The mother of Parliaments

I fear I may be turning in to Bernard, the Private Secretary in Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.  Bernard is the slightly naiive, pedantic character who corrects mixed metaphors and challenges figures of speech.  (I once had a job in No.10 a bit like Bernard’s job).

Nick Robinson – the BBC Political Editor – should know better than this:

The fate of nations, of monarchs and of the British people have been sealed in the Commons.  Yet now the reputation of the mother of all parliaments has been brought low by rules written and exploited here by claims for a kitkat, a tin of pet food and a bottle of shampoo.

England, not the House of Commons, is the “mother of Parliaments”.  This phrase was coined by John Bright, in a speech in 1865, in which Bright was advocating an extension of the right to vote.  His campaign led to the Reform Act of 1867 which gave the vote to the (male) urban working class.  Bright said:

We may be proud that England is the ancient country of Parliaments. With scarcely any intervening period, Parliaments have met constantly for 600 years, and there was something of a Parliament before the Conquest. England is the mother of Parliaments.

I realise that this is pedantry. But I would expect the BBC Political Editor, of all people, to understand the resonance of this phrase and to know what it means.

3 thoughts on “The mother of Parliaments”

  1. True, but people have been accidentally, ignorantly and with political point conflating the English Parliament and that of the Union ever since the Scottish Parliament was annexed. What was described in advance as a merger was always a takeover, with a small number of Scottish MPs joining the existing English body.

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