Monday, September 21, 2009

Starkey on constitutional reform

I know most people who read this will also read Iain Dale, but this paragraph from his interview with David Starkey deserves prominence. Starkey gets it exactly right:

We need a version of the American constitution. When you think of all the silly fuss over the office of Lord Chancellor - when did a Lord Chancellor last do any serious harm? The alleged confusion of political and judicial functions. What's been so striking about a lot of Labour constitutional reform is that on the one hand it's done big things that it shouldn't have done, and it's also done little things that there was no need to do like fiddle around with the position of Lord Chancellor. The catastrophe is one body being both the executive and the legislative. It means that it does neither job very well. In particular our Parliament is useless as a legislature. It's why our legislation is so awful. It's why, of course, MPs have actually got no function. MPs now are, at best, overpaid social workers. What we need, I think, is something very much like the American model, and I would go the whole hog. I would have a directly elected Prime Minister. The emergence of somebody like Gordon Brown, who is so totally unsuited to the office and never actually been subject to the test of election, would be unthinkable in America, because from primaries onwards you are subject to this test. We should have something very much like the American cabinet, which is outside the legislature. We should have an elected Lords. The obvious basis for the Lords are the old counties. The catastrophe of the semi-abolition of the old counties under Heath was a catastrophe. Incidentally, there's only been one government that's as bad as this and that's Heath's. Heath and Joseph together were a catastrophe. Every single thing they touched turned to something brown. I would create a second chamber that has two members elected from each county.


Anonymous said...

You haven't out in the context in which he said it.

"It's only respect for convention that holds you back, and Labour has a very bad record in this regard - going back to the Parliament Act - of forcing major constitutional change unilaterally. Always, of course, in the name of social justice and nice things like that. The situation that we find ourselves in now is that our structure of government is broken"

Quite. Liberal and socialist republicans (ugh) acting well above their position have brought us to this ludicrous point. The Monarchist blog said it best of all in their piece about the introduction of the welfare state. And little doubt Starkey would agree.

dearieme said...

"The emergence of somebody like Gordon Brown, who is so totally unsuited to the office and never actually been subject to the test of election, would be unthinkable in America": this is not perhaps the best moment in history to make this point. It's worth looking at a detailed account of Obama's electoral history - his Presidential victory is about the only non-doctored win in his career. And all this whingeing about Brown misses the point that it's perfectly normal for us to get an PM who didn't lead his party in a general election - e.g the first terms of Churchill, Macmillan, and Major, and the whole terms of Eden, Douglas Home, and Callaghan; and that's just the ones since 1940.

I used to be quite pro Written Constitutions, but since I've become aware of how often the Supreme Court in the US just ignores the bloody document and substitutes its own whims, I have cooled. If someone can suggest how to ensure that a Supreme Court act with a decent measure of intellectual honesty, I might relent. Don't forget that the two events that really shaped the USA - the Louisiana Purchase and the Civil War - were both unConstitutional.

Peter Risdon said...

Can you give an example of the Supreme Court ruling unconstitutionally? I'm interested, not doubting.

That's got to be a problem, since one of its roles is to prevent the other arms of govt from breaching the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you will ever find cases in which the Supreme court has actually violated the Constitution, in any sense that they admit to. Depending on your stand on certain issues, you may think they have. For example, the Supreme Court said that the right to an abortion was protected "between the lines" of the constitution. If you are against abortion, you will call this a violation. But the Supreme Court is very careful to claim that they have ALWAYS respected the Constitution. You can call this "wiggle room", but I guess that is why we have court to begin with.

dearieme said...

Well yes, Wade-Roe was clearly unconstitutional, and I say that as someone who is pro-abortion, albeit reluctantly and unenthusiastically. But to pretend that the Constitution has anything to do with abortion is just a disgraceful act of intellectual dishonesty. There are plenty of other examples through the years.

Trooper Thompson said...

"Quite. Liberal and socialist republicans (ugh) acting well above their position have brought us to this ludicrous point. "

Better a republican of any hue than a royalist.

We should go the whole hog and dethrone that wretched family of European in-breds.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

The problems with your suggestion are two-fold:

1. Nearly everything is decided in Brussels now (soon to be practically completely everything, post-Lisbon), so what happens at our provincial parliament becomes less and less significant.

2. Any written constitution adopted now will just be an attempt by the political class to entrench their views and their privileges, and the general interventionist big-state left-liberal agenda. The time to stop all this happening was probably 1945.

NĂ­os Saoire said...

Notwithstanding the need to sweep away the entrenched privilege & profligacy of the monarchy, we need honest people to stand up and defend our freedom, working unselfishly together at a local level: how can it be good for overpaid & egotistic bureaucrats & 'politicians' in Brussels to decide what is right for the UK?
Career politicians have their place, but politics doesn't need to be a career: if everyone contributed a small amount of time & commitment regularly, instead of feathering the nest and ignoring the slow decline into a control state "for our own good", we might achieve a constructive & equitable society.
The sad thing is that most people don't understand politics [which is unnecessarily complicated it has to be said] and are very happy to have a pop at the rascals caught with their snouts in the trough, but basically they don't care as long as they can get on with their lives relatively unhindered, and they don't have to think too hard about the moral & ethical problems of what is happening all around them and beggaring the country in the process.