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Brown should be in the limbo business not politics. How low can he go?

Even more decentralisation to local government. Down here in Thanet, our Council has struggled to get enough money to carry out its increased number of functions due to a smaller governmental grant last year. It was at one point 1.5 million pounds short. Weve had to cut management staff and committees as well as a overhaul of the Council structure. Devolve more powers and Council tax will go through the roof. Cuts would have to be made to frontline services as in Thanet our Council has pledged not to increase Council tax above a certain level. This is Browns legacy.

There really is no logical reason for the left who are serious about keeping centre-left politics on the political agenda of this country not to push for PR. Unless there is a major change, it would lead to an almost permanent centre-left coalition. Of course, the just-under-half the population who loathe these politics would be marginalised for the foreseeable future, the left would drive the country into the ground, with the right system they could avoid ever addressing the concerns of specific 'problem' constituencies again, and it would be feeding time at the zoo for the far-right. An awful idea which must be blocked at all costs.

What's interesting though is that Cameron has spoken in favour of a written constitution and elected members of the Lords before. I'm not a particular fan of either of these ideas, but they do have merits -- and if they're going to be done, I'd rather they were done by a centre-right government than a left-wing one.

Giving Parliament power...wait a second. Didnt Labour say that the principle had been established that Parliament would have a vote, as they did with Iraq? Can the Queen stick fingers up at Brown for saying that...its her royal perogative to go to war not Parliaments.

A written constitution, Ive been wary of it as it is far too restrictive. Reform of the electoral system...do we really want coalitions in Britain with the Lib Dems having the choice of who to form a Government with? ID cards...something Labour were fully behind from the start...hell it was their idea!

Written constitutions are usually anathema to the romantic Tory (romantic in the, ooh memory bypass - what was the name of the guy who wrote about our constitution? Bageshot? Is that right? You know who I mean) .. but it becomes more attractive the longer we labour (geddit) under this disgusting government. Now that the police have the right to arrest me because they don't like the look on my face, or they think my eyes are too close together, or they just want to top up their DNA-database-ID-card-by-the-backdoor system ... the idea of having something I can use to appeal against their authoritarianism becomes more attractive.

But hold up! The reasons for having a Tory affection for our consitution-as-was are still valid and still powerful. We should not be seduced into going along with this part of the Brownite agenda (apart from anything else, can you imagine what a constitution written by him would be like? "Ah huv the right to all of yoor munny"). We should fight to retain our non-napoleonic system of common law as the ultimate defender of our liberty as free-born Britons. I hope that doesn't sound over the top; I just happen to believe it very passionately.

Ed R, quite a lot of leftists realise that, but (fortunately for us) Labour are far too greedy for power to want to share it with anyone else (even ideological soul mates).

It is however, hard to be completely sure what would happen if we switched to PR, (and it would also depend which system of PR we used). The European elections don't deliver a centre-Left majority, so perhaps a Parliamentary election wouldn't deliver one either.

We'd have a problem though if any right of centre coalitioin needed at least the tacit support of the BNP to form a government.

The problem with a written constitution is its legal basis. If it is enacted by Parliament, then Parliament can repeal it as no Parliament can bind its successors. If it is a contract between Monarch and people, as is the case with Magna Carta and the Declaration of Right, then the role of Parliament (and Brown) is not clear. The failure of the Chartist movement should inform us here.

As far as I can see, a written constitution could only be bindingly adopted after a revolution. That in itself should be reason for the conservative to oppose it. On the other hand, a recitation of the ancient rights of Englishmen and an instruction to Parliament and the judiciary not to tamper with them would be useful.

A written constitution inevitably leads to rule by unelected judges. Look at the USA to confirm this.

Isn't Britain already ruled by "unelected [European] judges", Reasonable?

A written constitution would make it infinitely worse.

I must say that I am in favour of a streamlined, modernised, and reformed EU; this reform ought to include reinstatement of our nation's law as supreme.

Can we pass a law saying that domestic law is sovereign over European law without kicking up a diplomatic storm? I cant see it making us many new friends but its very possible it would alienate ourselves within Europe.

A written constitution. Just like that!

An elected House of Lords?

I wonder if people have thought this through? How are they elected? Where are they elected - ie. do they have constituencies, or from a list? Who has ultimate power, the Commons or the Lords - they're both elected? I could go on...

A fully elected HoL would just be another HoC and wouldnt be a safeguarding chamber anymore which is the whole pound of a bicameral assembly.

pound...what am I thinking? I meant point. Reading something on the Euro...

James: the question of sovereignty is the weakpoint of any Brown constitution - as far as I'm aware, many European countries establish their constitution or basic law as supreme, so this would be a relevant question once any legislative proposals came forward. And the only politically correct (so to speak) answer is that the constitution would be sovereign above European law - but that would send many of the Government's supporters into apoplexy.

Re an elected HoL, it depends on the mode of election. There's no reason why we couldn't go for a rotated election like the US Senate (and others), which means a different basis of accountability and a different set of incentives for those seeking election.

