‘London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down; London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady’. ‘Oh no it’s not!’ I hear you all scream with oodles of post-Christmas pantomime cheer but Parliament is apparently falling down. A number of restoration and renewal studies of the Palace of Westminster have provided the evidence with increasingly urgency. The cost of rebuilding the House? A mere two billion pounds! If it was any other building in the world its owners would be advised to demolish and rebuild.
In British constitutional history, 2014 will undoubtedly be remembered for one thing and one thing only — the Scottish independence referendum. ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ was the deceptively simple question that veiled a far more complex reality. This complexity was revealed in the pre-election build-up as the three main parties offered concession upon […]
British politics is currently located in the eye of a constitutional storm. The Scottish independence referendum shook the political system and William Hague has been tasked with somehow re-connecting the pieces of a constitutional jigsaw that – if we are honest – have not fitted together for some time. I have written an open letter, encouraging the Leader of the House to think the unthinkable and to put ‘the demos’ back into democracy when thinking about how to breath new life into politics.
Is the UK really in danger of dis-uniting? The answer is ‘no’. But the more interesting answer is that the independence referendum is, to some extent, a red herring. The nationalists may well ‘lose’ the referendum but they have already ‘won’ the bigger political battle over power and money. All the main political parties in the UK have agreed give Scotland more powers and more financial competencies – or what is called ‘devo-max’ irrespective of what happens on 18 September.
‘It is not the critic who counts,’ Theodore Roosevelt famously argued: ‘not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who spends himself in a worthy cause’. The arena in question was The Guardian’s ‘Rethinking Democracy’ debate at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and my ‘worthy cause’ was an attempt to defend democratic politics (and therefore politicians) from the anti-political environment in which it finds itself today.