ConstitutionUK - Crowdsourcing the UK Constitution

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We will update this blog with upcoming news including exciting upcoming public events. Further, we will alert you to when a new video with Professor Conor Gearty talking with an expert on a challenge topic is available to watch, so keep checking for updates!

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Feedback and Evaluation

Posted by Malte Werner (Admin) Apr 25, 2015

While the work to finalise our crowdsourced constitution continues, our attention now turns to you and your experience as a member of this community and a significant contributor to the project.

Your feedback is invaluable to us. We hope to engage as many of you as possible in individual online interviews and/or focus groups (more of this later). For now though, we would greatly appreciate your taking the time to complete the short survey linked below: 

ConstitutionUK Survey

Completing the survey should take, typically, no more than 15-20 minutes and you are free to withdraw at any point. We will also be giving £50 vouchers to ten persons, randomly drawn from the pool of respondents.

The information you will provide to us will be used to improve the experience for participants in other similar, future projects and also for research purposes. It will not be used in a manner which would allow identification of your individual responses. 

Anonymised research data will be stored at the London School of Economics. If you wish to be informed about the results of our research please fill in your email address at the end of the survey.

We have reached the end of phase 1 of ConstitutionUK and want to express huge thanks to all of you who have been busy submitting your ideas, commenting and voting. What you have achieved is fantastic: 720 ideas, generating some 7200 comments, and well over 21000 votes cast - all in just a just a little over 10 weeks. It's been an incredible first phase and we are all really looking forward to the next. 
 
Starting at 1am: the refining phase
We have progressed all ideas with a positive vote balance (+1 or greater) to the refining phase. Idea submission is now closed. Here, we want to provide you with a brief outline and a little guidance for the next phase. It's fairly lengthy but contains some really important information about how this next phase will work and the critical role you have to play in ensuring its success. Please do make sure to read it carefully.
 
Voting in the refining phase
Voting remains, and is an important part of the refining phase. We are keen to ensure that only those ideas that have genuine support are progressed to the Constitutional Convention event. Your first phase votes have been carried over, and you are strongly encouraged to confirm your support, withdraw your vote, or even change your mind and vote against, during this phase.
 
In the first phase, your votes for an idea were an expression of your support for the idea in principle. In this second phase, your votes on ideas are equally a validation that the redrafted proposition is true to the spirit of the original idea submission and that a reasonable attempt has been made by the idea owner, to integrate the thoughts and feedback of the community that has debated and discussed it. Which, leads us neatly on, to the additional responsibilities idea authors have in the refining phase.
 
Idea authors – your responsibilities
If you are an idea author and you are successful in having one or more of your ideas progressed, then you have wider responsibilities during the refining phase. We would encourage you to think of yourself less as the author of the idea, and more the "owner" of the idea as it now resides within the community. You no longer need to convince other community members of the merits of your idea. Instead, we now ask you to work with the community to reduce your original submission to as concise a proposition as possible. What is the real essence of the idea? The core principle? This is what we are keen to see developed through this phase.
 
As an idea owner you will have a responsibility to the community to ensure that the comments and discussion from the first phase are taken into account when redrafting your idea. Our facilitators will be available to all community members to support and monitor the progress of the redrafting process.
 
Commenting on ideas
All comments have been reset for the refining phase. This is to ensure that lengthy conversations don’t discourage people from engaging and participating in this important second phase. Comments from the first phase remain available to all community members and are accessible by clicking on and returning to the first-phase archive. We hope that the process of integrating comments will be easier as a result of the introduction of points awards for voting and receiving votes on comments. Voting on comments is the mechanism by which you can indicate to an idea owner, what it is that you want to see prioritised and integrated into the redrafted ideas. Our facilitators are here to provide support to you if, for any reason, you have difficulty in integrating comments from the community.
 
And finally...
There may be instances where the original idea author is no longer active on the platform. It may also be the case that some users have been so successful in eliciting support for their ideas that their workload in this phase is unmanageable (we have a number of users who have submitted dozens of ideas). In these cases, we will enlist the help of one of our facilitators to take a more active role in the redrafting process. Wherever facilitators do take responsibility for an idea, this will be clearly communicated to the community. They also have clear guidance from us, that they are to approach any redrafting as objectively as possible, seeking only to summarise the original idea submission and integrate the most popular comments from the discussions.
 
