Are we all looking at the wrong Constitution?


by David Moss

December 2008


There is public debate again about a written Constitution for the UK.

There are evident problems with the present Constitution. Governments are formed with 25% of the vote and 100% of the mandate. Prime Ministers appear without a vote. Accountability is confused. Civil liberties are not protected – according to the Prime Minister, they can be dispensed with whenever they conflict with security.

The suggestion is that these problems could be solved by introducing a written Constitution. That is a major undertaking. It would take years. And it might not solve the problems anyway – out of the fat, into the fire, etc ...

Suppose the project to introduce a written Constitution proceeds for the next decade or so. Well and good. What can we do in the interim, particularly to protect civil liberties?

WIBBI* each UK political party had a statement of its principles of civil liberties in its Constitution? Amending party Constitutions is no doubt very difficult and time-consuming, but less so than amending the country’s Constitution and, in that case, more likely to succeed and likely to succeed more quickly.

This statement of principles would be an affirmation of the covenant we all thought existed but which events sadly indicate is a myth (42-day detention, ID cards, DNA database, data sharing, i2010, ...).

The idea is that this statement should bind the party to preserve civil liberties whether they are in power or in opposition. In opposition they would be bound to oppose and campaign against government initiatives which undermine civil liberties. And whether in government or in opposition, any MP putting forward proposals which diminish civil liberties would have the party whip withdrawn.


* WIBBI = wouldn't it be better if

David Moss has spent six years campaigning against the Home Office's ID card scheme.

2008 Business Consultancy Services Ltd
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd