Renewing Britain’s Commonwealth & Constitution

Renewing Britain’s Commonwealth & Constitution

About this Workstream

We are witnessing a crisis of legitimacy and accountability at home and abroad. Globally, there is a growing distrust of representative democracy: the Occupy Wall Street movement and the St Paul’s Cathedral sit-ins are symptomatic of alternative modes of expression by an electorate who has given up on their elected representatives and the economy they licensed. There is an increasing suspicion by citizens that the European Union is a consolidating rather than an enabling power that acts for the interests of the representatives rather than the represented.

In the UK, the situation is little better. We now trust bankers more than we do politicians, and many – especially young people – feel so disconnected from, and disillusioned by, politics that they are unwilling to vote. Underlying this is the loss of shared values, and of any relationship between personal conviction and social obligation. Immigrant communities find no coherent national identity to join or participate in, making integration that much harder. This creates a deadly cycle whereby an ever-shrinking set of values produces ever more atomised individuals and separated communities.

In this context it is crucial to recover an idea of ‘Britishness’ and ‘British values’ for the 21st century. We believe that, however difficult to define, ‘Britishness’ represents certain deeply desirable traits – a respect for equity, patience, mildness in treatment of opposition and dissent, forbearance in the face of difficulty, a talent for peaceful political compromise, that the world as whole continues to find admirable and which are uniquely and thankfully disconnected from ethnicity.

We argue for the importance of legitimacy and accountability, and believe that this can be achieved by promoting a more associative and participatory model of democracy. We also believe that Britain’s ancient mixed constitution has a striking contemporary relevance, and is in a unique position to foster such participation alongside the role of representation. The House of Lords should be reformed to involve the representation of corporate bodies and interest groups, thereby allowing a representation of vocation. The current representation of place is too weak to properly tie lords to ‘their land’, so a greater role for city and region is required. At the same time, the authority of the Crown, through royal commissions, can be harnessed to represent the interests of future generations, taking a participatory and long-term approach to the conservation of ecological, archaeological and architectural legacy.

As well as our own British Union, we wish to see the European Union transformed in order to truly represent the peoples of our nation, and of Europe as a whole. Currently, the EU represents the worst of tendencies: a combination of unaccountable bureaucracy, with enforced economic conformity. We favour instead an intermingling of sovereignties, supported in Brussels by an equivalent of the British mixed constitutional regime that would combine popular and vocational representation together with representation of the national. We believe that only Britain has the real power to help to bring this about and that such a Europe could much more effectively collaborate with both the British Commonwealth, and the French and Spanish-speaking worlds. Such a renewed Europe could develop its own effective defence force and through its world-wide networks. A new Europe could encourage just market practices and the spread of constitutional governance and justice for individual citizens.

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