MPs are incomparable. This may seem an odd thing to say in the current climate of opinion, but I mean it exactly: they cannot be compared with others. Now that a big rise is being suggested by Ipsa, the ‘independent’ body which sets their pay, people say they should be compared with local authority chief executives or head teachers, or that they are a profession. They cannot, and they aren’t. They are our elected representatives. We elect them to make our laws and to vote ‘supply’, i.e. to decide how much of our money government may spend. They therefore constitutionally must decide, in public, on their own pay (if any) and vote on it. Anything else is an evasion, and Ipsa or anything like it is a power above Parliament, and therefore unanswerable to voters. When Ipsa began in 2009, David Cameron said that the decision that MPs should not vote on pay and rations was ‘an essential part of restoring faith in Parliament’. It was the opposite. It has now produced the undemocratic absurdity that Parliament will be breaking its own law unless it accepts its new increase.
In St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Monday, Lady Thatcher’s banner was ‘presented’. When a Knight (or Lady) of the Garter is alive, he has his own stall in the choir. Above it is his banner and — in the case of Knights — a sword half-drawn to defend the Sovereign and a helm. Lady Thatcher, being a woman, had no sword or helm, but only her baroness’s coronet, and her banner. When a Knight (or Lady) dies, his stall is cordoned off and a wreath is placed on it pending the presentation of the banner. His stall-plate (the oldest dates from 1390) stays in perpetuity; everything else goes. At evensong, as the hymn ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord’ was sung, nine Military Knights tramped in, and their Governor presented Lady Thatcher’s banner to the Dean, who swirled it dramatically (all the banners are very large) and laid it so that it hung from the altar during prayers in her memory. Nine Knights of the Garter attended, including the Duke of Wellington, who is 98 this week, and Sir John Major — a nice gesture on his part, since he did not always have cause to love her. Mark Thatcher and Carol Thatcher were present. The family keeps the banner. This moving occasion is very medieval. Like most medieval ceremonies in Britain, it was invented in the 20th century. King George VI approved it for use shortly before his death in 1952.
A reader informs me that he watched the whole of the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News on 26 June. The word ‘cuts’ was used 40 times, either written or spoken, and then appeared seven times more in the local south-east news. So that is more than 1.5 times per minute. Although the largest single group watching the BBC are taxpayers, I have yet to see a news item based round the premise that the government is spending too much on anything (except the royal family, or Lady Thatcher’s funeral), or that a cut might benefit us.
Looking forward, as one always must, I wonder if the law will eventually be changed to allow one to marry one’s dog. Until now, this would have been considered disgusting, since marriage has been a law revolving around sexual behaviour, and sexual acts with animals are still, I believe, illegal. But, as this column has pointed out, the unintended consequence of the same-sex marriage legislation has been to take sex out of marriage law. Civil servants, unable to define same-sex consummation, omitted it. So marriage, from now on, can mean no more than the legally registered decision of two people to live together while not being married to anyone else. The justification for this is ‘equality’, buttressed by the idea that love must carry all before it. People often love their dogs very much and want to spend their life with them. So why should they not, chastely, marry them? It will be objected that animals are not people and are therefore incapable of informed consent, but this is an example of what the animal-rights gurus call speciesism. Besides, anyone who lives with dogs knows that most of them do not suffer from commitment-phobia or incline to desertion, substance-abuse or reckless spending. They make excellent life-partners. No doubt some old bigots will claim that marriage is a uniquely human institution, but it won’t take long to find enlightened vicars who believe that human and canine dignity is in a very real sense enhanced by recognising inter-species unions. Soon celebrities, tired of human relationships, will hold dinky solemnisations with their chihuahuas, and eager Conservative modernisers will tweet their approval. Anyone who suggests that the whole thing is barking mad will be in breach of Public Equality Duty and denied a career in the public services.
Our hunt’s annual puppy show at the weekend was not, however, a form of speed-dating, but the traditional chance to judge the new entry. The Best Bitch, and Champion Puppy, was Bunting, by VWH Student ’09 out of North Cotswold Ruthless ’10. There was some discussion of politics. Rather as the Unite union, because it pays, claims the right to run the Labour party, hunting supporters, being almost the only people who still actually canvass for the Conservatives, want our reward. The parliamentary numbers have so far made it impossible for Mr Cameron’s promised repeal of the hunting ban, but we note that the allegedly unpopular badger cull was successfully whipped through the Commons with a large majority. Where there’s a will, we feel, there must be some sort of a way. If not, Vote OK, hunting’s electoral organisation, will close itself down, and Tory candidates at the next election will have to campaign all by themselves.
A Chinese lantern, it seems, set fire to a plastics recycling plant in Smethwick, causing £6 million worth of damage. There are calls to ban Chinese lanterns. Wouldn’t it be better for human happiness to ban plastics recycling plants?