Usher of the Black Rod
On the day Rod Donald should have been sworn in for his fourth term as a MP, it is some irony that the Governor General has announced the retirement of an honourary officer of his household, Colonel William (Bill) Nathan.
His title? Usher of the Black Rod!
The position originates in the House of Lords of the British Parliament. In a Parliament where there is an upper house, the Usher of the Black Rod has a similar role in the upper house to that of the Serjeant-at-Arms in the lower house.
While we got rid of our upper house (The Legislative Council) in 1950, the Black Rod continues to summon MPs to the chamber for the 'Speech from the Throne'. The black rod was due for a whack this very week.
As part of the ritual, as Black Rod approaches the doors to the chamber of the House of Commons to make his summons, they are closed in his face. Black Rod then strikes three times with his staff, and in reply to the challenge "Who is there?" answers "Black Rod". He is then admitted and issues the summons of the monarch to attend. This ritual is derived from the attempt by Charles I of England to arrest five members in 1642, in what was seen as a breach of privilege, though strictly the King was entitled to enter the chamber. After that incident, the House of Commons has maintained its right to question the right of the monarch's representative to enter their chamber, though bar him from entering with lawful authority they cannot do.
I suspect Rod would have enjoyed this coincidence and thought it was pretty funny :)
I am sure Parliament will find a more appropriate way to recognise Rod Donald's contribution.
Categories: New Zealand, Politics, Parliament, Rod Donald,