Oliver Cromwell’s guide to purging Parliament

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This is a guest post by Oliver Cromwell

Your's truly.

Things are very different these days compared to when I was around. Obviously it would be impossible in modern Britain for a religious fanatic like me to take charge and start invading other countries. But when I hear talk of Parliament proving troublesome it immediately takes me back to the heady days of the mid seventeenth century. Want advice on how to deal with irritating, uninspiring, obstructionist MPs? I’m your man!

1. Get some heavily armed men to scare the MPs into behaving themselves.

Back in 1648 it was really obvious that King Charles was a deluded moron. Despite being beaten fair and square in numerous battles he kept banging on about his divine right to rule and refused to negotiate seriously with his Parliamentarian captors, i.e. me and my mates in the army. Yet the goodfornothing members of the Long Parliament still carried on as if the sun was shining out of his regal backside. What to do? 

Prides Purge - You can only come in if you promise to vote the right way

Pride's Purge - You can only come in if you promise to vote the 'right' way

Well, we army lads got organised, sent Colonel Pride along to Westminster with his regiment of mean, lean, purging machines, and made it clear that MPs who intended to support continued negotiations with KC were no longer welcome in the Commons. Conveniently enough the Commons then voted to put Charles on trial for treason. Result!

Then, as if by magic, I turned up in London the next day to make it clear that before Charles was to be found very guilty and to have his head very much removed from his neck it was important that he should receive a fair trial and all that jazz. So not only did I force Parliament to see sense with the help of a bit of musket and pike-wielding persuasion, I also managed to keep a safe distance from the immediate events so that nobody could accuse me of carrying out a coup. To this day historians can’t be sure of how much influence I had over the preparations for the purge. Genius or wot?!

2. Never underestimate the power of an angry speech (whilst having heavily armed men backing you up).

I then spent a couple of years visiting our Celtic cousins in Scotland and Ireland. In the meantime the Rump Parliament (as it became known) was supposed to be sorting out a new Constitution. When I found out what a mess it was making of this surely straightforward job I got so bleeding angry my warts could have popped. I decided to go along to the Commons to give them a piece of my mind.

Me dissolving the Rump Parliament

Me giving the Rump the hump

On 20th April 1653 I attended Parliament. I started listening to a few of the speeches but frankly they were about as interesting as a Puritan stag do. It became clear to me that these incompetent timewasters had nothing useful to say so I declared to them: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

For good measure, I then proceeded to berate individual MPs for being cheats, drunkards, and whoremasters, which was a pretty fair assessment. But some of the members are a bit slow in the noggin, bless ’em, so to make sure they fully understood my point I arranged for heavily armed soldiers to enter the chamber and start pointing sharp things in their direction. They soon scarpered. “Take away that fool’s bauble, the mace” I cried for dramatic effect. I then locked the doors to prevent any of them sneaking back in.

3. Pray hard for guidance (but always maintain some heavily armed back-up just incase)

A lot of my time is spent praying. I find that a quick pray here and a quick pray there goes a long way. Whether on nice soft palace carpets or on a muddy blood-soaked battlefield, I never hesitate to get down on my wobbly ol’knees and start praying like the apocalypse is on its way.

Back in the day I always insisted on having a long, hard pray before making an important decision. Some people accused me of dithering. A couple of cheeky historians have even speculated that I wasn’t really praying at all but was infact stalling for time to see how events played out. So cynical! Let me assure you that when you’re trying to bring about a Godly revolution it is very important to pray as much as possible.

My prayers seemed to be answered in July 1653 when it was suggested by army chums that perhaps the problem with seventeenth century England was that there wasn’t enough religion in public life and that we should therefore try filling Parliament with the biggest God botherers we could find to see what happened. I thought this was a brilliant idea and probably organised a witch buring to celebrate.

For some reason the Parliament of Saints did not act in a saintly manner. It passed some good reforms, but the religious moderates were concerned that the religious loonies were going to start embarassing the country. I think they were worried we were all going to be drinking the Kool-Aid or something. Anyway, the moderates insisted that the Parliament be dissolved – which was a shame – but it was proposed that I become Lord Protector of the country instead – which sounded fun.

Since praying hard hadn’t quite delivered the results I’d expected I was obliged to instead rely, as usual, on having lots of heavily armed men at my beck and call. I had to dissolve a few more Parliaments during my lifetime. They really were so very, very annoying.

I continued making angry speeches and praying as hard as I possibly could but if there’s something to be learned from my experiences it is that the most reliable way of sorting out Parliament is with military assistance. This may or may not apply to other time periods – I wouldn’t know would I? I’ve been dead for nearly four hundred years! But I thought you might like to hear about things from my perspective.

Oliver Cromwell

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7 Responses to “Oliver Cromwell’s guide to purging Parliament”

  1. voteredgogreen Says:

    I think this is my favourite FOPB post so far. Bravo, Captain Jako, for securing such a luminary as a guest poster (especially from beyond the grave).

  2. captainjako Says:

    The problem is, of course, that Cromwell never managed to achieve a workable constitutional settlement and our country’s brief experiment in republican government came to an end after his death, so perhaps he’s not a sensible person to go to for advice on Parliamentary reform.

    Next week: Napoleon Bonaparte on the European elections

  3. mrs election Says:

    favourite jako post ever. i’m your biggest fan!

  4. mrs election Says:

    have you seen this? i can’t believe that the system did not have a minimum amount for claims!!! £1.31 for jellied eels…

    http://timesbusiness.typepad.com/money_weblog/2009/05/the-10-weirdest-mp-expense-claims.html

  5. captainjako Says:

    Thankyou for your kind words. I’m so glad it was worth my while trekking all the way over to LMH for a term to be taught Commonwealth and Protectorate history. I would pay to be kept away from any jellied eels.

  6. manofkent86 Says:

    Has anybody actually bought jellied eels since the 1950s? Are they even still produced? Perhaps that claim could have been refused for being brought 40 years too late.

  7. duncanseconomicblog Says:

    Superb.

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