Words, words, words....

John Clarke

Published by
John Clarke

18th January 2019

John Clarke blogs on the chaos that is - The British Constitution.....


I should start by saying that this, my first blog for WJM (following the WJM/CCW merger in December), represents my own views and not those of WJM. Put another way, if you agree with what I say, then praise WJM: if you don’t, blame me).

We all know that New Year is supposed to be a time of reflection. We (eventually) wake up on the 1st with all the excitement having passed and with little or nothing to do on the 1st. And, in Scotland, not much more to do on the 2nd. So, in my case, we drag the unwilling dogs out for yet another walk, enjoy the weather – and do some thinking.

Lawyers are supposed to be wordsmiths. Using exactly the right word in exactly the right place to get the right result. But, our customers do need to be able to understand what we are telling them.

However, this blog isn’t about the long-windedness of lawyers, but the lack of words in one important area of British life: our constitution. The present political chaos, in my view, shows that our continued lack of a written constitution (and even better, a clear one) to be a contributing factor to that chaos. Is it too much to hope that one by-product of Brexit, whatever the outcome, will be clarity over what our laws really are?

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the benefit of reasonably modern constitutions for their parliaments or assemblies. That’s a start. I believe that there should be an English parliament or assembly – many years ago, I tried to sign a petition for one while in Salisbury, only for the guy collecting signatures to refuse to let me sign when he found out that I lived in Scotland.

The fact that around 85% of the people in the UK don’t have properly delegated and clear powers is, frankly, daft. Even better – much better – would be to delegate real powers away from Westminster to regional English assemblies. After all, if it works pretty much everywhere else in the world, is the UK really doing things better than in all those other countries?

And, as important as where power lies regionally, the question of who does what is really important. The speaker of the House of Lords has said that the lack of limit on the number of peers is crazy; but worse, he reports that new appointees don’t know what the job entails. However, in the Commons, where does power really lie between the executive and the Parliament – and how much decision-making power does John Bercow really have at this critical time?

Trying to look at things objectively, there is either a power struggle or chaos (or both) in the House of Commons just now, with the legislature and the executive each trying to get their way. But the bigger point is – no-one knows what the rules are, and quite possibly don’t know what game they are playing either. Lastly, as 2019 kicks off, are key decisions really going to be made or imposed based on Henry VIII powers? Quite a bit has changed since 1539 – including universal franchise.

I know, I know: lots of questions here but few, if any answers. But something has to arise from the current political chaos and the declining trust that the UK has in its politicians. My wish, therefore, is for the words: a written constitution.

With that rant out of the way, Happy New Year to everyone (anyone?) who has read this far!

John Clarke

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