Should we move towards a US Style Constitution?

Interesting discussion on the British Constitution with David Starkey arising from the Damien Green affair:

Much of the criticism could equally be applied to the Dáil (if not more so, with even less oversight in the Senate), and Starkey suggests moving from the traditional British model towards a more American style system, primarily to strengthen the legislature. A disjoint between the Executive and Legislature might make for a difficult adjustment for those used to Parliamentary systems, but I tend to agree on the need for separation fo powers.

  • Brian Walker

    kensei, Starkey is a great expert on Henry viii. The trouble is, he sounds as authoritative on everything else but he isn’t. The premise of his This Week comments in favour of full separation of the powers was based on the nonsense that MPs are less effective than they once were. MPs are now far more assertive than ever and far busier on behalf of their constituents. That is not to say they are as powerful as the Executive. Phil Cowley is the top student of MPs’ behaviour. The following piece is a bit old but still stands.
    I’ll post the his Hansard society comments specifically slamming Starkey when they appear.

  • Kensei


    The agreement in the segment seemed to extend beyond Starkey. And I’m not sure arguing that the legislature was always weak is a good argument for the status quo.

  • veritas

    off course we need a fully codified constitution and whilst we`re there, maybe its time that we where citizens instead of subjects to an unelected tax dodging freeloading German and her dysfunctional family…
    as for separation of powers, again yes but what checks and balances need we put in place…

  • Brian Walker

    veritas, The British have long ceased to be subjects only. Citizenship is entrenched. Kensei, ok, fair point in theory.. A major separation of the powers takes place next year when the Law lords leave the legislature to become the UK Supreme Court. But greater separation between the legislature and the executive is not envisaged. However as I think Cowley explains, the Commons have acquired the right to vote to go to war and to dissolve, as well a much greater scrutiny of Bills. This although not sweeping, is not insignificant. Veritas, a full codified UK constitution won’t happen, probably because it literally takes a revolution or military defeat to overthrow the system. True, Brown’s modest constitutional renewal programme sees the logic of codification but balks at it. Down the decades, we will see some further moves from the “political” to a “legal” constitution mainly through judicial activity, causing some tension with the executive over say, anti-terrorism, but that’s it for the lifetime of the youngest reader I’d guess. Why? Because politicians will want to cling on to what power they have and almost all of them in the British system want “strong government”. You might note that US Presidents often envy the power of the UK PM, even though you might not like it…

  • Kensei


    You might note that US Presidents often envy the power of the UK PM, even though you might not like it…

    I think tha would be the point. Where Starkey hit for me was in the idea that the legislature should not simply be an extension of the Executive, and should be free to act without undue punishment. The heavy whipping of MPs (or TDs) is a deadening force.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The heavy whipping of MPs (or TDs) is a deadening force.’

    They’re not using enough force then . Some of the feckers are still alive 😉

    I mean it’s not as if either country is awash with TD’s or MP’s brimming with ideas as to how a post industrial post service economy can meet the needs of it’s population in a world torn upside down by the neo con plunderers of the past decade or more ?

  • OC

    “Should we move towards a US Style Constitution?”

    Wasn’t this Andy Tyrie’s suggestion, along with a NI UDI?

  • ulsterfan

    We could not afford a written/codified constitution.
    There would not be enough money to pay the lawyers.

  • Sarah

    The Ameican system means one thing: Gridlock Gridlock Gridlock. It doesn’t work and nothing gets done. All it is is pork barrell spending coupled with a President who has little power and a Congress that’s incompetent. Damien Green isn’t a patch on Watergate or Dick Cheney completly abusing his position as the Vice President. Keep the Parliamentry system.