Erskine May


Or what?

A lot of people were talking about Erskine May recently, mainly along the lines of those two questions above. So who, or what, is Erskine May?

Erskine May is the name of a guide for parliamentary procedures in the UK, which was quite recently cited by Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow when stating why he wouldn’t allow a third vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal if it weren’t substantially different from the deal voted on twice previously.

(if you’re reading all this in the UK of the future by the way, this was about six months Before The Fall)

So where does this unusual name come from? Quite simply, it’s the name of the guide’s original author, Thomas Erskine May (almost contains Theresa!) It was originally entitled A Treatise upon the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament when first published in 1844. The name became progressively streamlined throughout the years and editions, understandably enough.

Around the early 20th century though, May became named in the title for the first time, and his name has remained as part of the title since, leading to the relatively minimalist title of the 24th edition: Erskine May: Parliamentary Practice. I think the presence of May’s name can largely be chalked up to respect for the man, and the importance of his work.

I think it can also be attributed to the fact that Erskine’s not a common name. When people talk about the book Erskine May, it doesn’t really feel like you’re using someone’s name. It’s not like if it were called John Smith or something.

As always with Brexit, the language of the whole mess is fascinating. Apart from Erskine May, and of course Brexit itself, there seems to be something new to learn every day. Like MV3. An abbreviation for Meaningful Vote 3, a hypothetical third vote on the Brexit deal. Oddly enough it’s MV3 that makes me think the UK has reached a point of no return. It just sounds so un-British, so needlessly short. So, dare I say it?, American?

It’s all just sad really, but at least Erskine May might save us from MV3 becoming a reality.

3 thoughts on “Erskine May

  1. Did you see the clip of John Bercow arriving to work yesterday, in a scruffy stripy jumper, looking like a hobo? It was amazing. I had never seen him out of his robes of office. I love the fact that this unlikely hero shuffling down Westminster looking like tramp is the man who is putting manners on the farcical House of Commons.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know that you’ve got Hansard as well, and foisted it on the rest of the Brittish world. I would love to see a Brittish flag on an old, crapt up Triumph or Brittish Layland that plays some Cromwellian ballad with some honorary Members of the House of Lords in it, the Dukes of Hanzzard.


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