There was the usual pageantry for the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday. Given that it was a two-year session, some new peers were attending the ceremony for the first time. The chamber was packed. (One year, there were empty benches at the back, the result apparently of a shortage of robes. ) The timetable doesn’t change, so everyone knows the routine. Nowadays, there are television screens in the chamber, so we can see what is going on outside. Previously, we would be sat in the chamber for over an hour waiting for the Queen to arrive, without seeing any of the proceedings leading up to her arrival.
The occasion is symbolically important as it is the one occasion when the legal entity of Parliament – the Queen-in-Parliament – assembles. As peers, we have to wear our robes. (It was quite hot wearing them. One advantage when State Opening was in November was that it was cooler.) As regular readers will know, one thing guaranteed to infuriate peers is when a story about the House of Lords appears in the press and it is accompanied by a picture of peers at State Opening.
The ceremony is quite short. This year, the speech was rather sparse in content, and the Queen sounded a little hoarse in reading it. It was well trailed that there would be a reference to reform of the Lords, but the reference came towards the end of the speech and in rather opaque form. A Bill would be brought forward to reform the composition of the House. There was no reference to election. That leaves quite a degree of latitude. The fight goes on.