From Harry and Meghan to Brexit, our system is not so ‘broken’ after all


JA few months ago we were told that our constitution was broken. Brexit had shattered a 300-year dispensation that had helped the United Kingdom avoid many of the political upheavals that were seen in other European countries. The government’s role had been effectively assumed by the Commons, aided and prompted by President John Bercow. The Backbenchers broke their own permanent orders and presented legislation that forced the Prime Minister to adopt policies he opposed, or abandon the deadlines he had promised to die in a ditch to achieve.

Worse, the Queen was tricked into granting an extension of Parliament solely to meet the purposes of the Government. No less authority than the Supreme Court ruled so much, and it did so unanimously (a surprising verdict since the Superior Court had considered that the matter was not justiciable). In addition, the House of Lords was preparing to block Brexit, taking the lead from the fact that the Commons were clearly irreparably divided on the matter.

Above all, the fail-safe mechanism of our democracy, a general election, was denied to the Prime Minister by poorly judged legislation, the Fixed Term Parliaments Law. He was locked, trapped, the prisoner of Downing Street. Our world was falling apart and the beloved institutions were collapsing. A major reform was needed: a written constitution, or a proportional representation, or a review of the judiciary or the abolition of Lords, depending on where you come from ideologically.

And yet, at the beginning of a new year, the constitutional argument has diminished. The general election, by providing a decisive result, banished many of the demons, even if some, such as the future of the Union, still persist.

It turns out that the system was not broken after all. What depends, and was missing, was from a government with a viable majority. It was the void created by a hung parliament that caused everything else to happen. The President would not have had the power that he could accumulate and neither would the Government have needed to request an extended extension if he had been in the possession of a majority. The Supreme Court would not have been involved in political affairs, trying to stop an executive seeking to achieve something that the country had agreed but that the parliament had not done.



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