This paper sets out the framework of analysis for exploring how the UK constitution is working and whether and how it may need to be reformed.
Does the UK’s constitution still work?
The nature and viability of the British constitution has long been the subject of debate. But at moments during the recent tumultuous period in British politics, questions about whether the UK constitution was working well led the news agenda, and different interpretations of its conventions and principles were weaponised by competing political actors.
Leaving the EU has destabilised relationships between the executive, judiciary and parliament and put pressure on the devolution settlements. The Covid-19 pandemic revealed different priorities for central, devolved and local governments. It also illustrated the difficulties parliament faces in holding the government to account, particularly in moments of crisis. Public trust in the institutions and structures that govern the UK, which has been declining for some while, has been under more strain.
In these circumstances, there have been many calls to review the institutions of government and to recalibrate the UK’s constitution, emanating from all parts of the political spectrum. There is an imperative now to consider the viability and performance of some of the core institutions of British government.
This report marks the launch of the Review of the UK Constitution, a project that arises from a major new collaboration between the Institute for Government and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, based at the University of Cambridge. Our aim is to offer an evidence-based, non-partisan analysis of how the constitution is currently working and identify whether and how it may need to be reformed.
We have brought together a distinguished advisory panel to support our work and interrogate our thinking, including people with extensive experience in different government institutions and public roles, from different parts of the UK. We are especially grateful to them for the time and expertise they are giving to this project. They will work with us over the course of the review – although the judgments and recommendations that will emanate from its work are ours alone.
This initial paper sets out the framework of analysis that will guide the work of the review, and is the first in a series of publications and events in the coming year. We hope it will prompt wide-ranging and serious debate, and look forward to many future constitutional conversations.