Amid Brexit turmoil, British parliament mace grabber 'proud' of seizing ceremonial item despite backlash

The British lawmaker who brazenly grabbed a ceremonial mace in the House of Commons – which later resulted in his expulsion – said Tuesday he's standing by his unique protest.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the 32-year-old Labour Party member, snatched the centuries-old gilded staff from the middle of the House of Commons on Monday after Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a vote on her Brexit deal.

The mace symbolizes royal authority, and without it, the Commons can’t meet or pass laws.

Russell-Moyle accused May of “again abandoning the principle that her authority rests on the consent of the [members of Parliament] and their constituents” in a piece for The Guardian.

“I did not become an MP last year to get a better seat as a spectator as my country is sunk by a government that is as incompetent as it is callous, and that is why I picked up the mace,” Russell-Moyle wrote. “Yesterday May was trying to obscure in procedure her contempt of parliamentary democracy, so I wanted to do something simple to show what she was up to."

"...A gangly man in moleskin trousers holding a 5ft golden rod might look a bit odd. But I work in a very odd place."

— Lloyd Russell-Moyle

Russell-Moyle was expelled for the day because of his antics, but he noted on Twitter that he was allowed back on Tuesday. He didn’t get paid for the day but said it was “worth it if it is to highlight the disgrace of undermining democracy that this government is doing at the moment” in an interview.

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As Russell-Moyle pointed out, he’s not the first lawmaker to snatch the mace in protest. Ron Brown, a Labour MP, reportedly threw the mace on the ground in protest in 1988, causing nearly $2,000 in damage. And in 1976, Michael Heseltine, a Conservative MP, was suspended after he grabbed the mace and held it over his head in protest.

“Now, I am aware that for the vast majority of people a gangly man in moleskin trousers holding a 5ft golden rod might look a bit odd,” Russell-Moyle said. “But I work in a very odd place, which rests heavily on symbol and ritual.”

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Russell-Moyle has been highly critical of May for her handling of the delayed Brexit vote. In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, May accepted that the divorce deal she struck last month with EU leaders was likely to be rejected “by a significant margin” if the vote was held Tuesday as originally planned.

It was a new blow for May, who became prime minister after Britain’s 2016 referendum decision to leave the EU. She has been battling ever since – first to strike a deal with the bloc, then to sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.

“The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.