Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Unwritten Constitution

Taken from the above, which was written by Stuart Weir and published by Democratic Audit. Please note however that the object of this exercise is to summarise - in an irreverent way - how the UK constitution works in practice currently, not how it should work. Feel free to add anything that you feel has been omitted.


We, the elite, do not believe in the kind of constitution most other advanced nations have — those that boast a belief in popular sovereignty; with resounding declarations such as ‘we, the people’, and that tend to contain rules about how governments should act.

We describe ours as the ‘unwritten constitution’. It is a collection of laws, fictions, powers left over from the old monarchy and powers that we make up as we go along. It allows us to decide what governments can do; and best of all, only we have the power to change it.

We disguise the fact that it is neither popular, representative nor accountable through a set of myths about the ‘Mother of Parliaments’, Magna Carta and the rule of law.

We hide our power behind a grand title, the Sovereignty of Parliament. It has a democratic ring to it, but legally this sovereignty is vested in the Crown in Parliament, or in plainer language, in the hands of the Prime Minister and government within Parliament. This enables us to combine executive and legislative power and allows us to keep the judges in their place. Parliament by and large passes all the laws that we tell it to - at least in those areas where we are still able to - or better still, we can employ devices, known as statutory instruments, to make the law so that we do not have to bother with Parliament that much. We are also able to implement the laws of our masters in Brussels by passing them off as made at our instigation.

Parliament, far from being representative of the people, is actually our bulwark against the people. We are also able to treat the people not as citizens but as subjects. We encourage people to believe that they are free, though actually they are in chains, unfelt but real chains nevertheless.

One most helpful myth is widely believed – that the great virtue of the obsolete electoral system that we use for elections to Parliament is that it enables the people to ‘chuck the rascals out.’ Actually it is the secret of our grasp on power. Elections are unavoidable, but we can reduce their unpredictability in a variety of ways. First-past-the-post elections limit the number of parties that have a chance of winning power, and most MPs – four out of every five – can count on being returned at a general election (if not after an expenses scandal). Moreover, once in power governments can usually expect to be returned over a series of elections. The electoral system for the House of Lords is even more efficient – we do not have one. We are quietly perfecting the principle of non-election by creating bodies known as quangos at all levels of government, national, regional and local, and run by people whom we appoint and trust. A great number have usurped the roles of elected local authorities allowing us to subdue local councils and more or less abolish local democracy.

We justify our ability to create new powers and ways of governing, or to change how we run the country to suit the Prime Minister or his or her cabinet, by extolling the flexible nature of the unwritten constitution. The great advantage of this flexibility is that once we have hit on a new way of behaving, it becomes part of the constitution. And we can modernise easily. So we have moved on from old-fashioned cabinet government to sofa government by the prime minister with trusted allies and special advisers. Presidential, yes, but faster and more efficient.

This excellent state of affairs allows us to exercise executive power more or less as we please while the whole world admires us as a democracy.


Anonymous said...

The only question mark is over whether The Unspoken Constitution should still be considered as a piece of satire, or be identified as a factual document. Nearly four months since it was written, not a single step has been taken towards fixing this state of affairs.

Witterings From Witney said...

And it won't be AM - at least not while we have the present mindset prevalent in the three main parties.

Trooper Thompson said...

Only an usurping illegitimate power can take away our rights and liberties under the Constitution. They - this criminal, freedom-hating government along with their quisling fellow-travellers in the other major parties, have no authority to do so.

Over a good hundred years they have toiled, furtively for so long, now blatantly, to chip away at these defences. The right to life, liberty, property, habeas corpus, a jury trial, due process, self-defence etc, none of these are within their purview, none of these have they discretion to tamper with.

The Crown in Parliament may be sovereign, but the sovereign does not have unlimited power.