Parliament and Cabinet Government Quotes

Quotations on Parliament, the House of Commons and Cabinet Government

"When they are 50 yards from Parliament Hill, they are no longer honourable members, they are just nobodies." Pierre Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister

"When you come to Parliament on your first day, you wonder how you ever got here. After that, you wonder how the other 263 members got here." John Diefenbaker, Canadian Prime Minister

"I will not regret leaving what has become a totally dysfunctional institution. I will not miss the thrill of making well-researched speeches in a virtually empty room. I will not miss working long hours on irrelevant ministerial guided committees. I will not miss the posturing." Retiring speech of Canadian Alliance M.P., Lee Morrison

"If nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline, and even if unanimously elected, I should decline to serve." General Tecumseh Sherman

"We'd all like to vote for the best man but he's never a candidate." Kim Hubbard

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Winston Churchill

"Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." John Galbraith

"The Prime Minister, a specialist in calling in the locksmith after the horses had fled - the whole herd in fact - and the barn in ruins, ended the week with a great raft of ethics proposals for cabinet, leadership candidates, backbenchers and lobbyists. I think it is more than fair to ask: Why wait for the middle of his third term to institute what the public would have welcomed at the beginning of his first?"  Rex Murphy, Canadian Broadcaster

"One moment it's a cathedral, at another time there is no words to describe it when it ceases, for short periods of time, to have any regard for the proprieties that constitute not only Parliament, but its tradition. I've seen it in all its greatness. I have inwardly wept over it when it is degraded."  Canadian Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker

"Parliament is a deliberate assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purpose, not local prejudices ought to guide but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole."  Edmund Burke

"Often the experts make the worst possible Ministers in their own fields. In this country we prefer rule by amateurs." Clement Richard Attlee, British Prime Minister

"There is no more striking illustration of the immobility of British institutions than the House of Commons." Herbert Henry Asquith, British Prime Minister

"There are two supreme pleasures in life. One is ideal, the other real. The ideal is when a man receives the seals of office from his Sovereign. The real pleasure comes when he hands them back." The Earl of Rosebery, British Prime Minister

"[The British constitution] presumes more boldly than any other the good sense and the good faith of those who work it." William Ewart Gladstone, British Prime Minister

"The duty of an Opposition is very simple... to oppose everything, and propose nothing." The Earl of Derby, British Prime Minister

"What I want is men who will support me when I am in the wrong." William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, British Prime Minister

"An extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them." (After his first Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister:) Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, British Prime Minister

"The House of Commons is a great unwieldy body, which requires great Art and some Cordials to keep it loyal." Henry Pelham, British Prime Minister

"I shall not... think the demands of the people a rule of conduct, nor shall I ever fear to incur their resentment in the prosecution of their interest. I shall never flatter their passions to obtain their favour, or gratify their revenge for fear of their contempt." Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, British Prime Minister

"I can hardly keep wondering at my own folly in thinking it worthwhile to leave my books and garden, even for one day's attendance in the House of Commons." William Wyndam Grenville, Lord Grenville, British Prime Minister

"I have nothing to say to the nothing that has been said."  Spencer Perceval, British Prime Minister

"Anybody who enjoys being in the House of Commons probably needs psychiatric help."  Ken Livingstone

 "Being in the backbench, we are typecast as if we are all stupid.  We are just supposed to be voting machines."  Clifford Lincoln

"A majority is always the best repartee."  Benjamin Disraelli

"In fact, the mass of the English people yield a deference rather than to something else than their rulers.  They defer to what we may call the theatrical show of society…The apparent rulers of the English nation are like the most imposing personages of the a splendid procession: it is by them that the mob are influenced; it is they who the inspectors cheer. The real rulers are secreted in second hand carriages; no one cares for them or asks about them, but they are obeyed implicitly and unconsciously by reason of the splendour of those who eclipsed and preceded them."  Walter Bagehot

"It is even more damaging for a minister to say foolish things than to do them."  Cardinal De Retz

"I always voted for my party’s call, and I never thought of thinking for myself at all."   W.S. Gilbert

"The characteristic merit of the English constitutions is, that its dignified parts are very complicated and somewhat imposing, very old and rather venerable, while its efficient part, at least when in great and critical action, is decidedly simple and modern."    Walter Bagehot

"We’re not a separate branch of government.  It is probably smart for committees to get a sense of how their recommendations will be received by the Minister.  You can’t operate in a total vacuum or a committee risks being ignored.’’  Barry Campbell

"A cabinet is a combining committee – a hyphen which joins, a buckle which fastens, the legislative part of the state to the executive part of the state.  In its origin in belongs to one, in its functions it belongs to the other."  Walter Bagehot

