Laying down the law

You may have seen that the State opening of Parliament took place last week. This is when Her Majesty blocks the traffic in central London to go to the House of Lords and deliver ‘the Queen’s Speech’. This homily – not written by the Queen herself, of course, – essentially sets out what the government plans to do over the coming year, in terms of proposed legislation and so on.

Just bear with me.

Today’s instalment of ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’ is: “You have the power to enact a single law. What would it be?” 

Given my penchant, when offered a choice, of plumping for both options, it was only to be expected that, when faced with this challenge, I would ignore the bit where it says ‘single’. So, here’s my idea of a legislative programme guaranteed to be far more useful than what was on offer last week.

“My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My government’s legislative programme will continue to be based on the principle that ‘there is English and there are mistakes’. Every effort will be made to improve standards of written and spoken English, both in this country and around the world.

Legislation will impose a prohibition on the usage in any published media – including, but not restricted to – newspapers, television and Facebook, of the split infinitive. Accordingly, all transmissions of the original series of ‘Star Trek’ will be blocked and replaced by repeats of ‘Downton Abbey’.

A serious crime Bill will be brought forward. Capital punishment will be reintroduced for those found guilty of using adjectives as adverbs. There will be a mandatory prison sentence, with a minimum tariff of two years, for the use of nouns as verbs.

As with all existing legislation, ignorance of the law will be no excuse.

A key priority for my ministers will be the elimination of the superfluous apostrophe. To this end, a chalk duster will be added to the standard equipment of all beat constables.

Further reforms to GCSEs and A Levels will be made, to incorporate a statutory requirement for all school pupils to be able to demonstrate an understanding of the difference between a colon and a semi-colon.

Measures will be introduced to regulate the use of exclamation marks. Writers who use more than one exclamation mark per thousand words will be subject to financial penalties. All money raised in this way will be hypothecated for the centralised purchase of copies of ‘Fowler’s Modern English Usage’. It is my government’s intention that one of these will be placed in every hotel room in the United Kingdom before the end of this Parliament.

Those who use more than one exclamation mark at a time will additionally be required to perform community service. Those found guilty of wilfully employing a combination of exclamation marks and question marks at the end of a sentence will be subject to summary execution.

My government will work to promote reform in the European Union, including the long-overdue adoption of English as the sole official working language.

My husband and I look forward to welcoming the President of the United States of America on his forthcoming State Visit. We shall take this opportunity to remind him that there is an ‘i’ in aluminium.

Other measures will be laid before you. They will be imperial.”

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