Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Proper constitutional arrangements for C21st

Parliament is struggling to make itself more powerful in an era when- post Blair and Thatcher -British politics has become more presidential. You could of course argue that the rot set in with Lloyd George and the 1916 Government, but I doubt he even dreamt of the untrammeled power now enjoyed by Brown. The British constitution has not effectively responded to this evaporation of power. A 'think piece' in the Independent this morning suggests that as long as the government is drawn from the Commons too many folk will be focused on a Ministerial career and thus act as a drag on a robust and independent Commons effectively holding the government to account.

This idea is clearly gaining ground. A few weeks ago David Starkey used a slot on the BBC to argue that Britain ought to opt for thorough going reform and introduce a proper separation of powers like the Americans. The Commons would then have a clear focus for its work and would inevitably become more effective.

Graham Allen the Labour MP for Nottingham (who I shared a flat with when we were both students studying politics in London in the early 1970s) has also argued the case. Allen has a good record as a constitutional reformer. It is a mark of how quickly things are moving that when he floated the idea of acknowledging we had a quasi presidential system and making the proper provisions to hold it to account he was mocked. Today folk are not so swift to mock as they struggle to rein in the executive and giving meaning to the role of an elected assembly.