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“A Parliament,” claimed the 19th century political essayist Walter Bagehot, “is nothing less than a big meeting of more or less idle people.” It is a view that appears to be shared by many. The men and women (though it is still mainly men) that fill parliaments around the world have rarely been so unpopular. In the United States approval of Congress is just 10 per cent; in the UK only estate agents are deemed to be less trustworthy than politicians; across the rest of Europe, recent elections have been greeted with a mixture of frustration and…



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