Neil Jopson makes the case for a British constitution.
If there is one lesson above all to be learned from the Brexit Fiasco, it is that the United Kingdom needs a modern written constitution.
It is also clear that today, a hereditary monarchy has little purpose other than to provide tittle tattle for the tabloid newspapers and photo opportunities.
If the Head of State were someone other than a very old millionairess, then a firm hand would have been applied by now, either to ensure that the result of the referendum was implemented, or the government replaced.
As anyone who remained awake during their history lessons knows, the first Prime Minister was Sir Robert Walpole from 1725 to 1742 and the role for a Prime Minister is to be “primus inter pares” – the first among equals; in other words the Chairman of the Board of UK Plc.
Chairmen, whether that be of a company or of a Sports and Social Club are there to lead, but do not have absolute power. They do not even have the powers of e.g. the U.S. President.
Theresa May perhaps thinks that the role of Prime Minister is to be like one of the Old Testament Prophets she probably learned about at her father’s knee, who spoke God’s Word, and that word was the law.
To quote from Vernon Bogdanor ”The essence of the British constitution is … better expressed in the statement that it is a historic constitution whose dominating characteristic is the sovereignty of parliament, than in the statement that Britain has an unwritten constitution.”
Parliament is the legislative arm, in normal times, run by the Executive; the Government.
Where Brexit seems to have gone wrong is that Theresa May has taken it upon herself not just to be the First Among Equals, but Lord High Everything Else, and has turned herself alone into the Executive; running Brexit from Number 10. She should not have been allowed to have done this by her Cabinet.
Had she the ability and talents to be what she has tried to be, then there might be very little objection, but instead she has demonstrated that she hasn’t a clue how to go about deal making. Even if you dislike the man, then Donald Trump’s purported advice to “”Overshoot your target, be tough and get on with it” was good advice, and which anyone who has been engaged in any negotiations knows to be common sense.
If we had an active Head of State, who could have, as the Queen should have, at the worst taken Mrs. May to task, or at best pointed her firmly in a different direction, then we might not be in the mess that we are today.
In fairness, the Queen has been exemplary in her outdated role, and has rarely put a foot wrong, but it is an outdated role whose consequent wealth and privilege is not matched by its contribution to the country and society.
What Brexit surely shows is what we need is a republic where it is the job of the President to oversee the Executive and prevent disasters such as Brexit. He or she could be appointed by Parliament, as in Israel and Greece, which makes one think that perhaps Mr. Speaker Bercow is already performing that office, although in too partisan a way!
One may never know whether the Queen has failed to openly intervene in Brexit because she has been advised otherwise, or because, understandably, at her age she simply does not want the hassle.
In any event, I would respectfully submit that it is quite clear that as a system of government, our unwritten constitution simply does not work when put to the test.