February 19, 2006

The new British Constitution

Talk Politics is getting the ball rolling on the Grand Coalition to get rid of New Labour, undo some of their damage, and get ourselves a better constitutional settlement. OK lets get things started now. A few general ideas for the proposed constitution:

1. Keep It Simple Stupid. Lets try for something simple and readable in the style of the US constitution rather than the EU constitution. A lay reader should be able to sit down with it after work and finish it before bed time. And they should be able to understand it.

2. We are setting the rules of operation for the government ... and nothing else. Do not right any specific rules or models into it, they may seem like self evident Good Things now but will they in a hundred years time? Regulations belong as Acts of Parliament not in the constitution itself.

3. Be careful about over broad emergency powers clauses. The USSR had the most liberal constitution ever written. However it also included a few little clauses that allowed the rulers to ignore it. The rest is history, as where about 40 million of it's citizens. Simplicity will help here by making any clauses like this readily visible.

4. It must be able to amend itself. The world changes, things might need to be added and some things removed to deal with these changes. But any attempt to change things must be a very big deal, perhaps requiring a national referendum.

5. There should be Parliament and Citizens. No further subdivisions. No special place for religion. No special place for gender. No special place for sexuality. No special place for ethnicity. No special place for class. We are all Citizens (or Subjects if you want) equal under the Law.

Pete in Dunbar has flagged up a good thing, which I missed

6. Separation of powers. Separate the judiciary from the legislature, and the executive from the legislature. But I would still like the executive to have to face something akin to Prime Ministers Questions on a regular basis as a formal way of the legislature keeping tabs on the executive.

Now a few more specific things that must be included:

1. Freedom of speech.

2. Habeas Corpus.

3. Presumption of Innocence.


Blogger Bishop Hill said...

Parliament? Or Parliaments? Remember there is the whole devolution settlement which is going to have to be looked at again.

7:48 pm  
Blogger chris said...

Good point. We will have to deal with the West Lothian question and other issues of localisation. I would personally prefer there to be just one Parliament. But if the Scots or Welsh want full independence (as indicated by referendum) then fine they should have it.

8:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parliament. We shouldn't need to look at the glorified county councils in Scotland and Wales, or the real local councils throughout the UK, unless we also want to look at how power can be devolved from the centre generally. The key thing to get right is the relationship between the citizen and the state.

Hmmm 'Parliament' though. Does that imply the continued smearing of executive and legislature in a single institution, or would a reconstructed Parliament separate them out?

9:14 pm  
Blogger chris said...

Well most of what we are doing is looking at the way power is dispersed at the moment (a scary amount in 10 Downing Street), and how it should be dispersed. In my view with most in the hands of individuals, and as little as possible in the hands of government.

Good point, trying to separate the arms of government would be a good idea. The Lords needs to be properly reformed anyway.

10:07 pm  
Blogger MatGB said...

West Lothian needs to be addressed; too much sentiment in England to ignore it. Besides, any new constitution needs to define the Lords, I suspect the best models for that are senate style chambers a lá Germany, Australia, USA. All of which take reps from the next highest govt level in one way or another.

Can't do that if we don't figure out what they are.

10:33 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would prefer to start from a libertarian perspective and an ideal in which there is no government at all.

Written constitutions only lead to static countries that can't adapt to changing situations.

Why include references to freedom of speech and separation of powers etc., when they are a given in our society at the moment.

As the author types himself, 'Do not right [sic] any specific rules or models into it, they may seem like self evident Good Things now but will they in a hundred years time?'.

12:43 am  
Blogger chris said...

No written constitution is what we have at the moment, which must not be the same as a small state or constrained government. As New Labour have shown without specific constraints there is nothing that a government cannot do, and now the taboo about tearing up old constitutional arrangements has been broken the expantion of government powers is only going to get worse. Hence the need now for some kind of constraints on government.

8:41 am  

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