As regular readers will know, I have variously taken issue with claims that are incorrect, but which have continued to be recycled by commentators. I suspect the problem is exacerbated nowadays by the fact that commercial pressures and a 24-hours news cycle means that news outlets do not have time to check and so simply regurgitate what someone else has said. I thought it may be helpful to draw together some previously identified in posts on the blog. (Click on the italicised title to see the relevant blog post.) As the more avid readers will recall:
1. A Prime Minister can no longer call a ‘snap’ election. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 has removed the monarch’s residual power of dissolution. Some commentators, I am pleased to say, do now recognise the implications of the Act. Others are aware the Act exists, so work in reference to it, but along the lines of ‘The Fixed-term Parliaments Act is a problem, but it can be fixed’. They do not say how it can be fixed. To me, that suggests that awareness of the Act’s existence does not extend to knowing its provisions. Some still seem to think that the PM can go to the Palace to request an election.
2. Magna Carta 1215 did not establish our liberties. David Cameron when PM made grand claims for the Charter as the basis of our democracy and our rights and liberties. It was not the first charter to concede rights and the rights it was protecting were essentially those of the barons. ‘Freemen’ at the time comprised a rather small body. It was not the basis of jury trials. Insofar as Magna Carta merits celebration in this country, it is the Magna Carta of 1216 (or that of 1225) and not that of 1215.
3. Mhairi Black is not the youngest MP since 1667. This appears to derive from a well-known broadcaster on election night Googling to find the name of the youngest MP in history and assuming that a 20-year old elected in 2015 must be the youngest since that time. Prior to 1832 it was far from unusual for an MP to be returned under age and for the House to accept the election, despite minors being prohibited from sitting. Charles James Fox was elected at the age of 19. One Member was elected in 1832 having just turned 18. Mhairi Black is the youngest MP since 1832. Given that MPs before 1832 who were allowed to sit under age did so despite minors being prohibited from sitting, Ms Black can point out that she is the youngest MP in history lawfully to take her seat.
4. The Conservative 1922 Committee was not formed in 1922. The Committee came into existence in April 1923. Its name derives from the fact that it was formed by a number of Conservative MPs first elected in the general election of 1922. They formed what amounted to a self-help group which they called the Conservative Private Members’ (1922) Committee. It later expanded to encompass all Conservative Private Members.
5. It is more appropriate to say referendums than to say referenda. Some people insist on ‘referenda’ without realising that as a Latin gerund referendum has no plural. That it is more appropriate to use referendums is recognised by Parliament, which is why all parliamentary reports on the subject use ‘referendums’.
I am sure readers can suggest others to add to the list….