Monday, 21 June 2010

“A government without a constitution is a government without a right”

“A government without a constitution is a government without a right” asserted Labour MP Graham Allen quoting Tom Paine in an article . He is now the new (elected) chair of the relevant select committee and part of his contribution was broadcast in Peter Riddell's Week in Westminster which is on iplayer for a week.(If you are really keen it can be listened to it by clicking on the title of this posting)

He went on:

A new written settlement, having created clearly defined institutions and rights, where everyone can know the rules, is just the beginning. The relationship and evolution which develops between those new features will be of great significance. There will undoubtedly be a serious debate and even conflict between the different institutions – a reformed House of Commons will discomfort the executive: an elected second chamber will want to spread its wings; individuals using the Bill of Rights will expose the Government to much greater accountability and influence the future development of the judiciary; European decisions will have to be debated in greater detail; and constitutionally independent local government will be assertive and rejuvenated. Above all, individuals will not only feel greater ownership of the political system and be more demanding of it, they will also be less tolerant of the abuse of power and better equipped to put it right. Winning the General Election to decide the national government will always be vitally important. However in a pluralist democracy with other equally legitimate institutions available through which political voice and progress can be realised, losing a General Election will never again be the end of meaningful politics. A Written Constitution will be the trigger for the subcontracting of political action from a whole nation to a small elite in the Executive to end.

Following his election he has been reported as saying that local authorities should be allowed to choose their own electoral systems! What a changed world that would be. At present we aren't even trusted to build our own secondary schools with out tugging our forelocks to central governments, employing their chosen consultants and entering their silly little competitions all of which uses up time and costs millions.

One of the biggest constitutional reforms in this parliament-we hope-will be the introduction of AV. This is not as radical as many of us would like but sadly it is all that is on offer. It has become clear that Labour were not even willing to guarantee that small step even though it is in their manifesto! We want to make progress on this front as it will introduce preferential voting and at last move us away from the concept that we are illiterate peasants who can only make a X mark on a ballot paper. Next stop multi member constituencies. In the meantime it is essential that we make make common cause with constitutional reformers where ever the are found if this referendum is to be one. This is no time for tribal politics

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