Once again many thanks for your hard work so far; we are excited to progress to the next phase. As always, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us with any questions, suggestions or comments.
 

Voting Week: Important Changes

Posted by Malte Werner (Admin) Mar 30, 2015

The first phase of ConstitutionUK, "Hacking the Content", is now into its final week. We are declaring this final week "Voting Week", and will be changing the rules of the game, amending the points available to you for voting and extending our invitees to the Constitutional Convention to the Top30. If you're keen to attend and have an eye on your current leaderboard standing, then please take note.  

The changes

At the end of this week, all votes with a positive vote balance (+1 or greater) will be progressed to the refining phase for further commenting and redrafting by the community.

You will now receive 10pts if you cast or receive a vote on an idea (previously, this was 2pts and 3pts respectively). You will now also receive 5pts for voting, and receiving votes, on comments (previously, this carried no points). For technical reasons, these changes will be applied retrospectively (to votes already cast). To make sure nobody loses their deserved spot at the Constitutional Convention, we are extending the number of places available to the Top30. This is a fantastic opportunity for you all to add to your points tally and improve your chances of getting to the Constitutional Convention. 

Why we're making these changes

Your votes are essential to ideas progressing to the next round. They are also critical to the overall legitimacy of the project and the final constitution. Currently, there are a great many ideas seeing lots of discussion but surprisingly few votes (either way; be it positive or negative). Similarly, there are a number of ideas which have received very few votes, and yet have a positive vote balance (so, as it stands, having little real legitimacy, but which are likely to progress to the next phase).

In little over ten weeks you have, together, as a community, authored approximately 600 unique idea submissions, discussed and debated these via 6000 comments, and cast nearly 9000 votes to indicate what you want to see progress through the project and form part of our final, crowdsourced constitution. This is a huge achievement and you should, each of you, feel proud. 

Having been so successful in generating a wealth of ideas and debate, it is exciting to see how the constitution is taking shape. With little over a week left, it is now equally important that you cast your votes to decide which ideas should progress to the refining stage on Sunday!

 

This week on our ConstitutionUK platform we invite you to further consider the 'Local Government' topic. Prof. Conor Gearty has posted the following ideas on the platform: 

 

Look out for these ideas under the Local Government topic on the platform. These are important questions so do get involved, tell us your ideas, comments and suggestions!

Don't forget that the ideas with the greatest number of VOTES will make it through to the next round!!      

 

UK Supreme Court

This week on our ConstitutionUK platform we invite you to further consider the 'Rights & Duties' topic. Prof. Conor Gearty has posted the following ideas on the platform: 

Look out for these ideas under the Rights & Duties topic on the platform. These are important questions so do get involved, tell us your ideas, comments and suggestions!

Don't forget that the ideas with the greatest number of VOTES will make it through to the next round!!      

 

Where: LSE New Academic Building, Room 1.04, London, 54 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3LJ.

When: Wednesday 25th March, 6.30 - 8pm 

 

ConstitutionUK is joining forces with Unlock Democracy's Unlock Magna Carta project to co-host our next event. This time we’re bringing together local community groups from across London to discuss socio-economic rights: what are they, why do they exist and should they be included in a written constitution for the UK?

Join us for a Big Questions style of debate - raising questions, discussing and debating with others in your field.

  • Should the right to work be included in a codified constitution?
  • Is the right to education as important as the right to free speech?
  • What does it mean, in practice, to have the right to adequate housing?
  • How could the incorporation of socio-economic rights have an impact on people here in London?

 

Come along, have your say and take part in this national debate. The event is free to attend, and parts of the session will be filmed.

 

Register here to join our event!

 

ConstitutionUK is an initiative by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) at LSE to crowdsource a new written codified constitution for the UK. Using an innovative online platform, constitutionuk.com, the IPA is asking the British public for their ideas, comments, suggestions and votes on what should be included in a new constitution for the UK. The ‘ideation’ phase of the online element of the project will remain open until 5 April. Subsequently, the ideas and suggestions generated on the online platform will move to a refining stage. This phase will culminate in a constitutional convention which will be held at LSE on 22 April. Using the content from the online platform the top 20 participants, together with constitutional experts, will draft a new constitution for the UK.

