Robert Rogers, the Clerk of the House of Commons, is the latest in a long line of distinguished authors to have produced a miscellany of Parliamentary history, information and quirks. His volume Order! Order! A Parliamentary Miscellany is a worthy addition to that sequence.
Originally published in 2009 it has just been republished with little changed other than a new Foreword. As a result, although it is not quite as up to date as its 2012 publication date might suggest, it is still pretty fresh. Given Rogers’s background, it is also no surprise that this is primarily a miscellany of the House of Commons. The House of Lords is much the neglected partner.
As with any miscellany, its real joy comes from dipping in and out to sample random collections of information, such as the different nicknames given to past Parliaments. The Addled Parliament of 1614 passed no Acts and so acquired its name: no eggs were hatched, as it were. The Dunces Parliament of 1404 was so nicknamed after Henry IV stipulated that no lawyers could be returned as Members. And so on we go through amusing, entertaining and sometimes enlightening too facts and anecdotes.
Rogers also does a fair degree of myth-busting, particularly around the two lines on the floor in front of the front benches in the House of Commons: no, their distance apart does not come from two sword lengths, and no, they are not the origin of the phrase ‘to toe the line’.
You won’t get any great thoughts on the nature of Parliament in this volume, but as you dip in and out of its entertaining pages a fair amount of useful knowledge seeps in through the edges.