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By Minyvonne Burke
A Labour member of the House of Commons was booted out of the chamber on Monday after causing an uproar by grabbing the ceremonial mace, a symbol of Parliament’s authority, and starting to carry it out of the room.
The rest of the world may not have known before today what a mace in Parliament is, but many people learned after watching the video on social media. It was also apparent to viewers that removing the mace from its resting place in the House of Commons is decidedly improper.
MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle was caught on video posted by BBC walking to the center of the House of Commons chamber, picking up the mace from a table and carrying it toward what appeared to be the exit before he was stopped.
The mace in Parliament symbolizes royal authority and without it neither House can meet or pass laws, according to Parliament’s website. The House of Commons mace is a silver gilt ornamental club, dating from the reign of Charles II in the 1600s.
As some other MPs erupted at Russell-Moyle’s move, with at least one person yelling for him to put it back, a woman approached and took the mace to return it to its proper spot.
Russell-Moyle was then expelled from the chamber.
In a tweet afterward, he said that he tried to exit the room with the mace to protest the prime minister’s postponing a Brexit vote.
“When the PM doesn’t allow a vote of the people on the Europe deal, now she won’t even allow a vote of parliament or give us a date as to when we get a vote. The only option is to heckle this shower of a government that can’t negotiate their way outa a paper bag,” he wrote.
He also tweeted that he would allowed back to the House of Commons tomorrow.
“Thankfully they haven’t locked me in the Tower of London,” Russell-Moyle tweeted, referring to the infamous prison used by Britain for centuries but which is now mainly a tourist site. “But if they had I’d expect May to be in the cell next to me for her treatment of Parliament today. I’m allowed back tomorrow after my symbolic protest against this government, wish May wasn’t allowed back.”
The U.S. House of Representatives also has a ceremonial mace that is kept in its chamber whenever the House meets. It is a symbol of the authority of the sergeant at arms of the House, according to the House website. The current House mace is silver and dates to 1841.
The mace in general was a weapon of war in Europe during the Middle Ages, but by the late 1700s was commonly used as a ceremonial symbol of legislative power, the House website says.