Unlock Magna Carta is a series of at least 12 local events across the UK to spark a national debate on the legacy of Magna Carta and its current relevance. It involves lectures, talks, study sessions, arts projects, workshops and theatre performances, giving people in different places the opportunity to engage with the themes of Magna Carta and create their own Charter for the 21st Century.

Professor Conor Gearty hosts Constitution UK's event in Nottingham where we asked Nottingham residents should Europe be at the heart of our UK constitution? Listen to part 2 of the public discussion on the European Convention on Human Rights.

Antonia Zenkevitch,  Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Nottingham East

Katharina Boettge, Green Party PPC Nottingham North

David Hollas, UKIP PPC Nottingham South

Mike Abiodun Olatokun, Community Officer, Nottingham University

 

Tapping the Crowd - Update #6

Posted by Noita Sadler (Admin) Mar 3, 2015

In the sixth series of updates, Professor Conor Gearty provides a summary of the ideas from the Constitution UK community.

Yona has proposed a right to free education for all

Veronica.newman suggests that we should have an English Parliament.

Laura Hilly would introduce a quota system to achieve a balance of men, women and ethnic minorities

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

A word with our facilitators

Posted by Noita Sadler (Admin) Mar 3, 2015

After discussing the origins of Parliament in last week's edition of ConstitutionUK's weekly series, Professor Conor Gearty talks to Harry Blain, Devolution facilitator and Imogen Galilee, Rights and duties facilitator

They discuss why the project is important, the ideas and trends occurring in their challenge topics and what they have been suprised to see.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation online too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook

Professor Conor Gearty hosts Constitution UK's event in Nottingham where we asked Nottingham residents should Europe be at the heart of our UK constitution? Listen to part 1 of the public discussion on the European Union.

Antonia Zenkevitch,  Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Nottingham East

Katharina Boettge, Green Party PPC Nottingham North

David Hollas, UKIP PPC Nottingham South

Mike Abiodun Olatokun, Community Officer, Nottingham University

Look out for part 2 where they will discuss the European Convention on Human rights

After discussing whether your vote is wasted in last week's edition of ConstitutionUK's weekly series, Professor Conor Gearty talks to Paul Evans, Clerk of the Journals at the Houses of Parliament about the structure of Parliament 

How did we end up with two chambers?

Why is the monarch not allowed in the House of Commons?

Is Parliament still sovereign?  

Don’t forget to follow the conversation online too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook

Tapping the Crowd - Update #5

Posted by Noita Sadler (Admin) Feb 26, 2015

In the fifth series of updates, Professor Conor Gearty provides a summary of the ideas from the Constitution UK community.

Degauntier, contributing to the elections topic, has suggested that political parties that have a minimum membership and democratic structure should be recognised and protected under the constitution.

In the Local Government Section, Debra Storr's idea is top of the leader board. She advocates for a Single Transferable Vote (STV) and suggests that this would allow for greater proportionality in local elections.

emcnulty has reached the top of the leader board in the judiciary section with her suggestion that the Constitution should outline that legal aid is a requirement for a functioning legal system. Legal aid should be shielded from budget cuts under the constitution.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

Ever wondered just how easy is it to leave the European Union? Does our membership mean that the UK Parliament is no longer sovereign? Are we in fact governed by Europe? What exactly is the European Convention on Human Rights? If we left the European Union, could we still be protected by this convention or would we need a new Bill of Rights?

For one hour Professor Conor Gearty, Director of the Institute of Public Affairs and Professor of Human Rights Law will take your questions on Europe. He will be joined by John Springford, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for European Reform

To tune in please click through the link below to watch the live stream. Get involved by posting your questions to our panel.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/constitution-uk

Calling all residents of Portsmouth and the surrounding areas! We are coming to the Square Tower, Broad Street to ask you is it time for a new Magna Carta?

Wednesday 25th February 2015

13.00-15.00

Refreshments will be available from 12.30. We advise you to arrive by 13.15pm and filming will commence at 13.30. Filming will last one hour and the event will close at 15.00.

This is free to attend but you can register to secure your place.

