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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > June 2019 > Letters


A constitutional reckoning

The idea that current events demonstrate the need in the UK for a written constitution is mistaken (“Crisis,” May). Moving to one is both unachievable and undesirable.

It is unachievable because the value of any new system can be decided only by reference to whether it would produce better results. No new process can really be impartial—it will inevitably make some decisions more likely than others; and no consensus will be attainable on which ones. After Brexit, would the written constitution we should have be the one that would have made it easier, or the one that would have made it easier to stop?

It is undesirable because it reduces political problems to arguments about the wording of a document framed before the problems arose, instead of the merits of the issues actually at stake. For this reason, it also necessarily involves a transfer of political influence from elected politicians to unaccountable judges.

The inevitably broad propositions of a written constitution would amount, in the words of the late John Griffith, to no more than the statement of political conflicts pretending to be their resolution.

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