Top five most dramatic times the parliamentary mace has been seized
In Mystery in the Palace of Westminster, the parliamentary mace is stolen and our heroes –Theo and Sammy – set out to find the thief. As the mace is the symbol of the Queen’s authority in parliament, the government can’t sit and debate new laws without it.
In real life, MPs have made several attempts to remove the mace and disrupt parliament. Some of them with dramatic consequences. I've put together my top five.
5. Defying the Speaker – Lloyd Russell-Moyle, 2018
During the Brexit debates, the Labour MP for Brighton Kempton, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, seized the parliamentary mace from its position on the table in the House of Commons. He made a dash for the exit, but was stopped before he could leave the chamber.
The Speaker of the House of Commons demanded that he put it back. Russell-Moyle did replace the mace, but he refused to leave the Commons.
4. Protesting a runway – John McDonnell, 2009
John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, picked up the mace during a debate about adding another runway at Heathrow. He immediately placed the mace on an empty bench.
The Deputy Speaker ordered McDonnell to leave the chamber. He was later suspended from the Commons for five days for his misdemeanour.
3. Mutiny – Ron Brown, 1988
Labour MP, Ron Brown, caused uproar when he lifted the mace and dropped it to the floor. Some claimed that he threw it down in a rage. He caused £1,500 worth of damage and a lot of ruffled feathers.
Brown agreed with the Speaker that he would make a statement in the Commons, apologising for his actions. But after changing the agreed wording, he was expelled from the chamber. This led to a debate in the Commons to decide what to do with him. Ultimately, he was suspended from the Commons for 20 days and from the Labour Party for three months.
2. Commotion in the Commons – Michael Heseltine, 1976
On a particularly dramatic occasion, Conservative MP, Michael Heseltine, lifted the mace and waved it at the Labour benches. He was perturbed by the fact that his party had lost a parliamentary vote by just one vote.
As he waved the mace at his opponents, his own colleague wrested it from his hands to replace it on its stand. Meanwhile a fight broke out between a Tory and a Labour MP. The Deputy Speaker suspended the Commons for 20 minutes.
The incident became the subject of an award-winning play by James Graham – This House.
1. Revolution – Oliver Cromwell, 1653
By far the most successful attempt to seize the mace was by Oliver Cromwell, during what became known as the Rump Parliament.
During a heated debate, Cromwell was so enraged by his fellow members that he cried, ‘You are no parliament!’ He ordered troops to remove ‘that fool’s bauble, the mace’, which they promptly did. After the mace’s removal, Cromwell dissolved parliament, cementing his power as England’s latest autocratic leader.