 

This event will be a 'Big questions' style event where you will get to ask questions and debate with others.

Professor Conor Gearty, Director of LSE's Institute of Public Affairs will host the debate and will be joined by:

Grant Clarke, Portsmouth Student Union President

Flick Drummond, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South

Gerald Vernon Jackson, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Portsmouth South and former Leader of Portsmouth City Council

Mike Fitzgerald, UKIP Parliamentary Candidate for Portsmouth North

 

This event will be filmed and used as a resource for the Rights and duties discussion on the Constitution UK crowdsourcing platform. Please note that by attending you are consenting to be filmed

Your vote - is it wasted?

Posted by Noita Sadler (Admin) Feb 13, 2015

After discussing the Constitution in last week's edition of ConstitutionUK's weekly series, Professor Conor Gearty talks to Professor Simon Hix, Professor of European and Comparative Politics at LSE to discuss the electoral systems in the UK and what happens to your vote.

What exactly does First-Past-the-post mean?

How are your representatives elected? Is it democratic?

What alternatives there are to the current system?

Don’t forget to follow the conversation online too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook

Tapping the Crowd - Weekly Update #4

Posted by Noita Sadler (Admin) Feb 13, 2015

In the fourth series of weekly updates, Professor Conor Gearty provides a summary of the ideas from the Constitution UK community.

Steveg33 would like to move Parliament to the North in order to end what he sees as the dominance of London.

Helen R Clare’s idea to extend select committee powers to call and enforce the attendance of witnesses is gaining votes.

Harry Blain is calling for gender equality in Parliament – do you agree with him?

ElizabethA wants real separation of powers with the Prime Minister elected separately to MPs, in order to prevent career politicians.

Are you at the top of the leaderboard? Is your idea gaining votes? If not, what are you waiting for? Join the debate and share your ideas.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

Calling all residents of Liverpool and the surrounding areas! We are coming to the  Council Chamber, Liverpool Town Hall to ask you what does it mean to be British? What are the British values that should be in a constitution?

Wednesday 18th February 2015

12.00-14.00

Refreshments will be available from 11.30. We advise you to arrive by 12pm and filming will commence at 12.30. Filming will last one hour and the event will close at 2pm.

This is free to attend but you can register to secure your place.

 

This event will be a 'Big questions' style event where you will get to ask questions and debate with others.

Professor Conor Gearty, Director of LSE's Institute of Public Affairs will host the debate and will be joined by

  • Hannah Baker, Liverpool Hope Student Union President
  • Martin Dobson, Green party Parliamentary candidate for Liverpool Riverside
  • Cllr Richard Kemp, Leader Liverpool Lib Dems
  • Jackson Ng Conservative party Parliamentary candidate for Liverpool Riverside
  • John Sawyer, Barrister, Senior Professional Tutor in Law, Law Department, Liverpool Hope University

 

This event will be filmed and used as a resource for the Values discussion on the Constitution UK crowdsourcing platform. Please note that by attending you are consenting to be filmed

Calling all residents of Nottingham and the surrounding areas! We are coming to the Adams room, Nottingham Conference centre to ask you Should Europe be at the heart of our UK constitution?

Wednesday, 11th February 2015

12.00-14.00

Refreshments will be available from 11.30. We advise you to arrive by 12pm and filming will commence at 12.30. Filming will last one hour and the event will close at 2pm.

This is free to attend but you can register to secure your place.

 

We want to ask you residents of Nottingham your thoughts on Europe.

  • Are we a subset of Europe or is there something special about us?
  • What does UK membership of the European Union mean for our UK constitution?
  • Should we leave? Can we really be a sovereign nation while EU law takes precedent over our own?

 

This event will be a 'Big questions' style event where you will get to ask questions and debate with others.

Professor Conor Gearty, Director of LSE's Institute of Public Affairs will be your host. We have invited all political parties and will currently be joined by

Antonia Zenkevitch,  Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Nottingham East

Katharina Boettge, Green Party PPC Nottingham North

David Hollas, UKIP PPC Nottingham South

 

This event will be filmed and used as a resource for the International relations discussion on the Constitution UK crowdsourcing platform. Please note that by attending you are consenting to be filmed.