"Now that the House of Commons is trying to become useful, it does a great deal of harm."  Oscar Wilde

"There are two ways of getting into the Cabinet – you can crawl in or kick your way in." Aneurin Bevan

"There is a myth that the rules are fair…The rules are set up to guarantee that the minority will be heard but are weighted to allow the government to govern. That is the principle and that is the rub."  Camille Montpetit

"It’s amazing the number of smart witnesses who feel like deer caught in the headlights when reporters microphones are thrust under noses outside the committee room.  Be ready to drive your message again. This is part of the performance.  It’s like being called back for an encore."  Laura Peck

"Ottawa is a flurry of committee activity, departmental consultations, caucus work and private one-on-one meetings between Canadians and Parliamentarians….Parliamentary committees link Canadians to their parliamentarians.  There is simply no other forum for Canadians to hook into the legislative and policy making process on a regular, formal and public basis." David McInnes

"Efficiency in an assembly requires a solid mass of steady votes; and these are collected by a deferential attachment to particular men, or by a belief in the principles that those men represent, and they are maintained by fear of those men – by the fear that if you vote against them, you may soon yourself have not vote at all."  Walter Bagehot

"The strong-minded, thick-skinned, useful, ordinary member, either of the Government or the Opposition, had been very easy to describe and had required no imagination to conceive.  The character reproduces itself from generation to generation; and as it does so, become shorn in a wonderful way of those little touches of humanity which would be destructive of its purpose.    Now and again there comes burst of human nature, …but as a rule, the men submit themselves to be shaped and fashioned, and to be formed into tools, which are used either for building up or tearing down, and can generally bear to be changed from this box into the other, without the appearance of much personal suffering.  Four and twenty gentlemen will amalgamate themselves into one whole, and work for one purpose, having each of them set aside his own idiosyncrasy, and to endure the close personal contact   of men who must often be personally disagreeable, having been thoroughly taught that in no other way can they serve either their own country or their own ambition.  These are the men who are publicly useful, and whom the necessities of the age supply.   I have never ceased to wonder that stones of such strong caliber should be so quickly worn down to the shape and smoothness of rounded pebbles."  Anthony Trollope

"When in the House MPs divide
If they have a brain and cerebellum too,
They have to leave their brain outside,
And vote just as their leaders tell ‘em to."  W.S. Gilbert

"Every Cabinet Minister is in a sense the Prime Minister’ agent – his assistant.  There’s no question about that.  It is the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, and he is the one person directly responsible to the Queen for what the Cabinet does.  If the Cabinet discusses anything it is the Prime Minister who decides what the collective view of Cabinet is.  A  Minister’s job is to save the Prime Minister all the work he can.    But no Minister could make a really important move without consulting the Prime Minister, and if the Prime Minister wanted to take a certain step the Cabinet Minister concerned would either have to agree, argue it out in Cabinet, or resign."  Lord Home

"I don’t mind how much my Ministers talk, so long as they do what I say."  Margaret Thatcher

"There is a lot to be said for a prime minister concentrating on just keeping his head above water, without actually doing things.  Politics, remember, is the art of the possible, and in Canadian politics not very much is ever possible."  George Bain

"Since the top of the inter-agency hierarchy of the Prime Minister, and since he is obviously beyond reach as the arbiter of departmental disagreements on powers and processes,  the result is a perpetual squabbling without any accessible referee … as veteran of dozens of interdepartmental committee meetings, I can attest to how good ideas can be ground down to pedestrian programs, and to how everyone is given a little pieces of the action as a tribute for letting proposals go forward."   H. L. Laframboise

"Cabinet members are soon overwhelmed by the insistent demands of running their departments.  On the whole, a period in high office consumers intellectual capital; it does not create it….The less ministers know at the outset, the more dependent they are on the only sources of available knowledge; the permanent officials."   Anthony Wedgewood-Benn

"I say to myself that I must not let myself be cut off in there, and yet the moment I enter my bag is taken out of my hand.  I’m pushed in, shepherded, nurse and above all cut off, alone.  Whitehall envelops me."   Richard Crossman

"An influential member of parliament has not only to pay much money to become such, and to give time and labour, he has also to sacrifice his mind too – at least all the characteristics part of it that which is original and most his own…A man who enters Parliament must be content to utter common thoughts…And to some minds there is no necessity more vexing or more intolerable.   Walter Bagehot

"We already have a sabbatical system. Its called opposition, and I’ve had enough of it." Nigel Lawson

"An attitude of permanent indignation signifies great mental poverty. Politics compels it votaries to take that line and you can see their minds growing more impoverished every day, from one burst of righteous indignation to the next."  Valery

"The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it." Walter Bagehot

"One cannot make men good by Act of Parliament." Walter Bagehot  

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