The parliamentary decline thesis formed the dominant theory and narrative of legislative behaviour and capacity during the 20th century. And yet in analytical terms the thesis provides a relatively blunt instrument for dissecting complex socio-political relationships. The bluntness of this tool has not been remedied by the lazy thinking and unconscious theorising that has too often dominated research in this field. The central argument of this article is that the dominant public, media and academic perception of an eviscerated and sidelined parliament provides a misleading caricature of a more complex institution. Moreover the constant promotion and reinforcement of this caricature by scholars arguably perpetuates and fuels public disengagement and disillusionment with politics.