Britain is verifiably weird. We all know that. There’s the headline-event eccentricity (cheese rolling, Morris dancing, Tube parties) as well as smaller bouts of strangeness, from our love of innuendoes to our obsession with the ‘right’ way to drink tea.
But perhaps weirdest of all are the arcane rules, regulations and customs of British democracy – and this week, the spotlight is shining firmly on the Queen’s Speech.
It was announced on Monday that the speech from the throne, which marks the state opening of parliament, has been delayed from its scheduled date of 19 June. Speculation was rife that this was because the Government had not yet managed to firm up the details of a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party.
However, government sources have now claimed that the pushback is due to a very unusual (and eye-rollingly British) reason: the speech has to be written on goatskin parchment, and the ink won’t be dry in time for the big day.
Despite its entirely misleading name, the ‘goatskin’ parchment the Queen’s Speech is written on is not actually the skin of a goat. According to the Cabinet Office, it’s actually thick, high-quality archival paper, guaranteed to last at least 500 years.
While it was traditionally made from goatskin, the modern version contains no animal products at all (although it does bear a goat-shaped watermark, which is kind of cute). The BBC’s Nick Robinson reports that the phrase ‘Going goat’ is still used in Whitehall to describe the moment when the Queen’s Speech is finalised and sent off to the Palace for Her Majesty’s approval.
This year, however, ‘going goat’ is proving to be more difficult than usual. The annual Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s legislative plans for the coming year, and the Telegraph reports that a Conservative majority and a Labour majority speech had both been prepped ahead of the election on 8 June.
Nobody had prepared for the eventuality of a shock hung parliament, leading to a minority Conservative government propped up by the DUP – meaning that a new speech is still being hammered out, and is yet to be written on
Twitter reacted with a mixture of astonishment, delight and derision to the news that the Queen’s Speech is being delayed because of goatskin.
I'm not saying Britain is strange, but the programme of the new government may be delayed because of the time taken to write on goatskin.— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) June 12, 2017
Some thought that it all seemed like a little too much of a convenient excuse for the Conservatives...
Banking the goatskin vellum excuse for next time I miss a deadline. Never fails.— Tom Fletcher (@TFletcher) June 12, 2017
AS FOR THAT BOLLOCKS ABOUT DELAYING THE QUEENS SPEECH 'COS IT HAS TO BE WRITTEN ON GOATSKIN...— Spencer (@spencerpeegee) June 13, 2017
NOTHING *HAS* TO BE WRITTEN ON GOATSKIN!
While others used the opportunity to highlight the DUP’s homophobic, anti-women policies.
Sigh. Never change, Britain. Or, you know, do.
Images: Rex Features