Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution

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Jun 20, 2020, 2:03:31 PM6/20/20
Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution

Below we quote text from a presentation by Unlock Democracy (UK). The original, colourful version may be found here

We invite our readers to consider if we, residents of Britain and Northern Ireland, have a satisfactory constitution of state. If you consider that reforms are needed, what should these be?

What’s a Constitution?
A constitution is a set of rules governing a state. It is a tool that can define the relationship between citizen and state, organise and constrain government power, and set out rights and freedoms

What kind of constitutions are there?

There are two main types: codified and uncodified

A codified constitution - or a written constitution, is usually a single document with all the dos and don’ts of the social contract between the state and the citizens

An uncodified constitution - or an unwritten constitution, is made up by a set of rules, some can be written down and others can be agreed as conventions (which aren't {Ed.: may not be} legally enforceable)

What’s the role of the constitution in a democracy?

Constitutions can define the shape of a state:

Federal or Unitary
In a federal system each state, province or region has significant authority; in a unitary system, the national government is supreme

Parliamentary or Presidential
In a parliamentary system, voters elect a legislative branch who elect a prime minister; in a presidential system, voters elect both a legislative branch and a president

Unicameral or Bicameral
A bicameral legislature has two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses; in a unicameral legislature, members vote as a single group

Power rotation
Establishes how long a candidate or party can hold power

Judges’ role
Defines what a judge can do and for how long - this could be tenure for life or for a limited period of time

Constitutional amendments
Sets out how to make constitutional changes - like referenda with the public’s participation

Every constitution is different, but they can include:
A bill of rights to define what the rights of citizens are
Socio-economic rights to guarantee rights like access to adequate housing and education
Judicial review to determine whether a supreme court can or cannot review the lawfulness of a decision made by a public body

What can a constitution do?
Define the role of power - how are laws made, who by and who for
Protect our rights and freedoms
Make it clear what to do when power is abused

Constitutions can... {Ed: Arguably, should...}
Reflect the values of the people
Come from a consensus among those who are subject to its limits and afforded its protections.


Circulated by , where you can find further texts about democracy and constitution

You can debate or comment at
UK.POLITICS.MISC (not for the faint hearted ...) and

Contributions may be sent to us by e-mail to <info AT> and will be considered for publication at the INIREF web site

Jun 21, 2020, 10:09:25 AM6/21/20
21/22 June 2020
Neal Ascherson replied:

"There's a fundamental error in this summary. In a unified state, the national parliament is NOT the supreme authority. The Constitution is. That's the whole point.
Neal Ascherson" *

* Neal Ascherson is a journalist and writer. For many years he was foreign correspondent and then columnist for the (London) Observer. Among his books are The King Incorporated: Leopold the Second and the Congo (1963; Granta, 1999); The Struggles for Poland (Random House, 1988); Black Sea (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1996); and Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland (Granta, 2003)

Jun 23, 2020, 11:02:15 AM6/23/20
Iniref replies to Neal Ascherson:

We agree that the elected (or other) parliament should NOT be regarded as supreme or "sovereign" in the state. In a democracy that must be the people, the "demos", acting through the electorate.

To be fair to the Unlock Democracy** authors of "What's a constitution" (below) – they do not mention who or which body or organ is supposed to be "supreme".

Good that Neal Ascherson has made this point because the question, "In a democracy, who holds and who should hold ultimate authority to make law or constitution and to decide state policy?" is of central importance.

Compare the article "Citizen-led democracy is essential for sustainable constitutional reform" linked on the web page

Regards to all

Aug 8, 2020, 12:19:24 PM8/8/20
On Saturday, 20 June 2020 20:03:31 UTC+2, wrote:
Human dignity as a basic principle in constitution making, law and communal life (related topics to follow)

You can join the debate at the following sites:

Human dignity as a basic principle in constitution making, law and communal life (related topics to follow)
Direct link to: Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution /Early discussion PRE-VIEW VIA

Democr@cy Forum


We campaign for better democracy in GB&NI

Iniref IandRgb

Sep 5, 2020, 6:56:07 AM9/5/20
FOLLOW UP 5th September 2020

The campaign for better democracy GB

*Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution (continued): Second vital principle, an idea almost unknown in UK – state power belongs to the citizens!*

A fundamental principle of democracy, to be found in state constitutions, determines where ultimate political power of the state lies:


Do you agree with this principle?

Record of Debate

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution (2020 on-going)

Contents logged at

1. Opener: Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution Plus replies

2. Human dignity as a basic principle in constitution making and law? Plus discussion about this.


Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R ~ GB Terms and aims defined The basic idea explained in brief
Contact: = info AT

Iniref IandRgb

Sep 30, 2020, 11:52:46 AM9/30/20
Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution / Your Right to Take Part in Conduct of Government and Public Affairs

The campaign for better democracy GB&NI
Contact: E-mail
30 September 2020

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution (selected values and principles, continued):

The human, civil right to TAKE PART meaningfully in the public affairs
and government of your town, country and state.
For effective high-quality democracy.

A principle found in state constitutions (see examples in Notes 1, 2, 3) :

*Every person has the right to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.*

We suggest that this principle should be formally regulated by Parliament and put into practice by the UK and its countries.

How can his principle be expressed in 21st century democracies? Surely voting for an MP once every few years is NOT an effective way to take part in running our country!

The right to elect deputies, often members of a parliament or council ("representatives") is well established (although often abused – Note 5). But there is widespread public judgement that their infrequent chance to vote for a candidate, with no means to influence policy until the next election, is NOT an adequate way to "take part in the government of (one's) country".

What of the other suggested method – to take part ... directly?

To "take part" must go beyond merely asking or advising – such as signing a petition, joining a "citizens' jury", writing or talking to your MP, telephoning into a political "talk show" or exchanging via facebook & co.. Taking part must be meaningful and effective – if not, people will see it as a waste of time. Taking part in democracy – with many fellow citizens – must mean having real influence and ultimate control of public affairs, policy and law-making (legislation).

What do UK citizens reading this think? How can improvements and reforms of this sort be achieved and put into practice?

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution – record and discussion


1. United Nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights See related Note 4.

2. Proposal for a UK British Constitution (book)
The Constitution of the United Kingdom
Institute for public policy research IPPR 1991 ISBN 1 87452 42 6

3. Switzerland. Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (Status as of 1 January 2020, translated into english) See "Art. 136 Political rights"

4. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, legally binding on countries which have ratified)
Adopted by United Nations General Assembly December 1966, entry into force 23 March 1976.
Article 25: Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions: (a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
United Nations source:

5. See manipulation of voter registration in the USA or blatant abuse of vote counting in Belarus; and in UK the contempt shown by some governments for our elected parliament.

Sep 30, 2020, 12:02:23 PM9/30/20
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