On leadership and intelligence in the parliament – Sir Robert Menzies

From The Forgotten People (1942) by the witty and wise Australian statesman, The Rt Hon. R.G. Menzies … …

It is notorious that many electors believe that the function of their member of Parliament is to ascertain, if he can, what a majority of his electors desire, and then plump for it in Parliament. A more stupid and humiliating conception of the function of a member of Parliament can hardly be imagined.

Sir Robert goes on to say, “If you want mere echo chambers or sounding boards in Parliament, then echo chambers or sounding boards you shall get – and statesmanship will die; and democracy will die with it!!


“The true function of a member of Parliament is to serve his electors not only with his vote but with his intelligence. If some problem arises in Parliament about which he has knowledge and to which he has devoted his best thought, how absurd it would be – indeed how dangerous it would be – if he should allow his considered conclusion to be upset by a temporary clamour by thousands of people, most of whom in the nature of things could not have his sources of information, and have probably in any event not thought the problem out at all.

“Nothing can be worse for democracy than to adopt the practice of permitting knowledge to be overthrown by ignorance. If I have honestly and thoughtfully arrived at a certain conclusion on a public question and my electors disagree with me, my first duty is to endeavour to persuade them that my view is right. If I fail in this, my second duty will be to accept the electoral consequences and not to run away from them. Fear can never be a proper or useful ingredient in those mutual relations of respect and goodwill which ought to exist between the elector and the elected. And so, as we think about it we shall find more and more how disfiguring a thing fear is in our own political and social life.

Men fear the unknown as children fear the dark.” It is that kind of fear which too often restrains experiment and keeps us from innovations which might benefit us enormously. It is the fear of knowledge which prevents so many of us from really using our minds, and which makes so many of us ready slaves to cheap and silly slogans and catch-cries.

One thought on “On leadership and intelligence in the parliament – Sir Robert Menzies

  1. I am reminded of this quote from somewhere “Fear is based on our imagination and danger is real” …if we can understand this aspect of fear we can overcome our fear

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