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A Brownian Constitution

Link: Looking for a voice: The Brown Premiership ?

Guthrum comments on the fact that Gordon Brown is talking of a new written constitution for the United Kingdom. That is something we certainly need. Under New Labour's iron party discipline, Parliament has become the obedient instrument of the Executive and the "separation of powers" has collapsed.

If we could simply adopt the US Constitution, doing a "search and replace" to change "United States of America" to "United Kingdom" I would be happy. I could even accept (reluctantly) the deletion of the right to bear arms. However, I guarantee that a Brownian constitution will neither restrain the powers of the State nor protect individual rights. Brown is the last man on Earth to promote our right to pursue happiness in our own way. His draft will be laden with false "rights" which merely amount to imposing obligations on others.

We desperately need a new Constitution to protect us from the State, but this hugely authoritarian Government is the last one that should be trusted with the job. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Comments

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Thanks for the speedy reply, Tom. I am not, as you seem to think, wholly unconcerned by the encroachment of civil liberties by a government, who lost my trust with the attempted 90 days detention. However, I do not see a written constitution as the way to solve this. It is my opinion that the introdustion of a more proportional electoral system, probably a hybrid one, would be much more successful. The reason our government is able to take such firm control of Parliament and ignore the opposition in the country to issues such as the Iraq War and ID cards, is because our electoral system allows them to be confident in a majority capable of tyrrany and elected dictatorship. An entrenched constitution would merely cause us problems in the future, such as the problems America faces with its gun crime, while only giving us a temporary solution to the problem of arbitary government. Do you imagine it would be difficult through scare tactics or by taking advantage of people's fear of an external threat to acheive a 75% majority? As for the role of the "upper house", I can't see that it should have any role at all in a democratic Britain. Why should it? We have Judicial Review to serve practically the same purpose to a much more significant, and legitimate, extent.

Tom

Thanks for your comment, Har. I share your concerns about the form a written British Constitution might take. For most of my life I would also have agreed with your assessment of the merits of the existing, largely unwritten, form which amounts -essentially- to "Parliament is sovereign." But as the last 10 years have shown, if Parliament can be brought under the control of the Executive with MP's voting as the PM (through the Government Whips) directs, there is no "balance of powers" in Britain and even such fundamentals as habeas corpus can be swept away. Our freedoms have depended for centuries on independent-minded, even bloody-minded, MP's refusing to do as they are told. Now we have professional politicians who depend on the PM for promotion, we have few of that kind.

The US Constitution is "entrenched", which means it cannot be varied by simple majority vote. That could be achieved in Britain too. If a Government had to achieve, say, a 75% majority in the Lower and Upper House and the approval of the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Irish and Welsh Assemblies and a new English Parliament, for example, it would make constitutional change suitably difficult.

Making a Constitution work is not nearly such a great problem in Britain as reaching agreement as to the fundamental rights it should protect. The Americans were lucky to agree on theirs at the height of the "Age of Reason", the most liberal time in human history so far.

Har Shone

There is no real advantage to a written constitution. They are inflexible and inorganic, which makes them also highly dangerous. What is written down can be repealed just as easily; that is the point of Parliamentary Sovereignty which is, in essence, sovereignty of the executive. I would have thought that someone who fears the power of the executive to such an extent, you would realise convention and precedent are harder to destroy than what is written down as this can always be declared archaic. The reason the USA's constituion remains the same is their federal system which Britain, as a very small nation state, could not sustain. The genius of the British constitution lies in its ability to be flexible and react to different times and situations. Written constituions come only from times of turmoil; the French Revolution, The Russian Revolution, The American War of Independence to name just three. As a result of this they almost always fail to take into account change that will occur in the future because of the fear of change born from such suffering seen in these times. The reason that Britain has been so successful since the end of Cromwell, is down to our uncodified constituion.

Dave Petterson

Tom, Perhaps but after 10 years of Socialist Hell what percentage? 10 years ago I didn't care myself and didn't even have a handgun but now I'd be stocked up with a few of everything and thousands of rounds.

Tom

Dave, I personally think that's a good point. Reluctantly, however, I have to accept that a vast majority of my fellow-citizens believe in the Government providing a legal guarantee to criminals that their victims will be unarmed.

GUTHRUM

Unfortunately, the Lord Protector has no such aims, Jack Straw a Brown supporter who wants the Home office again has floated this on behalf of the Protectorate. Brown slid sideways when questioned by Naughtie, evaded, then talked about 'opening a national debate' ie NULABspeak for -bury it. The Times is reporting that the Queen is joining forces with the LP to preserve the Union. If this is true, she will be Elizabeth the Last.

Dave Petterson

It's an interesting view that the US constitution is OK as it is because of the 2nd Amendment. Why should we have to remove the only thing that has the potential to stop government control? Why do we have to tweak out the things we don't like?

However, in saying that we have 200 years of experience behind that document. If we were to take it as it is and propose alternatives with pros and cons that people could vote on that should be OK.

However, as you say, that will not happen under Brown. he needs us emasculated so we are powerless as the squeeze goes on.

jameshigham

And do you really think, Tom, that a Brownian constitution would move in that direction, rather than the opposite, towards erosion of freedoms?

dearieme

We'd need to solve the great flaw in the US Constitution, to wit the lack of any mechanism to require the Supreme Court to apply the Constitution, rather than the Justices' whim.

Colin Campbell

I agree that this Government, with their overweaning desire to regulate and control everything may not be a good advocate for a more terse and balanced constitution. Presumably this would have to go to referendum like the European Constitution. Why not get started however. Surely people are smart enough to decide on this.

I imagine Amendments such as the Right to Monitor and Spy on UK Citizens and the Right of Illegal Immigrants to have the same rights as UK citizens may not make it into the final draft.

I think this kind of debate would take power out of Parliament and into the population.

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