Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Written Constitution

One of the political initiatives expected from Gordon Brown (today confirmed as the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), is the development of a written constitution. [BBC News May 11th, May 16th] Apparently the UK is one of the few democracies (along with Israel and New Zealand) that currently lacks one. (Unlike Japan, Mali, Poland, Turkey, and of course the European Union.)

There was a brief discussion of the UK proposal on Radio Four this morning [Today Programme May 16th], together with a review of a strawman constitution compiled by politics students at Oxford University.

John Humphrys: The US constitution doesn't exactly solve problems, but creates huge problems of interpreting the will of the Founding Fathers, leading to huge battles at the Supreme Court. Some people thinks that's an impediment rather than an advantage for good government.

Vernon Bogdanor: A constitution doesn't solve problems; but it is an organization chart to tell people where they are and what rights they have.

Andrew Roberts: I don't think this document [the strawman constitution] would do anything to enhance or entrench our liberties, which is what a constitution ... [is for].

Three completely different views on the likely effects of a written constitution. Does a constitution establish rights or merely describe them? (Similar questions can be asked of other documents, including territorial maps and enterprise architectures.)

One of Bogdanor's former pupils will be looking at Brown's proposals closely - the Right Hon David Cameron MP.

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