A Written Constitution

Georgie Porgie:

If you doubt Britain needs a written constitution, listen to the strangely unbalanced discussion broadcast by the BBC last Friday. The Today programme asked Lord Guthrie, formerly chief of the defence staff, and Sir Kevin Tebbit, until recently the senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, if parliament should decide whether or not the country goes to war. The discussion was a terrifying exposure of the privileges of unaccountable power. It explained as well as anything I have heard how Britain became party to a crime that may have killed a million people.

Guthrie argued that parliamentary approval would mean intelligence had to be shared with MPs; that the other side could not be taken by surprise ("do you want to warn the enemy you are going to do it?"), and that commanders should have "a choice about when to attack and when not to attack". Tebbit maintained that "no prime minister would be able to deploy forces without being able to command a parliamentary majority. In that sense, the executive is already accountable to parliament". Once the prime minister has his majority, in other words, MPs become redundant.

That written constitution thing. Sure stopped the US, didn\’t it?

6 thoughts on “A Written Constitution”

  1. This seems less about a “written constitution” than it is about changing the rules so Parliament will have the executive power to govern directly.

    Governance by a committee in which everyone is an empowered expert and no one is accountable–ah, such a beautiful thought to contemplate.

    Not.

  2. How can anyone be so stupid as to demand “a” written constitution? To demand a particular one might be sensible, but to demand just any old one is seriously dim.

  3. Looking through the comments it’s reassuring to see the confidence expressed in international law. “If only international law had teeth…”
    It’s worth pondering that if international law both universal acceptance and teeth, bearing the majority of the world’s opinions on the matter, one of its first judgements might be that homosexuality is a crime against humanity. I wonder whether the Guardian commenteriat would be so keen on it then?

  4. I have not clicked on the link – is this article’s author aware that Truman committed the USA to Korea without Congressional approval?

    One of the few saving graces of a written UK constitution would be that it would supercede the Scotland Act.

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