UCL Uncovering Politics

Does the UK Still Have a Political Constitution?

Episode Summary

Today we’re looking at the UK’s constitution. What form does it take? And is that changing?

Episode Notes

Most countries have a document call the Constitution – a legal text setting out basic principles of how that country is governed. And in most of those countries there’s a constitutional court (or supreme court) that determines whether the ordinary laws passed by the legislature are compatible with the Constitution and that strikes them down if it concludes they are not.

The UK, famously, has no such capital C Constitution – no codified rulebook. And the courts here in the UK can’t (at least formally) strike down laws on the basis that they contravene higher law.

So what kind of constitution do we have? Well, it’s often said that, in contrast to the legal constitutions found in many other countries, the UK has a political constitution – a constitution whose norms are enforced in the realm of politics rather than in the realm of law.

But many think that the UK’s political constitution is today under threat, with potentially serious consequences for the polity’s ability to serve all those who live within it.

So today we ask the question, ‘Does the UK still have a political constitution?’ And to do so, we’re joined by one of the leading experts on constitutional theory, Professor Richard Bellamy. Richard, who is Professor of Political Science here in the UCL Department of Political Science, is the author of ten monographs – the most relevant of which to our conversation today is Political Constitutionalism: A Republican Defence of the Constitutionality of Democracy, published by Cambridge University Press.

Host: Dr Alan Renwick

Professor Richard Bellamy