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10:06am on Monday, 22nd September, 2014:



I'm not a fan of written constitutions: they're too hard to change, and when one group gets in a position where it's able to change it then it's too hard to stop them. If we'd had a written constitution in the UK, the recent Scottish referendum could not have taken place so easily, for example.

I much prefer structural constitutions, which are embodied in the machinery of government. These have the major advantage that everything comprising them has to be justified. A written constitution would say that the House of Commons has primacy over the House of Lords, but a structural constitution says why it does: the HoC has a democratic mandate and the HoL doesn't. This means that if we were to go with an elected HoL at some point, it would have to have equal power with the HoC. A written constitution that didn't state the reasoning behind the wording would make it much harder to evolve a fair solution.

I'm all for changing the way that the UK is governed, so that people feel that their vote has actual meaning. I was hoping that the Scottish referendum would catalyse change. However, if we get a written constitution as a result, it's almost certainly not going to be fit for purpose, being party-political and including matters of policy (like the "no nuclear weapons in Scotland" clause the SNP proposed to put in a post-yes constitution).

As it happens, the Conservatives are likely to fudge a solution to the English question and Labour are trying to kick it into the long grass, so I don't expect we'll get any meaningful change any time soon whatever. It's clear what the solution should be — powers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland equivalent to the ones heading Scotland's way, with a slimmed-down UK parliament to deal with only federal-level interests such as defence — but nobody in a position to deliver it is going to support it. We'll just have to wait until it happens by default.

That'll probably be when the next Scottish referendum comes along and they vote to leave the UK.

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