Hundreds of new UK lawmakers are sworn in as Parliament returns after a dramatic election

LONDON — (AP) — Hundreds of newly elected lawmakers trooped excitedly into Parliament on Tuesday after the U.K.'s transformative election brought a Labour government to power.

The halls of the labyrinthine building echoed with excited chatter of the 650 members of the House of Commons — 335 of them arriving for the first time. That compares to 140 new lawmakers after the last election in 2019.

The seat of British democracy took on a back-to-school feel, from the rows of lockers temporarily installed in wood-paneled corridors to the staff holding “Ask Me” signs ready to help bewildered newcomers.

The new House of Commons includes the largest number of women ever elected — 263, some 40% of the total — and the most lawmakers of color, at 90.

The youngest new lawmaker is Labour's Sam Carling, 22. He is one of 412 Labour legislators elected last week who will cram onto green benches on the government side of the House of Commons.

Opposite them will be a shrunken contingent of 121 Conservatives, a vastly increased number of Liberal Democrats, 72 strong, and a smattering of representatives from other parties including the environmentalist Green Party and the anti-immigration Reform UK.

Even as the newcomers arrived, lawmakers who lost their seats last week were carting away the contents of their offices in boxes and suitcases.

First job: electing a speaker

The first task for lawmakers was electing a speaker to oversee the business of the House of Commons and try to keep the often unruly assembly in line.

The speaker is chosen from the ranks of lawmakers and sets his or her party affiliation aside while they fill the impartial role.

Lindsay Hoyle — originally elected for Labour to the speaker's post in 2019 — was reelected unopposed. He promised lawmakers he would continue to be "fair, impartial and independent."

In keeping with tradition, the speaker feigned reluctance and was dragged to the speaker’ chair by colleagues — a custom dating to the days when speakers could be sentenced to death if they displeased the monarch.

After tributes from party leaders including Prime Minister Keir Starmer and Conservative leader Rishi Sunak, the speaker-elect was taken to the House of Lords by an official known as Black Rod to receive Royal Approbation, the formal approval of King Charles III.

Starmer said all lawmakers had a responsibility “to put an end to a politics that has too often seemed self-serving and self-obsessed, and to replace that politics of performance with the politics of service.”

Sunak, fresh off the Conservatives' crushing election defeat, agreed that “in our politics, we can argue vigorously, as the prime minister and I did over the past six weeks, but still respect each other.”

Swearing in

With a speaker in place, lawmakers were sworn in one by one, taking an oath of allegiance to the king and “his heirs and successors.” Members can swear on a religious text of their choice or make a non-religious affirmation. They must take the oath in English first, and can repeat it in Welsh, Ulster Scots, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic or Cornish.

The longest-serving lawmakers — Conservative Edward Leigh and Labour's Diane Abbott, known as the father and mother of the House — were sworn in first, followed by the prime minister and the Cabinet, senior members of the official opposition and then remaining lawmakers in order of their length of service.

There are also seven lawmakers from Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, who refuse to swear loyalty to the Crown and do not take their seats to protest U.K. control over Northern Ireland.

Down to business

After all MPs are sworn in — a task expected to take several days — the House of Commons will rise until July 17, when a new session will formally start with the State Opening of Parliament.

The new government will set out its legislative plans for the coming year in a speech read by the king from atop a golden throne.

The King’s Speech is expected to include plans to establish a publicly owned green power company called Great British Energy, change planning rules to allow more new homes to be built and nationalize Britain’s delay-plagued railways.

Holding the government to account will be a much-reduced Conservative Party led, temporarily at least, by Sunak. The former prime minister will serve as leader of the opposition until the party picks a replacement.

Comments on this article