstream like a mollusc with Multiple Personality Disorder, imagining itself to be a bulldog at times, a government at others, the voice of its people at others still.

This evening, the Speaker - the colourful Mr. Bercow - squawked out, in the traditional format,

"The ayes to the right - four hundred! The noes to the left - one hundred and seventy-five! So the ayes have it, the ayes have it. Unlock!"

He was recording the passing of the second reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill through Parliament. Next it goes to the Lords. This means that tonight, the Commons has resolved to legalise the marriage of gay couples.

To put it another way, we have started the process of removing one of the last big prejudices institutionalised within British law.

So tonight Britain may call herself Great with some justification. Our Olympic and Jubilee flag-waving was fun - but through this vote Britain has shown that there really is something to be said for her quaint and almost ridiculous way of doing things.

We join the nations of The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Argentina, Iceland, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa and several states in the USA and Brazil. We're not ruling the waves, defeating Armadas or revolutionising industry. But we are moving, later than these countries but earlier than most, towards a future where reason, decency and open-mindedness have utterly overpowered bigotry, subservience to tradition and fear of change.

This evening, without the need for exaggeration or nostalgia, I am proud to be British.

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking the same earlier. It was a very good night to be British. Parliament did itself a real credit for once.