Sunday, 31 May 2009

Time for a constitutional convention

It is now time to put together a package of reforms in a coherent package that has to be put before the electorate in a referendum. Some are calling for a 'Citizens' Convention' which is fine but the core institutional design could not be done in such a process. To have an internal coherence, it has to be done by constitutional experts. The founding fathers of the United States did an incredible job and they were scholars, lawyers, business people, and politicians. For me, the US Constitution- for all its flaws and difficult history- is the most elegant expression of pluralistic republican democracy ever drafted. We need one.

Gordon Brown has proposed a Constitutional Reform Bill but I feel that does not go far enough- the Citizens' Convention idea wouldn't work but there needs to be more citizen's involvement than parliamentary legislation alone would allow. How would we go about it? I would propose a Constitutional Convention comprising scholars, lawyers, national, and local politicians. It would have a very simple objective: "to design a package of constitutional reforms that give the citizens of the United Kingdom a greater say over how they are governed to be put to a referendum within 12 months of the Convention's establishment."

There could be a citizens' committee that sits alongside this but the reforms need internal coherence to clearly move our political system towards greater popular accountability. That requires expertise.

Who would head up the Convention? My vote would be for Vernon Bogdanor. He is the clearest thinking scholar and commentator on these issues and is a reformer. And he is not Helena Kennedy QC.

Post script: I thought Gordon Brown was excellent on The Andrew Marr Show this morning: lively and combative.


  1. I thought he came across as arrogant, belligerant and dictatorial. He gives every indication that he believes he has a divine right to be Prime Minister which, considering he has never been elected into office, makes me very angry.

  2. Gerorge Woodhouse1 June 2009 at 06:41

    I agree with the last comment. And bearing in mind that the need for dramatic constitutional reform and a written constitution has been exacerbated by the actions of Blair and Brown over the last 12 years it is clearly opportunistic and arrogant of Brown to suggets it now. He should go now while he has an opportunity to go wwith some dignity, and before being thrown out first by the electorate then by the Labour party