Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Written Constitution

There have been mutterings and mumblings for ages and ages that what Britain needs is a written constitution, in the words of Flanders and Swann, "to finish once and for all this compromise and uncertainess that has served us so well for so long."
Well, I don't think it's possible. Literally not at all possible without a revolution. Because the only body that could enact a written constitution - Parliament - is incapable of doing so. It is not possible for Parliament to bind its successors. That's a law more akin to gravity than it is to speeding. Unless the entire principle of British governance is redesigned from the bottom up, there is no way that a written constitution can be enacted.
Lets take a brief example. In the eyes of British law, the independence of the Republic of Zambia was established through a Parliamentary Bill, then confirmed by an Order in Council. For Parliament to order the enactment of a written Constitution would be akin to their revoking Zambian independence - technically possible, the Bill could be written, but not practical.
Lets say that in the dying days of a Labour Government they introduce a written constitution that squeaks through both Houses and is enacted before an election which they lose. The new Conservative Government could simply abolish the Bill, amend it, or tear it up to make lavatory paper. It would have no residual power. It's almost as much a philosophical point as anything else - the only body capable of redesigning British Government, doesn't have the power to do so.

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