Political pedantry

The Clock Tower of the House of Commons within which Big Ben, a bell, resides

Since there will be a lot of politics on our TV screens in the next 48 hours, I should like to take this opportunity to issue some timely pedantic reminders:

  • England, not the House of Commons, is the “Mother of Parliaments
  • “Big Ben” is a bell which is found in the clock tower of the House of Commons. The clock tower is not Big Ben, nor contrary to the opinion of faux pedants is it “St Stephens Tower”.
  • There are no “keys to Number 10”.  The front door of Number 10 Downing Street has no lock. Nor are there any “books” containing the nation’s finances to be given to incoming Ministers.
  • If Mr Brown goes to Buckingham Palace he will have “an audience of the Queen”, not “an audience with the Queen”
  • The side of the House of Commons where the MPs supporting the Government sit are the “Treasury Benches”, not the “Government benches”
  • Anybody “measuring the curtains at Number 10” will be examining the curtains for the flat occupied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Prime Minister Blair, and subsequently Prime Minister Brown, used the larger flat above Number 11 Downing Street.

Update: 6 May.  For the record, here is St Stephen’s Tower:

St Stephen's tower

1 thought on “Political pedantry”

  1. Owen, I believe you, but it is you vs. the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/8656578.stm

    “BBC to beam general election results on to Big Ben”
    “The results of the general election are to be projected on to St Stephen’s Tower, which houses Big Ben, for the first time, by the BBC.”

    Owen replies: The BBC has this wrong, of course.

    St Stephen’s Tower is the tower between Westminster Hall and Old Palace Yard. It sits above St Stephen’s entrance, the entrance most often used by the public.

    I also heard the Today Programme saying yesterday that Mr Cameron could have “the keys to Downing Street”.

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