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Richard’s [Richard III] Parliament ... passed considerable sound and beneficial legislation. One such act freed juries from intimidation and tampering. Another protected buyers of land from secret defects in title. Still another made bail available to persons accused of crimes ... For the first time, Parliament’s acts were published in English, so they could be understood by at least that part of the population that was literate, rather than being confined to churchmen, educated nobles and the few others who could read Latin. Bertram Fields, Royal Blood, 1998
You mustn’t confuse parliament with democracy. Tony Benn, Last Will & Testament ***** Youtube 1.31.36
If parliament is to survive, it must be a workshop and not a museum. Tony Benn speaking in Commons
The great parliament held here in Westminster, held by Simon de Montford in the name of Henry III, the first parliament ... Professor David Carpenter, Magna Carta and the Mountford Parliament, lecture February 2015
Magna Carta had laid the foundations for the development of parliament. ibid.
The first official use of the term parliament was in 1237. ibid.
There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the ‘end of time’, or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it; and therefore all such clauses, acts or declarations by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in themselves null and void. Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man 1791
It is from a strange mixture of tyranny and cowardice that exclusions have been set up and continued. The boldness to do wrong at first, changes afterwards into cowardly craft, and at last into fear. The Representatives in England appear now to act as if they were afraid to do right, even in part, lest it should awaken the nation to a sense of all the wrongs it has endured. This case serves to shew that the same conduct that best constitutes the safety of an individual, namely, a strict adherence to principle, constitutes also the safety of a Government, and that without it safety is but an empty name. When the rich plunder the poor of his rights, it becomes an example of the poor to plunder the rich of his property, for the rights of the one are as much property to him as wealth is property to the other and the little all is as dear as the much. It is only by setting out on just principles that men are trained to be just to each other; and it will always be found, that when the rich protect the rights of the poor, the poor will protect the property of the rich. But the guarantee, to be effectual, must be parliamentarily reciprocal. Thomas Paine
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. John Bright
The people as a source of sovereign power are in truth only occasional partners in the constitutional minuet danced for most of the time by Parliament and the political party in power. Lord Scarman, The Shape of Things to Come, 1989
The insistent demand of women for recognition in spheres of work outside the home, which has quietly but unremittingly been advanced in the course of the last hundred years, has grudgingly been conceded. As a doctor and a Member of Parliament I am fully conscious of the fact that the doors both of the medical schools and of the House of Commons had to be forced by furious and frustrated women before their claims were recognized. It would be quite inaccurate to suggest that we were welcomed into the universities or into public life. Edith Summerskill
At the root of all these arguments is the notion that the political spring which waters society is parliament; that political measures, reformist or reactionary, all flow from parliament and therefore nothing can be done to emancipate labour unless parliament is won for Labour. If Labour is elected, laws and measures flow from parliament which are friendly to labour. If Labour loses, those laws and measures will be hostile to labour. It follows that everything must be subordinated to securing a Labour government ...
Parliamentary politics are necessarily passive. In order to achieve that vital parliamentary majority, politicians must forever preach passivity. Any protest movement which mobilises people against their rulers disturbs the peaceful pace of the parliamentary reformers. However much in theory they support a cause, they feel bound to confine it to a constitutional cage. Strikes, the most effective weapons in the hands of the dispossessed, are anathema to the parliamentary socialist. The same goes for demonstrations, agitations, even propaganda and thought. The central principle of parliamentary activity is that change is most effectively brought by politicians from above. Whether those politicians are in office or out of it, therefore, it is best for them if people who are not politicians keep quiet and lie down. Paul Foot, The Case For Socialism chapter 6
Since he was elected Tory MP for Tatton in 1983, he [Neil Hamilton] has rested the extreme Thatcherite right, constantly baiting true unionists, the unemployed and the dispossessed. He flaunts the sterile wit and pervasive arrogance of all the Thatcherite Young Turks who grew rich and famous at the expense of others in the Golden Years of Private Enterprise. Hamilton denies being paid £2,000 a time to ask questions, but he does not deny a sumptuous weekend in Paris at the expense of the ghastly old liar and cheat Fayed, the chairman of Harrods. Dinner each night for the MP and his wife cost the Harrods boss £232. How that figure must have delighted ‘scroungers’ in bed: breakfast accommodation so often mocked by Hamilton and his ilk.
The media have discovered something they call ‘parliamentary sleaze’. Yet this is one the most time honoured institutions of our mother of parliaments. Many and varied are the ways in which corporate power in capitalist society cuts down all semblance of representative democracy in parliaments and local councils, but the most obvious of them all is buying the representatives. If MPs are paid more by an ‘outside interest’ than by their constituents, then it follows that they will consider the interests of the corporation before those of their constituents. The MP for Loamshire (£31,000 a year) prefers to be the MP for Blue Blooded Merchant Bank plc (£50,000 a year and rising). Representation plays second fiddle to corporate public relations.
Before 1975 MPs didn’t even have to declare which firms paid them. The Poulson scandal of the late 1960s and 1970s revealed a clutch of MPs using questions, motions, dining rooms and debates to promote the interests of the corrupt architect. One MP had to resign, and the Register of Interests was set up. No one took much notice of it, even during the 1980s as the number of consultancies, directorships and perks showered on MPs, almost all of them Tory, rose to obscene levels. One Tory MP was so bemused by the way in which his colleagues were growing rich that he actually advertised for a company to take him on as a consultant. The private dining rooms of the House of Commons – why are there private dining rooms there anyway? – became a huge commercial undertaking whereby corporations offered their customers the best food and drink, all consumed in an intoxicating atmosphere of democracy. How wonderful to drink a toast to the hierarchs of the Hanson Trust after a glamorous dinner in the ancient seat of parliament!
By the mid-1980s the buying of MPs had become a public and obvious scandal. No one noticed. On and on it went, with the blessing of both prime ministers. Thatcher and Major both used 10 Downing Street as another watering hole to pour booze down the gullets of generous donors to the Tory Party:
If parliament was indeed composed of representatives there should be no ‘outside interests’ whatsoever, MPs should, get their salary and not a penny more. Their perks and trips abroad should be ruthlessly wiped out, and their activities subjected to the most rigorous public scrutiny and disclosure. That is what the new House of Commons Privileges Committee should recommend. But since the committee consists of seven Tory MPs, all with business interests, sitting in secret, the chances of even the mildest restrictions on rampant sleaze are spectacularly low. Paul Foot, article November 1994, ‘Parliamentary Privilege’
Someone once said that Labour MPs go to parliament to change the world, and by the time they leave (for retirement or the House of Lords) the only noticeable change is in themselves. That’s more than just a joke. The effect of all the compromise, sell-out and humbug that is forced on the Labour Party in parliament is widespread demoralisation both among the MPs themselves and among the enthusiastic socialists who worked to get them there.
Just as the House of Lords is stuffed with Labour peers who once swore to abolish it, so the constituencies are full of people who joined the Labour Party for a ‘co-operative commonwealth’, as the old Labour slogan had it, but left it as they watched their heroes shoring up uncooperative capitalist chaos. Paul Foot, article 7th January 1982, ‘3 Letters to a Bennite’