This is the story of an Act of Parliament. Yes, the one entitled ‘Acts of Parliament Numbering and Citation Act 2020 (665 & 666 Mork IV c 69)’. It was passed in January of 2020 to universal acclaim that was then quickly superseded by universal condemnation. Poor Act of Parliament. It never stood a chance, but that’s political opinion for you. It can be rather like the changing moods of a fickle lover.
The Act was intended to provide a clear, strict, and definitive system for the numeration and marshalling of the endless streams of papers that were funneled through the halls of Parliament every day. Over the course of history, the archive from which it all originated had devolved into a heavy, stodgy mess. If someone wanted to find a paper for evening question time, they needed to begin searching within its bloated confines the morning before. Not terribly efficient.
So, all the politicos and their toadying lackeys got together for the forty-fifth sitting of Parliament where they indeed sat and talked a lot. They orated with chests so puffed out that you could stick them with a pin and watch the bodies fly about the chamber with untoward farting noises. But no one dared as this sitting business was mortally serious business. And so they were able to debate at length, make forceful points, to bluster, carp, badger and bully until a consensus was reached—a complicated one to be sure, but a consensus nonetheless.
And you know what? They did it. Sometimes democracy actually works. Nuts, but true! They managed to invent a precise and thorough system of numeration that could be used to categorise any case. From ordering a new marble night stool with luxury seat heating for the Queen to the scrappage of rotten surmullet in remote, artisanal fishing communities—everything that could be thought of would be accounted for. A mere glance at the number atop any paper would make things abundantly clear, and not only explain who issued it, but also where and when, and what question or problem it touched upon. The system of numbering was so very plain and easy to follow that it needed to be described in agonising detail in a two hundred page appendix to the Act—you know, so there wasn’t any ambiguity.
But therein laid the rub. In order to understand this new Act of Parliament that was alleged to be as clear as the woodpecker on Pinocchio’s nose, one needed the two hundred page appendix to the Act. But if one was not already in possession of this then one might as well give up and pursue a career in dog grooming instead. You see, the old categorisation system had already been defunded in order to fund the new categorisation system, but the new categorisation system could not yet be fully utilised as no one could fully understand it, and it was far too easy to get lost in two hundred pages of tortuously confusing instructions. Of course, the confused party could have asked the committee that drafted the new Act for clarification, but—as ill luck would have it—they had already left for a three month vacation in Honolulu. After all, such an important and prominent occasion like the adoption of a new Act required some serious partying.
Anyway, the new Act gave ten business days for the auditing, ordering and proper renumbering of all legal papers that had ever been issued in the history of anything ever. So, in two weeks’ time, any remaining papers with incorrect identification numbers would become null and void. And they would need to be transferred to one of the aforementioned remote fishing communities to be used as tinder to power the furnaces that ran the machines that ensured the continual scrappage of rotten surmullet. So… can you predict what happened in that two weeks? That’s right. The contents of that great Archive took a remote journey into the warm embrace of the furnaces. And, of course, no new papers could come into effect without proper numbering because the two hundred page appendix to the new Act of Parliament could not be correctly interpreted. The system of legislation ground to a halt. Parliament was paralysed. Anarchy reigned supreme.
When the politicos and their toadying lackeys realised what had happened, they tried to scrap the Act. But it was not to be. Why? Because for this they had to issue a new Act that… yes, needed to be properly numbered—which it couldn’t be. Oh, my giddy aunt! And then a month passed before a janitor found the abandoned and half-chewed Act in the ministerial games room. It had been used to prop up one corner of the mahogany snooker table, its tatty pages even less scrutable than before. The politicos had long vacated Parliament by this point. They’d already joined the committee that had drafted the Act in Honolulu, and all had drunk themselves to death. And, strangely, despite there no longer being a rule of law, the world was better off.