The Great Debate UK
The Labour politician and intellectual Richard Crossman once described the British constitution, with a sovereign Parliament at its centre, as a “rock” against periodic “waves of popular emotion”.
As MPs reflect on the recent expenses scandal during their 82-day summer break, many will be tempted to congratulate themselves for once again weathering the storm of public outrage.
At the height of the crisis the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition were competing with each other to propose ever-more radical constitutional solutions to the catastrophic loss of trust precipitated by the Telegraph’s revelations of MPs’ shameless, and in many cases fraudulent, abuse of taxpayers’ money. Gordon Brown called for “a written constitution”, David Cameron for giving “power to the powerless” and Nick Clegg, whose party has long been calling for reform of a “rotten” Westminster system, demanded change in “100 days”.
In the midst of an economic crisis, we have a crisis of trust in politicians. But it is not through their lack of activity. Over the last ten years, layers of government have multiplied, more regulatory bodies have been put in place, thousands of new laws have been passed and greater powers of surveillance have been accorded to the State.