Hundreds of New UK Lawmakers Gather to Be Sworn in After Dramatic Election

LONDON (AP) —
From left, Reform UK MP, Lee Anderson, Reform UK leader, Nigel Farage, Reform UK chairman, Richard Tice, and Reform UK MP, Rupert Lowe, arrive at the House of Commons in Westminster, central London, Tuesday. (Maja Smiejkowska/PA via 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 as the 650 members of the House of Commons gathered — 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.

The first task for lawmakers will be 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, who has held the speaker’s post since 2019, is expected to be reelected.

The speaker-elect is taken to the House of Lords by an official known as Black Rod to receive Royal Approbation, the formal approval of King Charles III.

Back in the Commons, the winner will feign reluctance and be dragged to the speaker’ chair by colleagues – a tradition dating back to the days when speakers could be sentenced to death if they displeased the monarch.

Once a speaker is in place, lawmakers will be sworn in, 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 lawmaker, known as the father or mother of the House, is sworn in first, followed by Prime Minister Keir Starmer 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.

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 former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He will serve as leader of the opposition until the party picks a replacement.

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