We at Bring it Back argue that constitutional reform is an essential component in our efforts to re-set the dial for Britain in a post-Brexit world. As part of that discussion we include in-depth analysis of the current state of the government machine, the relationship between executive, legislature and judiciary, and the whole question of political devolution as part of the ‘levelling up agenda.’
We begin with last week’s leader from The Economist which sharply criticises the Prime Minister’s recent disparaging remarks about the devolved assemblies and the attempts by the executive to limit judicial power. It remains to be seen whether the government stands by these policies now that Dominic Cummings is no longer in place, but as things stand:
“…the reformers’ argument and direction of travel are both wrong. First, weakening devolution will not make the union stronger, it will only undermine it. The parliaments in the union’s smaller nations were created in response to a real demand for a government with which their people could identify better than they can with Westminster.
Second, liberal democracy is not majoritarianism. It includes checks and balances on executive power designed both to protect the rights of individuals and minorities, and to promote good governance. None of the reformers, it is worth noting, advocates removing the Bank of England’s independence. That’s because of the wealth of evidence showing that constraining politicians’ power over monetary policy lead to better economic management.”
Covid has brutally exposed the deficiencies of executive overreach. “In some areas, that has worked. Most of what the Treasury has done has been accomplished efficiently and effectively. In others, money has been wasted and chums have bagged top jobs and fat contracts. Yet the government has failed to get the job done. Look abroad, meanwhile, for evidence of the efficacy of devolution: powerful, well-resourced local authorities have been central to the effort in Germany and South Korea, two of the countries that have managed the pandemic best.
“The Tories are also right to advocate constitutional reform, but their proposals would take the country in precisely the wrong direction. The biggest issue which Mr Johnson will confront next year is Scottish independence. Instead of alienating Scots—on November 16th he described devolution as a “disaster”—he should focus on making the relationship work better.”
Finally the journal proposes a list of reforms which ought to be enacted:
"Britain should have more devolution, not less. City mayors have had a good pandemic: their popular standing ought to be matched by resources and responsibility. The balance of power between the branches of government needs to shift away from the executive, not towards it. The legislature should have a second chamber with more credibility; that means replacing a selection process for the House of Lords that combines feudalism and cronyism with an elective one. Turning the Lords into a senate of the devolved nations and the regions would give it a useful dual role. The judges’ power to prevent ministers from acting unlawfully ought to be bolstered, not constrained. Regulators with the independence to insulate business from ministerial whim need to be set up to wield some of the powers that are returning from Brussels."
Here is the article in full with a link to the original beneath it.