Marquand on popular sovereignty

David Marquand has a thought-provoking piece at OurKingdom, arguing that Gordon Brown’s Government is the best opportunity that constitutional reformers are likely to have for some time. Ironically, this suggestion might be more relevant in England than in Brown’s native Scotland, where the SNP offers an alternative way forward:

What Labour now needs to do is to revisit what I think of as the
‘democratic republican’ strand in its heritage – the strand that goes
back to Milton’s thunderous prose and Tom Paine’s magnificent audacity:
the strand that emphasises self government by free and active citizens
in a polity they own. Unless and until it does, and explains how this
is enhanced, not diminished, by sharing sovereignty with others in the
EU, its social democracy will be crippled and self-stultifying.

From that perspective, Brown’s talk of Britishness, British values,
and a British Bill of Rights and Duties takes on a new, and potentially
worrying dimension. I admire Brown enormously for having the courage to
call for a national conversation on theuse matters; none of his
predecessors has dared to do anything of the sort. But in the absence
of a clear commitment to replace subjecthood with citizenship – to
locate sovereignty in the citizen body as the French and Americans do
instead of in Westminster and Whitehall – I fear that ‘British values’
will turn out to be restrictive and backward-looking, and that the
proposed British Bill of Rights and Duties will make it harder to give
effect to the rights already contained in the Human Rights Act.






3 responses to “Marquand on popular sovereignty”

  1. Gabriel avatar

    An interesting blog has come to my attention, it is that of my brother in law David McCardle who lives in Essex. As well as being married to my sister Geraldine, David and I go back a long way, having been through the particularly ahem ‘memorable’ experience of an education in a school imbued with the ethos of the Jesuits.
    David’s blog is particularly interesting and informative, since David is suffering from Cancer and wishes people to be informed of what the sufferer experiences. It certainly makes for reading that will make those of us who complain about traffic congestion and the usual panoply of trivial everyday problems get things into perspective. It would be great if readers of Unrepentant Communist were able to send on their best wishes to a very brave guy.

  2. WorldbyStorm avatar

    Fair dues Gabriel…
    Tom, I’d be hugely pessimistic about the current government being in a position – or have an appetite – to implement change on that line. Brown seems to me to have an extremely narrow vision. And in a sense I agree with Marquand, because it looks as if a resurgent Toryism may well be back within the decade, which means this is the last best chance. But, this is a root and branch job, to shift from subject to citizen.
    What do you think?

  3. Tom Griffin avatar

    Thanks for the link Gabriel, I’ve added it to the blogroll.
    WBS, In a sense its surprising that Brown has got into this territory at all, but he has. The Governance of Britain paper discusses the possibility of a written constitution, which would indeed by a root and branch job.
    Given the state of the Government, it may be that we will end up with some limited reforms to the royal prerogative etc.
    What’s really interesting at the moment is the two competing processes around deepening Scottish devolution, the Labour version of which look to have been hobbled from the start by Wendy Alexander’s troubles.
    If the Tories look like winning the next election it will only increase the divergence between England and Scotland. The trend does seem to be a firmly centrifugal one, and its difficult to see it being reversed.

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