Letter to the London Review of Books, 24 January 2019
“David Runciman is right to conclude in his analysis of the Brexit impasse that the attempt to “combine parliamentary government with plebiscitary democracy has failed. The UK is faced not merely with s constitutional crisis, but with a constitutional breakdown. Together the referendum principle introduced by Harold Wilson and the Parliament Act invented by David Cameron and Nick Clegg – both made possible by an unwritten constitution – have torpedoed constitutional order.
“Runciman compares the present crisis to Suez, but that was political. Better comparisons might be with the abdication crisis of 1936 or the People’s Budget which led to the Parliament Act of 1911. But the Constitution was able to deal with both. The present situation is more intractable. Even if re it is somehow resolved the country will remain saddled with incompatible notions of legitimacy – the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament and the sovereignty of the popular will. The last time something like this happened was in 1688, when the lawful claims of the Crown clashed catastrophically with the lawful claims of Parliament. A constitutional convention might resolve the difficulty, but how would it be set up, by Parliament or by referendum?”
Bill Myers, Leicester
Tomorrow: my take on the constitutional mess created.