ST: Brown wants a written constitution

It looks like the Brown camp has been briefing the Sunday Times on their man’s support for a written constitution, something which first emerged back in January.

As I said then, it’s a very welcome idea, but one which raises a number of questions:

Firstly, will it simply codify the existing supremacy of the Crown in Parliament, or will it vest sovereignty in the people?

Secondly, will a written document make it more difficult to finesse
the anomaly of Scottish MPs voting on English laws, with all that
implies for Brown’s own position? (A Brown Manifesto)

The Sunday Times piece addresses the first of these issues:

The vision is grand, but the reality of drawing up a constitution is
a legal minefield, say experts. For example, the role of the royals as
head of state giving assent to all acts of parliament is a convention
not enshrined in statute. A written constitution would have to decide
whether to give the queen or king the legal right to block parliament’s

Would Brown really want to hand Prince Charles a legal power of veto? (Sunday Times)

I wonder if Brown really understands how bold a move a written constitution would be. The current settlement goes back to the eighteenth century, when the monarchy was reduced to a front for the Whig commercial oligarchy and the imperial state that supported it.

Begehot’s nineteenth century dstinction between the dignified and the efficient parts of the constitution, reflects a system that was designed to obscure where real power lay, and to a great extent still lies.

One reflection of this fact is the extent to which decisions in key areas of foreign, security and economic policy are made with little public debate

Gordon Brown’s approach to independence for the Bank of England, and the replacement of Trident, are good examples of this. Whatever the merits of the issues, on both occasions Brown set out to pre-empt public debate in order to appease powerful interests.

If Brown attempts to bring in a written constitution, he will be reversing that order of priorities on a grand scale. It will be interesting to see whether he has the stomach for the fight.






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