Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

The Unspoken Constitution

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If you’re interested in politics, Stuart Weir and Stuart Wilks-Heeg of Democratic Audit have written a wonderful spoof of our unwritten constitution The Unspoken Constitution.

We, the elite, do not believe in the kind of constitution most other advanced nations have — those that boast a belief in popular sovereignty; with resounding declarations such as ‘we, the people’, and that tend to contain rules about how government should act.

We describe ours as the ‘unwritten constitution’. It is a collection of laws, fictions, powers left over from the old monarchy and powers that we make up as we go along. It allows us to decide what governments can do; and best of all, only we have the power to change it.

There are so many funny sections that I could quote, but here a few that I love

4.1. The Head of State shall be a hereditary monarch, descended from the most excellent Princess Sophia of Hanover, being Protestants, giving preference to males over females and recognising the right of primogeniture.

5.2. The heir to the throne shall also be given licence to advise the Prime Minister and other ministers in confidence, to approve or dismiss plans for new buildings in sensitive areas, and generally to interfere in public policy.

6.4. The role, duties and powers of the Prime Minister shall not be defined in law.

6.8. The Prime Minister may take decisions alone or with any ad-hoc group of ministers and advisers that he or she determines. A sofa may be set aside in Downing Street for informal decision-taking meetings.

9.1. There shall be a state bureaucracy, known as the civil service, which shall have no statutory existence.

10.2. For the safety of members, the chamber shall be divided so that the government and opposition benches are two and a half sword lengths apart and silk ribbons shall hang in the cloakroom with which to hang swords, or umbrellas, whichever is most appropriate.

10.4. The hereditary principle shall be modernised for the election by hereditary peers of one of their number to fill a vacancy, switching from the old-fashioned feudal principle to the hereditary electoral system practised by the Holy Roman Empire. A benefit of the small franchises involved is that these elections produce the highest electoral turnouts in Europe.

13.1. Subjects and other inhabitants of the United Kingdom are free from interference by the state, subject to the right of the state to over-ride, suspend or ignore the liberty of the subject.

14.1. Local authorities shall be beyond the pale of the constitution. They shall be creatures of central government and shall be abolished or reorganised by the Prime Minister for political party advantage or should they make the Prime Minister cross.

Author: Gareth Hughes

A priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.

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