I have again today come across the famous saying that “Westminster is the Mother of all Parliaments”, and indeed, the “Westminster System” of politics does operate in many countries.

However, the claim that Westminster is the Mother of all Parliaments, is a misquote – and quite a serious one.

The original quote comes from the Liberal statesman, John Bright, who on on 18th January 1865 gave a speech in Birmingham to support the reform of the electoral system, and said “England is the Mother of all Parliaments”. The speech was part of a long running campaign that culminated in the Reform Act of 1867.

While only a single quote in a single speech in a long campaign, it has gained a misplaced importance suggesting that Westminster is the grand founder of Parliaments, rather than being an (at the time) deeply corrupt body that owed its existence to the people of England.

Anyhow, while I fully expect that people will continue to refer to Westminster as the Mother of all Parliaments, I am just publishing this blog post to get it off my chest before I end up being like one of those tedious pedants who feels compelled to correct people every time Big Ben is mentioned.

The idea that England is the Mother of Parliaments is actually quite a nice one, as it is a reminder that it is the people of England who created the Parliament as we know it today, and that its authority stems from the people.

*petty minded rant over*

Incidentally, the title of oldest Parliament can be divided between the parliament of Iceland established in 930 (but dissolved between 1800-1845) and the parliament of the Isle of Man which was established in 979, and is the oldest Parliament in continuous standing.

You can read more at A Short History of Parliament and here is a pdf extract.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom

    Glad you mentioned Big Ben. That’s my favourite clock tower in the whole of London.

  2. The “Oldest (continuous) Parliament” has resisted sharing power with its citizens through e-Democracy; this has been supported by UK political leaders and media since 2000, who, equally, see a threat in giving UK citizens a 24/7 say in the way they are governed

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