Why don’t we just… ask what better government would look like?

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Jenny Cronin

Yes? Well, the process could be called a constitutional convention and a Northern Citizens’ Convention is already being launched (northerncitizensconvention.org.uk). 

Why do London and the South East get more funding for things like transport infrastructure from central government in Westminster than the northern regions of England? Do you think that too many powers to decide and act are made in London, and imposed from London, and decision making nearer to where you live would be preferable? And when someone tells you that Scotland has more powers to decide and act, with its citizens, than anywhere in England other than Greater London, rather than getting shirty about the Scots do you think we should do something about it ourselves?

If you want to discover better ways for the regions of England to be governed, and by implication the whole of the UK, you might want to start talking to other like-minded people in a constitutional convention – in other words, a gathering of people to identify what powers devolved nearer to where they live would be a good idea and the kind of structures and changes that would be needed to make it work.

You’d be aiming for these ideas to be written down and, as they say, codified with citizens’ assent in a public document, a single overarching constitutional document accessible to all.

There are two main purposes here: one,  it could be said that we are living in the past with our present structures and ways of doing politics and government and we, the citizens, should contribute to defining our country’s governance and fitness for the 21st century. Two, we should question what our governments for many decades, even centuries, have considered to be the UK constitution.

First of all, the word “convention”. In the UK government’s terms to date it means understandings, habits, practices, sometimes non-legal rules, other times laws. Its idea of “convention” is a mish-mash of accumulated, often opaque ways of doing things, by the state. That is what currently makes up the existing UK constitution.

And don’t take just my word for it. Eminent English judge and human rights champion Lord Scarman said: “Britain’s constitution is not so much unwritten as hidden amidst a mass of legal precedents and political conventions and is therefore difficult for anyone except experts to access and understand.

“In order to function, this system requires that so-called ordinary people have trust in their politicians, judges, lawyers and civil servants to know what the British constitution actually is and to implement it correctly. Citizens in the UK cannot purchase a copy of the British constitution in a bookshop, or call it up online, or borrow it from a library and check out its contents for themselves.”

To know and do more, try electoral-reform.org.uk/constitutional-convention and click on How to do a Constitutional Convention.

Jenny Cronin – Unlock Democracy Greater Manchester

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