I see that Daniel Hannan was invited to comment on my previous post and he wrote:
“Lord Norton, who is a clever and learned man, knows very well that journalists don’t write their own headlines. And it’s not the period from 1945-1970 that I regard as the golden age of parliamentary supremacy, but the period between the 1832 and 1945 franchise extensions.”
Oh dear, the period 1832-1945 – such a short period – was a ´golden age´. There was a relatively short period in the 19th century, before the advent of mass-membership political parties, in which party voting was weak. The 1867 Reform Act extended the electorate to such an extent that mass-membership parties became necessary. As Richard Crossman put it, party organisation replaced organised corruption. Parties not only became more organised in the country, but also – as MPs were increasingly elected on party labels and not their individual merits (or personal wealth) – became organised in the House of Commons. By the end of the 19th Century, party voting was a well-established feature of parliamentary life. The whips were highly efficient and effective. Since the advent of organised mass-membership parties, there has been no golden age of independent members. And even in the mid-19th Century, MPs rarely had to decide great issues of public policy. It was only gradually that public legislation squeezed out private (not to be confused with private members´) legislation.
I should add that I am familiar with headlines often bearing little relationship to the content of the story, though in this case the headline did not appear to distort what Daniel Hannan was arguing – as rather evidenced by his comments above.