‘[The British Constitution] presumes more boldly than any other the good sense and good faith of those who work it’. W.E. Gladstone
Gladstone knew that to make our constitution work, we need sensible heads working with the best intentions. The attributes are essential, he understood, because our constitution is a work of evolving practice and precedent, not of immutable law scribed on velum. It needs good people to make the right choices.
Both seem to be in very short supply at the moment.
And we had choices. In the Committee stage of the EU Referendum Bill (see here), on the 16th June 2015 Alex Salmond of the SNP suggested an amendment that would have reflected our constitutional reality. He proposed that a decision for the UK to withdraw from the EU would have to be supported by both a majority of the whole of the UKand by majorities in each of its four constituent parts (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland); the so called ‘double majority requirement’.
Of course Salmond’s amendment was rejected. And here we are.
The UK has no clear mechanism for constitutional change, the point my Agulhas colleague, Marcus Cox, made in his recent blog on the UK’s ‘Constitutional Miasma’.
So I’d wager an MEP’s salary that one outcome of the Brexit vote will be a revisiting of Gordon Brown’s project to establish a modern written constitution for the UK.
If our constitution is written down, we might be able to better to protect ourselves from leaders who have neither good sense nor act in good faith.