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Will Crooks on Latin in Parliament


“I do protest against the idea that only those who have been through the Universities or public schools are fit to be the nation’s rulers and servants.”


Meet Will Crooks, the ship stoker’s son from Poplar in East London, where a Council housing estate is still named after him. He was a trade unionist who became only the fourth ever Labour MP in 1901. He famously asked the Conservative Prime Minister 1902-5, Arthur Balfour, to refrain from speaking in Latin in parliament. When another Labour MP asked Balfour whether the Aliens Bill would take precedence over Redistribution, the Prime Minister replied that the two things were not at all in pari materia.* Crooks responded, “Will the right hon. gentleman please speak in English? It is well known both inside and outside this House that I do not know Latin.”

He later stated, “The man trained as I have been amid the poor streets and homes of London, who knows where the shoe pinches and where there are no shoes at all, has more practical knowledge of the needs and sufferings of the people than the man who has been to the recognised Universities. I am the last to despise education. I have felt the need of more education all my life. But I do protest against the idea that only those who have been through the Universities or public schools are fit to be the nation’s rulers and servants. Legislation by the intellectuals is the last thing we want.”

*in pari materia – ‘upon the same matter or subject’ – for more on the expression’s legal context: visit Wikipedia on Statutory  interpretation.


5.00 out of 5

1 comment for Will Crooks on Latin in Parliament

  1. 5 out of 5


    Nice to see Will Crooks getting some coverage. He was quite the working class hero and did so much for the poor and the working class. I read a book about him recently ‘Where there’s a Will, there’s a way. The remarkable life story of Will Crooks MP’ and was staggered by how much he actually contributed to the country. His life really was remarkable as the title says. Well worth taking a few minutes to research him online for anyone who’s not familiar with him. I’m from London and I’m pleased to see that Tower Hamlets council have him shortlisted for a blue plaque. If after looking him up and you’re impressed by Crooks as much as I was, give him a vote.

    • out of 5


      Thanks Ben, I just came across a good description of Crooks written by Scottish social reformer, William Martin Haddow (1946): “a typical East-end Londoner. He was a grand old man. He had a rugged exterior but a heart of gold. His oratory breathed Humanity and he had a wonderful power over an audience. At one time his audience would rock with laughter and in a few more moments they would be on the verge of tears. He did great work in his day on the London City Council.”

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