After discussing the Constitution in last week's edition of ConstitutionUK's weekly series, Professor Conor Gearty talks to Dr Sara Hagemann, Assistant Professor at LSE's European Institution to discuss the EU and what impact it has on the UK and its sovreignty.

What are the differences between the European Commission and the European Parliament?

What goes on in these closed door meetings at Europe?

How does Brussels affect your life?

How easy is it to get UK sovereignty back? What exactly do we mean by ‘sovereignty’?

Don’t forget to follow the conversation online too by following
@ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook

In the third series of weekly updates, Professor Conor Gearty provides a summary of the ideas from the Constitution UK community.

Do you think we must have a separation of church and state enshrined in the constitution?

How do you feel about Andrew Cullyer’s idea to include expanding a citizen’s right to challenge the decision of their local council by having a lower level form of judicial intervention.

Are you at the top of the leaderboard? Is your idea gaining votes? If not, what are you waiting for? Join the debate and share your ideas.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

Professor Conor Gearty hosts Constitution UK’s first event at Gonville and Cauis College, Cambridge University.

Listen as Cambridge residents along with Helen Hoogewerf McComb, President, Cambridge Student Union, Daniel Zeichner, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge and Chamali Fernando, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate discuss the role of Government. Have your say on any of the points made in this video in the Government discussion

Come to our next event in Nottingham, Wednesday 11th February at 12pm. We will be discussing ‘Should Europe be at the heart of our UK constitution?’

For more information visit http://goo.gl/IX7ZQZ

Constitution UK has been featured in Wired.co.uk!  

LSE is crowdsourcing a British constitution online

The London School of Economics Institute of Public Affairs launched ConstitutionUK earlier this month -- an online crowdsourcing initiative where members of the British public have the chance to help draft their own constitution.

Headed by professor of human rights law at LSE, Conor Gearty, the initiative aims to inform the public of constitutional affairs, and get them to share opinions on what it means to be British.

The website categorises the constitution into ten key sections ranging from the powers of parliament to the role of the head of state. The public can contribute to each section, sharing their views and values. The platform is open until mid-March, after which, 20 people will be chosen to help distill the information into a written constitution at a Constitutional Convention held at the Institute of Public Affairs.

But why have such an initiative now?

"A lot of people don't know much about the constitution," spokesperson for ConstitutionUK, Daniel Regan, told WIRED.co.uk. 

"The right to an education, healthcare and employment are all constitutional issues, but people don't see it in this framework," said Regan. "We want to explain that the constitution is part of our daily lives, and not just a concern for judges and experts."

The initiative has been in the works since 2013. However, speaking of the public's current discontent and apathy with the political system, Regan noted the significance of acting in 2015 -- given that it is both an election year, and the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

"[The Magna Carta] is still a valid document today. Is it right that a document from 800 years ago should have a significant impact on our lives today?" asks Regan, who points to the importance of reevaluating British values and identities in the wake of the Scottish and EU debates.

Constitution UK's visit to Cambridge was covered by ITV News!

People in Cambridge are being asked to draft a new UK constitution.

It's to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The event is part of a 10-week internet project to give people a direct say on how the country should be run. It takes place at Cambridge University later today.

Human rights lawyer and IPA Director Professor Conor Gearty says the lack of a formal Constitution in the UK is the basis for the crowd sourcing project.

"With the public's help, we have already agreed on a set of values which will underpin a new Constitution. It is crucial that we get the views of ordinary people and not rely on academics or politicians to dominate the debate."

– Conor Gearty

Tapping the Crowd - Weekly Update #2

Posted by Noita Sadler (Admin) Jan 28, 2015

In the second series of weekly updates, Professor Conor Gearty provides a summary of the ideas from the Constitution UK community.

Would you abandon our current First past the post system in favour of something else? 

Is it now time to allow our 16-18yr olds the right to vote, along with their right to work and join the armed forces?

Jack Holton has declared that each district council should have an elected mayor.

How do you feel about Jhackett’s idea to replace the House of Lords with a people’s jury?

In the judiciary topic, Andrew Cullyer thinks we should give judges judicial veto to strike down laws as unconstitutional as they do in the US. What powers should our judges have in our constitution?

