A reformed and written constitution could save you Boris!

So, the British Conservatives have lost a mid-term by-election. Big deal. It seems not so long ago that such a result outside of a general election was considered normal. This time the event was caused by the resignation of Owen Patterson in the midst of his own and other financial scandals. In that light the election result is hardly surprising.

Is it the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership? Probably, but perhaps it shouldn’t be.

So let me offer some advice to the Prime Minister, assuming he is still in office in the early New Year. It is this: Take stock of the broad social and political picture and make a public announcement that you are setting up a cross party study into reforming the constitution.

I am looking at things from the Middle East and can barely believe what I am seeing of my home country. The same, I must add, goes for the European Union. Democracy is failing on a massive scale.

As I am reading in UK newspapers and hearing on radio and television “…parliament is a joke”. Now I can’t agree with that because it is not funny. It is perhaps a black comedy to some but in my view an impending disaster.

The UK has a prim “we are a democracy” attitude that is simply not the case. There are three key pillars of democracy: the Monarchy and the Church, and Parliament, including the Courts that enforce Parliament’s decisions. The media also has long been described as the fourth pillar.

That Parliament has long ceased to be properly effective has been clear for many decades. Corruption among its members, of all parties, is not new. I was personally involved in what became known as ‘the Jeremy Thorpe investigation’. That MPs have been able to ignore or circumvent the principles of parliament should have been dealt with many decades ago.

The monarchy has long been marginalised. The Church is no longer representative. The Queen, who is highly respected, is nominally represented by the House of Lords. The Lords are not a joke, they are a democratic scandal.

The vast cost of the Lords is borne by taxpayers and is seen by most of us as a retirement bonus for people whom politicians want to reward; something widely regarded as a form of corruption. The idea that someone who has excelled at some sport or other activity should be made a Lord and pontificate on legislation affecting the rest of us has no essence of humour for most of the public.

That the Lords should become an elected senate involving all regions of the UK is widely the view of the public.

The judicial system is hanging in there but is very widely not up to the mark. The failure of parliamentary democracy, to which courts are technically and constitutionally subservient, is a major factor. There are ever increasing reports of appalling activity by citizens that are not effectively dealt with as they should be by police and in the courts. The judicial system is in advance stages of decline.

Then there is the media. If the effect of the media was not so serious for us all I might describe it as a joke but it is far from funny. Most people I know have stopped buying newspapers and many say they will not watch television news. How true that is I have no way of knowing. Personally I question everything I read and hear and basically, do not believe much of it. The media is cdertainly no longer a pillar of democracy.

Social media is a disaster for democracy. Headlines blame ill-informed or malicious content for persuading people not to have a vaccination against Covid. Rarely does the established media point out that torrents of lies are propagated in the guise of party politics.

The real joke, if there is one, is that the British Constitution was written on parchment in 1215. That a modern state should not have a properly up-to-date constitution fit for every citizen and able to be read is nothing short of disgraceful.

Magna Carta

That to establish whether someone is acting within the constitution requires a court ruling is baloney. It has led to corporate abuse of people’s rights and allowed corporations to usurp government powers and permitted exploitation of citizens’ rights.

On a topical point, at a time when the Home Secretary is making EU citizens apply to continue living in the UK, the media and all should note that citizens of the Irish Republic have an automatic right to live and vote in Britain. This has been declared discriminatory by the EU since it only applies to Irish citizens of the EU.

The agreement with the Irish Republic is a constitutional anomaly, dating back to the treaty of independence. There is another way of looking at it: British citizens who do not have Irish passports and are unable to benefit from a reciprocal agreement are restricted when travelling in the EU as they do not have the free movement Irish passport holders living in the UK have. This, surely, is discriminatory! Ireland is a member of the EU and currently active in any situation that helps towards Irish unity.

The UK’s lack of identity cards featuring name and ID number is another disgrace. Perhaps a proper study would recommend copying other countries who oblige national passport holders to pay tax in their home country regardless of where in the world they are. Boris would understand that because he surrendered his United States passport for tax reasons. If you don’t want to pay tax in the UK surrender your passport.The public would support that and a requirement that companies charging them for products or services also pay tax in the UK.

A proper study would need to examine the outdated administration of the UK. The Civil Service became politicised under previous governments and, whether or not that is the major factor, appears to have become incompetent in very many respects.

What is needed, Boris, is a complete reform of the UK constitution. Common law is not good enough in a modern society. Vested interests, especially those running the established media, will oppose you but you might as well go out on a high note. On the other hand, it just might save you. Either way you could go down in history on a positive note.

Before I sign off to enjoy some sun in peace and quiet until the New Year festives are over I must say that all of the above applies to the European Union. So Twitter loonies please stop banging on about Brexit. It’s over.

The Real Deal will return on January 8th - next year.

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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