Burkean: given the move of our legal culture over recent years, and the precedents set elsewhere (including, in the US, in a common law environment), it's unlikely to be a problem except for the potential for a lack of political legitimacy. To build political legitimacy, a written constitution that goes beyond codifying existing practice would need to be developed through some form of constitutional convention - but I can't see Brown being keen either on the time involved or the lack of control that such a process would entail.

I'm not keen on the idea of a written constitution. Whichever party introduced it would doubtless tailor it to reinforce their values rather than those of the nation (whatever those may be).

But if it was to be introduced, it should be a short and easy to understand document not some EU-style novel made up of hundreds of pages of waffle and civil service speak.

The final constitution should also be put out to referendum so that voters can decide whether to accept it or to reject it. In addition voters should also be allowed to reject or accept individual sections of the constitution in that same vote.

We shouldn't close our minds to the idea of a written constitution. The reality is that much of our constitutional law is now written, and there may be an argument for codification and completion.

The common law has not proved a very successful safeguard of our liberties over the last few decades. It hasn't prevented governments from doing more or less what they like when it comes to transferring power from our Parliament to Brussels, or curtailing ancient freedoms. We should consider whether a written constitution might do any better.

There have been various attempts to produce a written constituion. The IPPR published one in 1991. Its article 53.6 declared that "parliament has exclusive powers to make laws with respect to coinage and legal tender...". Had that been our written constitution, Brown and Blair would not have been able to declare in 1997 that the decision to enter the single currency was purely an economic one with no constitutional issues to be resolved. Although their attempt to get us into EMU came to nothing, it would be good to have a constitutional safeguard. That is one example of ways in which a written constitution might prove a good thing.

When it comes to the House of Lords, the first question we should ask is what should the powers of the second chamber be? Once we have decided on its function, then we can decide what composition would best enable that to happen.

I think the problem with the House of Lords at the moment is that any time it turns back a bill, we hear the usual line "the unelected chamber is imposing its will on the elected chamber", and we hear this even if the unelected chamber is more in tune with the people's views on any issue.

There are very many people, especially on the left, who see it as an outrage any time the Lords does its job. This totally undermines its function. And if Tony Blair wants to use the Parliament Act any time he doesn't get his way, what's the point?

In my view, whatever we do with the Lords, the Parliament Act should go, since it totally undermines our democratic system.

Wise words, Simon C. Thank you.

Wasn't it always inevitable that Labour would revisit the whole PR question once its vast gerrymandered majority began to crumble? New Labour is above all else a mechanism for keeping the Conservative Party out of power and Brown is one of the architects of New Labour. So he is not going to do anything that will assist the Tory Party back to power. Quite the opposite.

He also knows that if a PR system of some sort were implemented, this would not only strengthen the Lib Dems (who are essentially on the same wavelength as Labour) but would also begin to fragment the centre-right as smaller centre-right parties cane more effectively take votes off the Tories (cf the Free Democrats in Germany).

The language we employed against PR back in 1997-98, when it was last on the agenda, was to call PR "vote-rigging" - it worked. I think it will again. PR would have to be ratified by a referendum. Introducing it at the tail-end of a tired government would be a blatant attempt to change the system to stay in power. The time to do it was in 1997.

The ability to "throw the rascals out" is the strongest argument against PR.

Reading the Independent article made me come over all Engish Nationalist - whats a Scotsman doing deciding to rip up the constitution of England and impose his brand of "progressive consensus" on England?

Then I felt better because I couldn't think of anything more likely to destroy a Brown government...

Devolution has changed the game - and a written constitution would open a whole can of worms regarding the respective powers of the UK Executive, UK Houses of Parliament, position of the Monarchy and the powers of devolved parliaments, the EU and justice sysetm.

It's a great opportunity for the Tories as instead of focussing on Health, Education, Social Justice, Environment etc the Brown government would be focussed on constitutional niceties and would soon be bogged down on issues around Scots votes for English matters, delimiting its role vis a vis Scotland & Wales, and the EU.

Gordon seems to think that as an unelected PM (with no popular mandate - after all TB promised to serve a full term) he could treat the UK ministry as a sort of EU Presidency - esoteric constitutional discussions, big issues all of little interest to the electorate.

I think the Conservative case for a written constitution is illustrated by the frustration that the Telegraph rightly felt in this editorial on the lord chancellorship:


"In Britain, lacking a written constitution, we depend instead on the decency and self-restraint of our government. Sadly, such restraint is not part of Mr Blair's make-up."

The fact that the trust is gone, and no matter how virtuous future governments may be, probably cannot ever be truly regained, is to me the killer argument for a written constitution, because if it is locked in, the mongrels can't fiddle with it to suit their own agenda.

If Brown does pursue this approach, it looks like he'll be going off-message though. Check out the Labour spokesman's slightly mangled comment near the end of this article:


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