Today, the Unit published the 80th edition of Monitor, which provides analysis of the key constitutional news of the past four months. In this post, which also serves as the lead article for Monitor 80, Meg Russell and Alan Renwick reflect on risks to democracy at home and the appalling invasion of a democratic nation, Ukraine, which could have long-term repercussions for the health of democracies across Europe.
Monitor has in recent years catalogued a succession of astonishing events in British constitutional politics: the 2014 Scottish independence referendum; the 2016 Brexit referendum; the parliamentary battle that ensued under Theresa May’s divided minority government post-2017; Boris Johnson’s unlawful parliamentary prorogation of 2019; and the politics of COVID-19 lockdown post-2020.
The shock likely to dominate memories of 2022 – Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine – is of a different order. The war is a terrible tragedy for all those directly affected; on the world stage it is Europe’s darkest and potentially most dangerous moment at least since the Cold War standoff of the 1960s, and perhaps since 1945. In response, British constitutional politics has seen a suspension of normal working. Hostile exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions have been replaced by pledges of unity. The House of Commons has given standing ovations to Ukraine’s ambassador in London, and then to its President, Volodoymr Zelenskyy. A mutinous Conservative Party that had been gearing up, perhaps, to topple its leader now bides its time.
How Putin’s war might shift British politics beyond the short term remains to be seen. In this edition of Monitor, the developments discussed mostly predate the invasion. Some of these – notably, a raft of bills and consultations – have a momentum that will run on. As has been true for several years, these developments give some considerable cause for concern.Continue reading