A British constitutional convention

To his credit, Gordon Brown does seem to be more wedded to the constitutional reform agenda that New Labour inherited from John Smith than Tony Blair.

It’s long been mooted that a Brown Government would consider a written constitution. Today’s Guardian has some more details:

Gordon Brown will try to restore public trust in British politics by
proposing an all-party convention that could pave the way for a written

In an attempt to draw a line under damaging perceptions
over sleaze and spin in the Blair era, the chancellor will seek
consensus for the historic move to enshrine certain values and rights.

convention will also look at new powers for parliament and a
rebalancing of powers between Whitehall and local government, similar
to those laid out in the US constitution of 1787 which has a central
place in American law and culture. (Guardian)

While I think this is an excellent idea, it would involve political
risks for the new Prime Minister. One of the traditional functions of a
written constitution is to regulate the division of power between the
centre and other tiers of government.

Any convention would be a perfect forum to raise the West Lothian Question. The Tories presumably would push their English votes for English laws policy. The Lib Dems would push their federal proposals, although if the current situation in Scotland is anything to go by, Brown may be able to buy them off with the prospect of coalition.

The Scottish and Welsh nationalists would presumably be represented as would the DUP. One would assume that Sinn Fein would not take their seats in a constitutional convention, although it could present some interesting dilemmas for Irish nationalists, as any written constitution might well have implications for the Good Friday Agreement and the possibility of a united Ireland. Could a constitutional referendum effectively become a border poll in Northern Ireland?

The implications certainly aren’t clear to me. I’m not sure if anyone else has yet thought them through either.






2 responses to “A British constitutional convention”

  1. wonkotsane avatar

    There’s an English Constitutional Convention which Liebour refuse to take part in – as do the Conswervatives and the Illiberal Dimwits. There is already a written constitution, it’s just not all written in one document. The existing constitution would serve us perfectly well if the establishment would only abide by it. If they can’t respect our existing constitution then why would they respect a new one?

  2. Tom Griffin avatar

    There might already be a written constitution, but you need to be an antiquarian to read it,which makes it a lot easier for the Government to be flexible about interpreting it.
    A codified constitution would be a lot clearer for the general public. If it were approved by referendum it might even establish the sovereignty of the people in English law.
    At the moment, the ultimate constitutional principle in England is the sovereignty of Parliament.
    Parliament is made up of the three elements:
    Queen – Acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.
    Lords – Prime Minister controls patronage.
    Commons – Prime Minister controls majority through party patronage and the whip system.
    Tony Blair’s style of Government has been entirely consonant with the existing constitution. A codified constitution might introduce some real checks and balances.
    I don’t think its should be called The Constitution though, I think it should called an Agreement of the People, in line with the world’s first ever proposal for a written constitution, made by the Levellers in England in the 1640s.

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