The New British Constitution (Anglais) Broché – 3 juin 2009
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This masterly survey charts the rise of the 'New' constitution and expertly explains both how it works and why it matters. Bogdanor is Dicey and Bagehot rolled into one for the twenty-first century. --Guy Lodge, Institute for Public Policy Research
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For Americans this is puzzling and confusing as English Common Law helps to shape and form so much of our society. While the Westminster system of unifying the legislative and executive branches is a bit alien to Americans the idea of scrapping what has worked for England for centuries seems an odd idea indeed. Why fix what isn't broke? But the reality, as pointed out by Bogdanor, is that Britain is trying to move with the times. Joining the European Economic Community in 1973 set Britain on the path towards modernizing its constitution as more power flowed towards Brussels. But Bogdanor argues that the piecemeal changes occurring since that time have failed to revive and rejuvenate British politics, but have instead redistributed power rather than democratizing the political process. Bogdanor argues for divesting power to the people and is clearly a fan of proportional representation, arguing for primaries to select parliamentary candidates as opposed to the old first-past-the-post rule, increasing use of referendums and the use of citizens' assemblies. While that sounds good on paper one need only look at the mess California has gotten into thanks to the referendum process. And while the primary process would make elections somewhat more democratic it would be the death of typically quick British elections as witnessed by the marathon contests here in America.
While the timing of "The New British Constitution" couldn't have been better, and it is quite well written, it remains a polemic with a clear agenda. Bogdanor is clearly looking to establish a dialog and makes persuasive arguments, but the reality is there are equally persuasive counterarguments which aren't made here. As Americans regularly groan about the inefficiency of our country's political system it boggles the mind why Britain would want to adopt some of the same processes. The Westminster system cannot be that badly broken to warrant such an injudicious fix.
This EU Constitution installs a new, more powerful, semi-permanent President and a Foreign Minister, posts that no other international organisation has.
The Constitution guarantees the free movement of persons, capital, goods and services, plus the `freedom of establishment'. This new freedom appears to mean giving the Establishment whatever it wants. Under this `freedom', the European Court of Justice has ruled that Finnish ferry operator Viking Line can ignore its collective agreements with Finnish unions, re-flag its vessels to Estonia and hire local crews on lower pay. The RMT warns that employers will use the ruling to cut wages across the EU because every industrial action `restricts the right of freedom of establishment'.
The EU Constitution spells out the EU's new goals of lowering customs and other barriers and of ending all controls over foreign direct investment. This would leave us defenceless against foreign takeovers and Chinese and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds.
Crucially, the EU Constitution says that EU law will overrule national law. It extends EU rule to justice and home affairs. It gives the EU the right to decide the common commercial policy, and policies over customs, fisheries, money (for eurozone members) and competition. The authors admit, "No other international organisation has such a structure." The EU may not be a `superstate', but its Constitution is a huge step towards a new state.
Before the 2005 election, the three parliamentary parties all pledged to hold a referendum on the Constitution, so whoever won we should have had the referendum. We must have this promised referendum; otherwise, where is the democracy?
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