Could Britain Write a Constitution?

June 7th, 2015

On the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta, the Washington Post questions whether Britain needs a Constitution. I have a better question. Could they even write one? One proposal was nearly 70 pages, and offers this boring preamble: “United, we stand in celebration of the diverse voices that make up the great chorus of our nation.” I think this political scientist sums up my sentiments.

Anthony King, a University of Essex political scientist, said there is no doubt that Britain’s political structures need significant renovation. But trying to craft a written constitution might only deepen the country’s problems, given the quality of those likely to be in charge of such a process.

“If you look at the people who drew up the American constitution, here was a group with outstanding intellectual capacity — James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, George Mason,” he said. “You couldn’t replicate that in Britain in 2015 — probably not in most countries in 2015.”


Damn straight. I often marvel at the critical mass of genius that existed in Philadelphia in 1787. I have absolutely no faith that any country no Earth could ever replicate such wisdom and foresight that crafted the world’s longest-extent charter of government in a few months.

I also chuckled when a member of the House of Lords said that a written Constitution would be a “straightjacket”–as if that’s a bad thing!

Defenders of Britain’s traditional ways say there is good reason not to change what has worked for this country for ages. Philip Norton, a member of the House of Lords and a constitutional scholar, said that codifying the constitution would amount to fitting the country with “a straitjacket” when it needs to be flexible enough to evolve with changing times.

“It’s undesirable, unnecessary and unachievable,” Norton said.

That’s the point of a written Constitution.