Gordon Brown’s Commission on the constitution of the UK has finished its report. Much of the press focus on the proposal to abolish/reform the House of Lords but it is much more comprehensive than that.
I originally wondered if in its way it is as ambitious as the Chilean constitution that failed to win approval in 2022. On reading it fully I conclude that it is not. They do however, propose a new constitution, with entrenched individual rights, of health, education and housing and a duty of the state to ensure no-one is poor. For all their controversy in this country, these rights are commonplace around the world.
Brown introduces his Commission’s report in the Guardian, saying,
… our key insight is that in order to build economic prosperity across the United Kingdom and alleviate fast-rising poverty, political reform is a necessity. Any economic plan will fail unless the right powers are in the right places in the hands of the right people. The goal of an irreversible transfer of wealth, income and opportunity to working families across the United Kingdom is dependent upon the irreversible transfer of political power closer to the people.
As ever, there’s nothing wrong with Brown’s mind or instincts.
I have now read the proposals for reform and made copious notes, and ask myself how useful this is. For those who think that constitutional reform is not relevant to progressive politics, I’d remind them that Blair’s first administration made major changes to the British Constitution, introducing devolution for Scotland & Wales, signing the Good Friday Agreement, re-established city wide government in London, and passing the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act, they also reduced the number of hereditary peers to 92 but failed after two attempts to abolish the unelected Houe of Lords having been accused of, like today’s Tories, selling peerages.
Richard Murphy, in a blog article with which I basically agree criticises the lack of ambition and principle on both Proportional Representation & the rights of self-determination of the Nations of the UK. Despite this the report is more ambitious than its critics and commentators allow. I have four points to make.