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On Anthony Crackett's point about the powers of parliament, my understanding is that after the struggles between it and the monarchy in the 17th century, all the powers of the latter were transferred to the former. Consequently, as the historian Norman Davis has put it, we now live “under a legal parliamentary despotism”.
That possibly oversimplifies to some extent, insofar as codes of human rights somewhat restrict governmental freedom of action. However we should never forget that such codes – and the loopholes they contain – were drawn up by the political class to suit its purposes. It’s worth recalling, for example, that the Human Rights Act, supposedly enshrining the right to life, was unable to prevent Blair from attacking Iraq, killing innocent people in the process, or even to ensure that he subsequently faced a criminal trial.
So we certainly need a written constitution to limit the powers of the British state. Arriving at a clear public account of how state power stands at present would, I agree with Anthony, be a useful stage in that process. A new, written constitution and its related code of human rights need, in my opinion, to arise out of a series of public conventions, open to all and held country-wide, in which proposals can be put forward by any person or organisation. Competing sets of proposals, which I think would do well to include a facility for ordinary citizens to requisition referenda, could subsequently be put to a nationwide vote which, one hopes, would have the effect of decisively curtailing “legal parliamentary despotism”.Michael McCarthy, 13 years ago.