Matthew Engel in today’s Financial Times has a pop at our current MPs, saying:
The House of Commons used to be filled with men of renown. Sir Christopher Wren was an MP. So was Sir Isaac Newton – and John Stuart Mill.
It’s an easy jibe to make – ‘MPs aren’t as good as they used to be’. But his examples seem to me to be rather badly chosen.
John Stuart Mill, I’ll grant you, was a man of renown and an admirable, hard-working MP who used Parliament to promote the causes he believed in.
But Isaac Newton? He barely contributed to Parliament and indeed the most common account of his Parliamentary work is that he only spoke the once – asking for a window to be closed.
And Christopher Wren? Although he was more active in Parliament, he hasn’t left behind evidence of any real achievements and his elections were dogged by controversy, with Parliament twice voting to unseat him in favour of defeated candidates.
I don’t think either of them would be getting plaudits if there were MPs now, and nor did they get plaudits for their performance as MPs at the time.