London: Britain`s House of Commons opened a new legislative session on Tuesday with centuries-old rituals and a stark change: its first coalition government since World War II.
In keeping with tradition, the legislators chose a speaker to represent them, then dragged him to his place of honor in Parliament.
But the new partnership between the center-right Conservative and the leftist Liberal Democrat parties also went on display, and it seemed odd to see members of the two parties sitting together on the government benches of the House of Commons.
Until last week`s general election, those places were held by the Labour Party, which had to move across the aisle in the Commons to the opposition benches after 13 years in power.
Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party sat next to his second-in-command, Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Together with the leaders of other parties in the House of Commons, they went to the nearby chamber of the House of Lords, and were instructed to "repair to the place where you are to sit, and there proceed to the choice of some proper person to be your speaker."
The election of the speaker is usually a formality. But John Bercow, who was first elected to the respected position last year, faced opposition from lawmakers of his own Conservative Party, who believed he is too lenient toward Labour.
The speaker decides which lawmakers are called on to speak in the Commons, can suspend those who break rules, and represents the chamber in discussions with Queen Elizabeth II and the House of Lords. It is considered a position of honor, and the speaker is given use of a luxurious apartment inside Parliament.
But Bercow was easily re-elected and was dragged to the speaker`s chair in a show of mock-reluctance to take the post, as dictated by tradition.
Bercow was congratulated by Cameron, who also welcomed all the newly elected lawmakers. More than a third of the them are rookies — 226 of the 650 legislators.
"It really does look and feel different — many of us are sitting next to people we`ve never sat next to before," Cameron joked, then gestured to Clegg.
The lawmakers are to be sworn in over the coming days, and Parliament will be formally opened next week when the queen makes a speech to lawmakers, outlining the government`s legislative program.