Prorogation: “MPs must now launch a Constitutional Convention”

Posted on the 24th September 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 24th September 2019
  • Contact 07717211630 or josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk for comment, interviews or more information

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s announcement that the Prime Minister’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful, Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s unfortunate that the power of the executive is now having to be held in check by the courts.

“It shouldn’t have had to be resolved this way. But sadly our constitutional arrangements leave Parliament weak in the face of an overbearing executive. Britain suffers from a dangerous lack constitutional clarity.

“It’s right that Parliament should now meet, as the Speaker has confirmed. But we cannot go back to business as usual: MPs must launch a constitutional convention [1]. The outdated Westminster set-up needs a complete overhaul – with greater sharing of power and clear constitutional rules that rebalance the system.

“This ruling is the latest sign that the UK’s governing system is discredited: the gentleman’s agreements that used to pass for our constitution have fully broken down.

“It’s time for voters to write a new rule book for the 21st century.”

At the ERS’ Labour conference fringe event yesterday, Scotland’s citizens’ assembly co-convener David Martin [2] called for the greater use of ‘deliberative’ and participatory methods to find a way out of the current ‘crisis’: 

“Politics is in deep trouble in this country…For 90% of the population we have ‘audience democracy’, as democracy is done to them, they don’t take part apart from at elections.

“A growing body of opinion across the globe thinks that we now need some form of deliberative democracy to take hold. It aims to ensure that in deliberation and discussion everyone has equal opportunity to speak and be heard. A citizens’ assembly isn’t a focus group – it’s a representative random sample of citizens, who go through three phases: 1. Learning; 2. Consultation; 3. Deliberation. It makes sure everyone around the table makes their voice heard in a respectful and equal way.

“Citizens’ assemblies aren’t an alternative to the current political system, but an important add-on. Drawing on the future Scottish experience, I hope they can provide a model for future participation around the country.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

See the ERS’ recent report: Westminster Beyond Brexit for full analysis of the ‘broken’ state of democracy in Britain: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/publications/westminster-beyond-brexit-ending-the-politics-of-division/

[1] There is cross-party backing for a Constitutional Convention, involving citizens to set out the reforms needed to improve our democracy. Ireland successfully used one to deal with contested issues including equal marriage from 2012 to 2014. More information here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/democratic-innovations/constitutional-convention/

[2] More information here: https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/14366/democracy-experts-welcome-plans-scotgov-citizens-assembly-say-devil-will-be-detail

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