Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Long Journey

Britain elected a new Speaker of the House of Commons yesterday, in an election that had many interesting features. For instance, it is understandable that the House, mired in scandals resulting from questionable expenditures by members, would turn to a member from the opposition Tory party as the new Speaker. Some, however, have suggested that John Bercow, the new Speaker, was chosen precisely because he is unpopular with the Tories, having criticized some conservative policies.

But what I really want to note is that Bercow is the first Jewish Speaker of the House of Commons. Not such a big deal these days, of course, but rather more important when one considers that when Lionel de Rothschild was elected to Parliament in 1847, he could not take his seat because he could not take the oath of office, which required him to swear "on the true faith of a Christian." Rothschild declined so to swear, and was unable to take his seat for nine years, during which he was re-elected twice, until Parliament finally adopted a bill relaxing the oath requirement for Jews. So a small but significant milestone as Jews have finally gone from entry into the House to attaining the House's highest office.

No comments: