The UK needs immediate constitutional reform

There is a great deal of talk in the United Kingdom about a new constitution; we have been shaken out of our lethargy and belief that our unwritten constitution provides us with the best possible system of government by a terrible scandal in which it has been revealed that the majority of our elected representatives and some of the appointed representatives have been taking from the public purse for their own enrichment.

Talk about a new constitution by politicians attempts to restore public faith in the system of government, and distracts from the proper shaming and prosecution of those involved in the scandal. Politicians of one party are making statements about constitutional change and they are being taken seriously (as opposed to being ridiculed) by other parties; that shows just how bad the scandal is.

Readers in the United States and other parts of the world may not know a lot about the British Constitution, There is no reason why they should. However let me highlight some shocking facts:-

  • Those elected and those up for election do not publish their tax returns each year
  • Members of Parliament are elected on a first past the post principle from a list of candidates chosen by local political parties (there are three main parties) and not by primaries.
  • The senior judiciary is chosen by secret measures; there is no examination in public for the judges.
  • The Prime Minister in the UK has all the power of a US president and the senate and house combined.
  • The UK’s second chamber is entirely now appointed by those we elect. This has lead to some curious appointments and of course a legislature with no mandate from the electorate.
  • The elected members of Parliament make up and enforce their own rules. There is no judicial check or balance over them by reference to a constitution
  • The head of state is the Queen, whose role is ceremonial and without power, but perhaps a modicum of influence.
  • Scotland has a separate Parliament but also elects MPs for the UK Parliament. Scottish constituencies are smaller than English constituencies, so Scottish MPs have a greater influence. Scottish Mps vote on laws that exclusively affect England and Wales, but English and Welsh MPs have n votes in the Scottish Parliament. This leads to Scots having a disproportionate influence in the United Kingdom. The major labour politicians are Scots.
  • There is no ssytem of impeachment if any elected or appointed poltician seriously misbehaves.

Now taking all those things into account it is unsurprising that some think that the British Constitution is need urgent need of reform. Of course until the recent scandals the general political consensus was that there was no public appetite for reform.

It was a bit like the reaction of some labour politicians to the scandal best summarised as “you had better keep voting for us or you’ll let the fascists in” as though fascism is the only alternative offered to the main political parties at the polling booths.

The scandals have sharpened the knives of the great British public; they can put up with a great deal but as Sherlock Holmes pointed out “the Englishman is a patient creature, but at present his temper is a little inflamed, and it would be as well not to try him too far.”

The political class would do well to remember that. We need constitutional reform with checks and balances on the power of the executive. We need it now; what has happened has been an affront to democracy.

I might warn in the language of Arthur Conan Doyle any politician that delays or befuddles much needed constitutional reform.  “My dear sir, if you did anything so foolish you would probably enlarge the too limited titles of our village inns by giving us ‘The Dangling Politician’ as a signpost”.

3 Responses

  1. But, as usual for the UK nothing will actually happen, it will blow over and the British public will forget about it, I have never understood why the Scottish MP’s can vote on issues that effect England and yet English MP’s cannot vote on issues that effect Scotland, this is simply WRONG, why do we allow such things to happen, for a nation that used to be very powerful and near enough owned three quaters of the world, look what we have become, a doormat for the rest of the world.
    I used to be proud to be English, not anymore, as a nation, we have lost our backbone

  2. An excellent summary for our American cousins, however, I suspect that many British voters also need to review each of your points, because I suspect that some are only beginning to realise now, just how much power has been passed to the state.

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