UK process unique in the democratic world: Constitution

mm at mm at
Wed Oct 17 18:08:24 BST 2012

I&R ~ GB Citizens' Initiative and Referendum
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain

Comment in reply to newspaper article, cited below.

Vernon Bogdanor maintains that our constitution has since 1997 been 
reformed but can he claim that "We the People" have been appropriately 
informed, involved and empowered to do this? To what extent are people 
-- even the highly educated -- informed about all these reforms?

For half a century or more it has been recognised across the world that 
the people should be effectively involved in developing constitution and 
that the changes should be made -- confirmed or rejected -- by 
plebiscite, ballot of the whole electorate.

Ways to improve matters include setting up a constitutional assembly 
comprised at least mainly of "ordinary" citizens. They could be chosen 
by sortition (lot) or by sampling according to region of residence and 
background. This sort of process has seen success in Canada (British 
Columbia) and -- as part of a response to financial crisis -- Iceland. 
There are many other potential strategies to promote the involvement of 
a wide spectrum of the population in a public debate.

V.B. in listing some human rights which might be considered for reform 
(health care, equality etc.) omits to specifically mentions a field of 
rights which could grow some healthy crops of mature statehood, good 
governance and constitution building: Democratic rights. These in turn 
would be expected to improve the quality of constitution-building.

Modern state constitutions with increasing frequency contain the 
principles that (a) all power of state emanates from the people and (b) 
the people exercise their political power by means of both direct and 
indirect democracy.*

*(Direct democracy includes deciding on public issues in binding 
referendum; indirect democracy refers to electing politicians to 
legislate and govern).

In a published essay we have argued that "Citizen-led democracy is 
essential for sustainable constitutional reform" (title) noting that a 
"crucial question remains, namely, how can we make ourselves a modern 
constitution when the "constitution" and related tradition which we 
appear to possess provide no suitable tools for the job?" This essay may 
be read via the page Analysis and Comment at


The Independent
Vernon Bogdanor  Wednesday 17 October 2012 
"Since 1997, we have been engaged in a process unique in the democratic 
world of gradually giving ourselves a constitution. We have been 
transforming a hitherto uncodified constitution into a codified one, not 
in one fell swoop, but in a piecemeal and ad hoc way." "The Human Rights 
Act, passed in 1998, lies at the centre of this new constitution."

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