The Constitution Unit and 20 years of British constitutional reform

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Vernon Bogdanor reflects on how the UK’s constitutional landscape has evolved since Robert Hazell established the Constitution Unit in 1995 and considers whether the time has come to draw up a codified constitution.

This is the first of a series of posts adapted from presentations at the Unit’s 20th anniversary conference, held on 23 June 2015.

I was asked many years ago by OUP to be a referee for the book proposed called Constitutional Futures. I said:

‘This is a book that seeks to outline the issues of constitutional reform. It is being sponsored by The Constitution Unit, an authoritative and highly regarded organisation. The head of the Unit is a well-known writer in this field, Robert Hazell, who has studied the field for years and writes with authority. He is thoroughly familiar with recent scholarship but he also writes clearly and he does not employ the political science jargon which so often disfigures such works. There is no real competitor in the market.’

The book was published at the beginning of the period of constitutional reform. At the time Bagehot’s famous statement about the British constitution was true (in a way I do not think it is any more):

‘There is a great difficulty in the way of a writer who attempts to sketch a living constitution – a constitution that is in actual work and power. The difficulty is that the object is in constant change’. (p.5).

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