It’s time for a Constitutional Convention

We are now facing the reality of life outside the EU and with it the prospect of a new United Kingdom. With the result of the referendum so close it is essential that the path we move forward on as a country is determined by a wide range of views: those who voted in and those who voted out; the young and the old; people from the left, the right and centre; voices from all parts of the United Kingdom.

We have a chance to take this huge, albeit unwanted, change in our relationship with the world and turn it into an opportunity to resolve many more fundamental questions about the type of country we wish to live in.

The Leave campaign made the argument that leaving the EU would make us a more democratic country. Then let’s has a wider debate about the type of democracy we should be. Does our current voting system reflect the will of the people? Should we have significant constitutional lynchpins such as an Upper House and Head of State that we have no say in choosing?

Let’s discuss our future role in the world. If we are not a member of the EU, then what relationship should we have with it?  What sort of trading relationships do we want with others in the world? Would bi-lateral TTIP type agreements be acceptable to the British public?

We need to think about the future relationship between the nations of the UK and answer questions about where power should lie. Do we want a more truly federal UK? Does England need its own Parliament? Does localism mean having a more empowered system of local government?

To answer these questions, and more, we need a mechanism that is inclusive and encourages fair, balanced and well informed debate. In contrast to the referendum campaign we must avoid creating an atmosphere that turns families, friends and communities against each other. I believe that the country needs a Constitutional Convention to develop a vision for the UK in the future.

This should bring together representatives from across the political spectrum but should not be the preserve of the political establishment. It should have a range of expert voices on a range of subjects, drawing upon the ‘experts’ that Michael Gove once maligned but now considers are essential! It should have voices from different communities, faith groups and civil society. Most importantly it should use technology and media to engage effectively with people across the country.

The outcome of this process would be to develop a written and codified constitution that all could feel they have had an opportunity to contribute towards. More importantly it would give both sides of the EU debate the chance to have their voices heard and to feel a part of this country’s future.

* Tim Miller has been a member of the Lib Dems for 20 years.

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6 Comments

  • About time some one talked about this. The current system is bust, although only a yorynwould would say all is going swimmingly! Instead of yet another parliament for england maybe time to empower the local councils. Get rid of district councils etc have combined single or only two tier local governments with the ability to raise money on the open markets through local government bonds. Get rid of the straight jacket rules about returning surpluses at the end of financial years and instead have seven year plus planning and spending times. Maybe merge some of the old split councils. P.r. is a must, everyone vote must count! A fully elected house of lords also, but only a 66% threshold for vetoing power to avoid italian style deadlock

  • Derek Campbell 29th Jun '16 - 2:23pm

    Very keen to see something other than the same old same old. And people have clearly voted for some sort of a change, apparently they wanted to take back control. So let’s figure out a better way of doing just that.

  • We have an unelected 2nd chamber, the only one in Europe.
    A primary chamber which can give total power to a party which has the support of less than 25% of electors.
    Local government which is mostly “rotten Boroughs” where total power is in the gift of local party political caucuses.
    Yes as a British citizen I would like to take back power.
    I bet that UKIP when they joined in repeating the Tory Leavers’ slogan did not think they would be giving power to the “men in grey coats” in the background of the Conservative Party.

  • Andrew McCaig 29th Jun '16 - 4:31pm

    Apparently the referendum result is the settled will of the British people for a generation and therefore sacrosanct…

    I do think that the result should be respected, but so should the much larger % votes to reject elected Mayors in most cities where there were referenda in 2012. In Leeds it was 63% against for example.

    We should now challenge the Tories 100% on their terrible policy “no devolved money without an elected Mayor”

  • I would like to ask any Lib Dem party members to look in the Policy forum section of this website and support my policy motion “Federalism and Fair Devolution”. Having a Constitutional Convention is good, but having a proper and comprehensive policy on the subject is good too…

  • I’m in complete agreement Tim. Great article. One suspects that the likelihood of such a convention is minimal though, unfortunate as that may be.

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