Are you at the top of the leaderboard? Is your idea gaining votes? If not, what are you waiting for? Join the debate and share your ideas.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

What is a Constitution?

Posted by Malte Werner (Admin) Jan 28, 2015

After discussing Local Government in last week's edition of ConstitutionUK's weekly series, Professor Conor Gearty talks to Dr Andrew Blick, Lecturer in Politics at King’s College London to find out what exactly a constitution is.

What is the difference between a written constitution and an unwritten one?

What is the history and significance of Magna Carta (if any)?

Where do you fit in? Join the debate and share your ideas as we crowdsource a written UK constitution.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

Unions and Constitutions

Posted by Daniel Regan (Admin) Jan 23, 2015

 

David McCroneHow do you write a constitution for a state in which 45% of the population of one of its founding partners voted to leave a political Union which it helped to create over 300 years ago? It certainly is difficult, and probably impossible. Why should that be? David McCrone talks about unions and constitutions.

In the first place, it is important to understand the nature of the 1707 Union which created ‘Great Britain’. (For the purists, the ‘United Kingdom’ came about in 1801 when Ireland (all of it) joined the Union.) That Union was what the French call a ‘mariage de raison’ such that Scotland got access to economic and political power in the unfolding British Empire, while England severed the old alliance Scotland had with France since the 13th century. It was a marriage which ultimately suited both nations, with Scotland retaining key institutions such as law, education, religion, local affairs, and leaving Westminster to deal with ‘high’ politics; taxation, warfare, and in the 20th century, welfare.

Famously having no formal and written constitution, the United Kingdom was able to tackle matters pragmatically, searching for a political solution for what otherwise would have to be handled by constitutional courts. Wars could be waged, colonies disengaged, power devolved according to whoever had power in the UK parliament. Lest that strike the reader as a somewhat reactionary stance, let us remind ourselves that in 1999 power could be devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without much trouble. Contrast that with the failure of Canada as a formally federalist state to accede further powers to Quebec in the 1987 Meech Lake agreement, because the other provinces vetoed the arrangement.

Truth to tell, a formal and written constitution cuts two ways. On the one hand, it curbs the centralising instincts of executive government. On the other hand, it constrains political action even where, as in the Quebec and Scottish cases, it is sensible to find solutions. The old adage applies: politics first, law second. When the UK failed to start out on the road to federalism in the late 19th century (‘home rule all round’) due to the intransigence of Unionism, what the UK got was what the late Neil MacCormick called ‘asymmetrical quasi-federalism’, with powers devolved but theoretical sovereignty retained to Westminster. It would still be possible for the UK to prorogue the Scottish parliament on those grounds, but it would be an act of mindless stupidity, and a quick way to an independent Scotland.

Scotland is ‘different’ because it has always been. Its institutional distinctiveness has grown since the Union of 1707, notably in 1886 with the formal establishment of the Scottish Office, in the post-war period with new economic institutions, and most obviously leading up to the creation of the Scottish parliament in 1999. It is this institutional leeway, the fact that it is a different ‘civil society’, with a strong sense of national identity albeit with an attachment also to being British, which has kept Scotland in the Union.

It has become a truism that there is a Scottish parliament because Scotland is ‘different’, notably in terms of its political values and behaviour. The evidence? The Conservative party’s share of the vote is half that of what it gets in England. Scots are deemed to be
more ‘left-wing’ than the English; UKIP is weak, after all; and the dominant parties, Labour and the SNP are left-of-centre ideologically. So it seems that Scotland is left-wing; England is right-wing.

Both parts of that equation are flawed. A majority in both countries believe that ‘ordinary people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth’. Almost half in both countries believe that the government should redistribute income from the better-off to the less well off. On the other hand, a majority in both believe that the dole is too high and discourages work. True, Scotland is marginally more left-wing in terms of social and political values than England, but that is not sufficient to explain the clear divergence in electoral politics.
So what is going on? The simple explanation is to say that in England the Conservatives get elected despite the centre-left values of the electorate, whereas Scots go with the flow. Hence, people in England voted for Mrs Thatcher and her successor despite their values, and not because of them. (Labour’s perceived economic incompetence had much more to do with electoral failure, coupled with the oddities of majority rule.) In other words, the Scots and the English share similar values, although Scots are marginally more left-wing.  The real difference derives from the system of party politics in the two countries which in turn shapes the political agenda. Thus, proportional representation in Scotland produces a multi-party system in which two social democratic parties, SNP and Labour, dominate. England, on the other hand, has first-past-the-post which sets up a dichotomous system, and is manifestly one creaking at the hinges.

