A United Kingdom Constitutional Convention

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution in the UK has published its paper ‘A Parliament for Reform 2015-2020′ which can be downloaded here.

The paper includes the following proposed wording for inclusion in the manifestos of all parties at the coming General Election:

“We will establish a UK Constitutional Convention to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. The Convention will operate independent of government and will include members of the public as well as representatives of the political parties, local authorities and the nations and regions of the UK. Members of the public will make up more than half of the total membership.

Sitting for no longer than a year, the Convention will consider, and publish recommendations on:

  1. The relationship between the nations, and all parts within the UK, including their fair representation in the Westminster Parliament.
  2. Arrangements for the governance of England.
  3. Other issues that may require the attention of a successor Convention.
We will bring before Parliament proposals to respond to the recommendations of the Convention within six months of its reporting.”

12th March 2015

New paper by Vernon Bogdanor: The Crisis of the Constitution

The Constitutions Society’s paper, ‘The Crisis of the Constitution: The General Election and the Future of the United Kingdom’ by Vernon Bogdanor, is available online.

Who governs Britain? That is the question being put to the voters on 7th May. But there are other questions lurking in the background, constitutional questions, that are the subject of this pamphlet. The first of them is – how is Britain to be governed in an era of party fragmentation in which the electoral system either fails to yield a single-party majority government; or, if it does yield such a government, it is likely to be a government enjoying little over one-third of the popular vote?

The second and even more fundamental question is – will there remain a Britain to be governed, or will the election give a further push to those forces in Scotland calling for separation? But these are not the only constitutional questions that Britain will face. There are in addition a European Question, a Human Rights Question and an English Question. The constitution, which many politicians hoped might have been disposed of after the Scottish referendum, has returned to the political agenda with a vengeance. Vernon Bogdanor discusses both the problems and possible solutions. Read more ›

12th February 2015

After the Referendum…

Political developments around the ‘No’ vote in Scotland last Thursday have highlighted the salience of two recent papers published by The Constitution Society, both available online:

After the Referendum: Options For a Constitutional Convention, by Alan Renwick, was produced in partnership with Unlock Democracy. The pamphlet argued that, whatever the result of Scotland’s independence referendum, careful constitutional thinking would be needed. It examined how such constitution-making should take place. It set out the options, gathered evidence from around the world on how these options might work, and weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. It concluded that constitutional proposals in the UK should best be developed by a convention comprising a mixture of ordinary members of the public and politicians; and that these proposals should be put to a referendum. This approach, the paper argued, offers the best route to high-quality debate, stronger democratic engagement, and, ultimately, deeper legitimacy for our governing structures.

‘If Scotland says ‘No’: What Next For The Union?’ examined the implications of a ‘No’ vote for the UK constitution. It concluded that a ‘no’ vote would not mean ‘no change’, and that it was very likely that unionist parties would adopt proposals for more devolution. It examined the possible consequences for Scotland and for the Union as a whole. To produce this paper,  The Constitution Society brought together three leading think tanks from across the political spectrum to explore these questions and propose some possible answers. With contributions from Professor Michael Keating, Magnus Linklater, Jim Gallagher and Philip Blond, this collaboration with CentreForum, the Fabian Society and ResPublica set the scene for the post-referendum debate.

22nd September 2014

Resignation shines light on PCC powers

The resignation of Paris Brown, Britain’s first ‘Youth Police Commissioner’, shines light on the powers of appointment elected Police and Crime Commissioners have and raises questions as to how appropriate these may be. 

The revelation that Ms Brown had once sent violent, racist, and homophobic tweets made her position untenable, but her resignation does not usher in the end of the role of a ‘Youth Police Commissioner’ in Kent. Introduced by Kent’s Independent PCC, Ann Barnes, the role sought to engage the police with young people – a replacement will be appointed in due course. This was a position created in Kent alone and at the behest of its PCC. 

Questions of vetting, transparency, and the powers of PCCs are now in the spotlight. Making summary appointments is one of the important powers that PCCs have been granted, but until now it has been little explored. The landmark election of PCCs would have been the ideal opportunity for a constitutional discussion on the rights and wrongs of democratisating key roles – yet the election did little to explore the constitutional implications of this new position and the low turnout (below 15%) spoke for the lack of enthusiasm or clarity on the remit of the office. 

  Read more ›

Mixed results for directly elected mayors

While the results for the 2012 Local Elections poured, in The Constitution Society was carefully watching the series of  referendums as to whether some of the UK’s major cities should have a directly elected mayor. A key initiative of the Coalition, the case for directly elected mayors had been strongly articulated by many in Government and Opposition, with the Prime Minister calling for a ‘Boris in every city’.

As it happened London did indeed return Boris Johnson as mayor, but of the eleven cities voting on whether to have a directly elected mayor or not only two opted for it over a council cabinet system. Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle Upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield all rejected a mayor with ‘No’ votes of 57.8%, 55.1%, 63.6%, 63.3%, 53.2%, 61.9%, 57.5%, 65% and 62.2% respectively.

Read more ›

Codifying Local Government?

The Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee is consulting on the democratic and practical issues around the desirability of codifying (or formally writing down) in statute the principles and mechanics of the relationship between central and local government.

You can find the draft code above or by clicking on this link. The Committee itself has not taken a view on the document, but is making it available to the public for consultation to see if an appetite exists for any form of codification of the relationship between central and local government.

Consultation closes on 5th October 2012. The Constitution Society encourages all interested parties to send responses and thoughts on the code to the Select Committee at pcrc@parliament.uk