I am in the middle of marking undergraduate dissertations. One student has just written that Michael Martin was the first Speaker to be forced out of office since Sir John Trevor in 1695. Oh dear. Send for the firing squad. As readers of my posts on Lords of the Blog will be well aware, this is just one of the myths that the media keep repeating. Let me correct this one and a couple of others.
1. Michael Martin was not the first Speaker to be forced out of office since 1695. Two other Speakers were voted out of office after Sir John Trevor: Sir Fletcher Norton in 1780 and Sir Charles Manners-Sutton in 1835. The removal of Manners-Sutton, by 316 to 306 votes, was highly contentious.
2. Peter Mandelson is not Lord Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool. He is Lord Mandelson. As explained in a post on Lords of the Blog, there is no territorial designation that forms part of his title
3. MPs are not more loyal to party nowadays than they used to be. The high point of party loyalty in terms of parliamentary voting was actually the mid-1950s. Indpendence on the part of MPs increased in the 1970s and has reached record levels in recent years.
The media also tend to be misleading in illustrating stories about the House of Lords with pictures of the State Opening of Parliament. The State Opening of Parliament is precisely that. It is the annual meeting of Parliament, not a meeting of the House of Lords. You don’t see stories about the House of Commons illustrated with pictures of MPs stood at the Bar during the State Opening. Still, it is not quite as bad as The Times, which once accompanied a story on the Lords with a picture of men in robes and wigs. They were judges – nothing to do with the Lords.
No doubt readers will have picked up on other errors in media coverage of Parliament…