Would a written constitution have created a more stable United Kingdom? We will never quite know, but each time it is raised as an afterthought, rather than at the moment when it is most needed. Thus, if in the late 19th century before Ireland left the Union, there had been a written constitution rather than simply the assertion of ‘the crown in parliament’, a federal UK might just have been possible. Similarly, in 1945 when the British state was being recomposed as a welfare rather than a warfare state, there might have been the chance for a modern constitution. The lack of one has allowed the Westminster ‘crown’ party to capture power, and this centralisation process in turn makes such a constitution less, rather than more, likely.

And so it goes in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum. To argue for a written constitution would seem, at least to the Scots, a barrier rather than an enabler of further social and political change, something which would lock them into the Union should they decide to leave it. If, perchance, a further referendum took place, this time to exit the European Union, and it led to ‘Brexit’, how would a written constitution assuage Scotland’s desire to remain in the EU? Perhaps, to coin a phrase, a written constitution is a good servant but a poor master.

_________________

David McCrone is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, and co-founder of the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Governance. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written extensively on the sociology and politics of Scotland, and the comparative study of nationalism. His book, with Frank Bechhofer, ‘Understanding National Identity’, will be published by Cambridge University Press early in 2015.

This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of ConstitutionUK, nor of the London School of Economics.

Tapping the Crowd - Weekly Update #1

Posted by Malte Werner (Admin) Jan 22, 2015

In the first of a series of weekly updates, Professor Conor Gearty provides a summary of the ideas from the Constitution UK community.

Should we follow JamesDoran's proposal and abolish the House of Lords?

Should the UK have elected regional assemblies?

Should devolved institutions be committed to tackle climate change?

Are you at the top of the leaderboard? Is your idea gaining votes? If not, what are you waiting for? Join the debate and share your ideas.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

In the first of a weekly series by ConstitutionUK, Professor Conor Gearty talks to Tony Travers - Advisor to the House of Commons, Communities and Local Government Select Committee and Board Member of the Local Government Network – about the issues surrounding local government.

What should local government be empowered to control?
Where are the pitfalls?
How prone are local officials to corruption?

All these issues form part of the "Local Government" challenge. We need you to share ideas, debate topics and help shape new ways of thinking. Join the debate and share your ideas here!

Don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook too by following @ConstitutionUK using #constitutionUK or liking Constitution UK on Facebook.

We will update this blog with upcoming news including exciting upcoming public events. Further, we will alert you to when a new video with Professor Conor Gearty talking with an expert on a challenge topic is available to watch, so keep checking this section for updates.

Hacking the UK Constitution launches today at the London School of Economics

LSE's Institute of Public Affairs is launching an exciting and innovative project which will crowdsource a written UK constitution. We invite the public to discuss a range of issues including the powers of Parliament and the Prime Minister, the role of the Head of state, how should we elect our representatives, what rights should we have and what place, if any, should the European Union have in our British Constitution.

Your opinions and ideas will be documented on an online platform and you will have the opportunity to vote ideas up or down, question experts and have access to resources to assist you, if you think necessary, in your decision making. At the end of the crowdsourcing process the Institute of Public Affairs will hold a Constitutional Convention in March to bring together the crowdsourced data to form a written constitution. Experts, the public and 20 Constitutional Champions representing the online community created over the 10 weeks will be invited to LSE to put together the written constitution.

Please join us for the launch to have your say

Panel:

Clive Coleman, BBC's legal correspondent (Chair)

Professor Conor Gearty, Director, Institute of Public Affairs

You are welcome to join us tonight at the Thai Theatre, New Academic Building. If you haven't signed up already please register to join in the debate!

Is Constitution UK coming to your city?

Our next stops are:

Cambridge - Wednesday 21st January

Nottingham – Wednesday 11th February

Liverpool – Wednesday 18th February

Portsmouth – Wednesday 25th February

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