The New British Constitution

Stephen Sedley writes:

The postwar notion that the state provided service according to need, and that if queues formed they were not to be jumped, has given way to an entrepreneurial model in which, subject to a safety net at one level or another, you pay for what you get and you get what you pay for. Each concept has acquired constitutional legitimacy in its time — for, as John Griffith famously observed, the constitution is what happens.

So when you pick up The New British Constitution and ask what new constitution that might be, one answer is that the British constitution, because it is always changing, is always new. But the veteran political scientist Vernon Bogdanor goes further. His thesis is that since the election of the Blair government in 1997 the pace and depth of constitutional change have increased to a point where a new shape of the state, though still fuzzy in outline and incomplete in detail, can be discerned and described with some confidence.

(LRB 8 October 2009)

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