Andrew Blick (London, Democratic Audit): I just heard Jacqui Smith's statement to the House on the recent terrorist attacks. Beyond a bald statement of the facts, it was interesting for what it omitted. There was no rhetoric about changing the 'rules of the game' (for which read 'standards of due process') or the need for the judiciary to 'get it'. Indeed there was no immediate claim that if only we could deport people to human rights abusing regimes the terrorist threat could be minimised. Rather than participants in a 'war', terrorists were described as 'criminals' - denying them the status of heroic combatants. This is not to say that none of this nonsense will resurface later, but it is a good start.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I have just been sent a thoughtful warning for me not to answer my front door: “the new Prime Minister has sounded the death knell for the controversial Barnett formula”. Then I breathed again, it’s from the Scotland on Sunday and it refers to (no-relation) Joel Barnett’s historic arrangements for giving Scotland a fair deal, which has now created an alleged subsidy that is stoking English fury. It will suit Brown well with Daily Mail readers to treat the whole of the UK the same way financially. Alex Salmond says it is "just a euphemism for slashing Scottish spending" but after the pictures of Salmond next to the Queen waving to the crowds one can imagine Brown’s desire to wipe the smile of the face of the SNP leader. So now it's leaving us, what is the Barnett formula? And what is so wrong with it?
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Writing in the Indie, Andreas Whittam Smith has welcomed the first days of Brown, describing them as calmness in the face of terror attacks and purposefulness in terms of dealing with how we are governed. Casting his eye over what I call the democratic agenda, he observes a wide range of activity, including OK:
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): One of the striking features of the last few days viewed from London is the way the Glasgow attack has underlined the distinctive nature of Scottish politics. First Minister Salmond was on the the Today programme this morning saying he had talked with the Prime Minister. He said they would not allow the criminal activity of individuals to lead to the scapegoating of members of the larger community which, he claimed, was especially strong in Scotland. The attack took place the day after he had reiterated a commitment to independence at the annual opening of the Scottish parliament by the Queen - where Salmond also talked about the "vital role" of the monarchy. And, of course, the populace enjoyed the Crown of Scotland being paraded down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, a kind of national celebration Gordon Brown seems to be seeking for Britishness. Terror attacks can bring everyone together yet still do so in different ways.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Brown’s masterful interview with Andrew Marr this morning made three good points. First, that in our reaction to terrorism, we are in it together and we won’t be intimidated and or allow it to undermine our way of life. And he defined this as including a traditional respect for civil liberties that avoids arbitrariness and ensures judicial oversight and accountability to parliament. It is still difficult not to believe that his predecessor won’t pop up and try and steal the limelight. But his words were a fine contrast with Blair’s notorious, and indeed arbitrary, announcement on 5 August 2005, a month after the 7/7 atrocities, that “the rules of the game have changed” and his later dismissal of concern for civil liberties as old fashioned.
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): I've just read the best article so far on Brown and the constitution. It's written by David Marquand (who has also blogged for OK) and appears in this week's New Statesman. He explains clearly and eloquently why a new settlement with a written constitution is needed. Its refreshing to read something that is clear, fair, far-reaching and best of all puts the radicalism required into its international context. It's not that having a written constitution is so revolutionary. The challenge comes from the fact that Britain's over-centralised state is antiquated and out of date, despite all the talk of being modern. "Brown", Marquand concludes optimistically, "has a chance to build a consensus for democratic change of a kind we have not seen since 1945", noting that if he succeeds "he will go down as one of the greatest reforming prime ministers of modern times." Great stuff. Read it here.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I see that Michael Wills has been appointed as Minister of State in the Department of Constitutional Affairs. A one-time television film maker, and therefore a politician with some experience of the outer world, he is a long time supporter of Gordon Brown, frequently rumoured to have helped on his speeches on the future of Britain. Last year he published a far-reaching ippr paper on Labour and democracy called The New Agenda (register for free pdf). It calls for a constitutional convention. One of the refreshing things about his approach at the time is that he knew how bad things were and how much they needed to change.
Daniel Leighton (London, Power Inquiry): The Lib Dems have published their own 20 step guide to democratic renewal. What kind of timing is this? The Cabinet has already met today to hold an unique discussion on constitutional reform. The outcome of their well prepared deliberation will be presented to Parliament on Monday. It is unlikely now to be deflected by a missive from Cowley Street
Jon Bright (London, OK): It's always dangerous to comment on a politics you're not directly involved in. But the goings on in the Welsh Assembly, blogged so effectively by John Osmond below, have presented a situation of interest to anyone thinking about proportional representation for England, or throughout the UK.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): A Today programme interview this morning opened with Jack Straw saying that, although he is Lord Chancellor there is no need to call him “my Lord”. For the first time, the holder of this 1,000 year old office who is currently the head of the Judiciary is a politician in the Commons. What does this tell us about the relationship between the judges and the executive?
Janice Small (London, Conservative Action for Electoral Reform): We support the Electoral Reform Society's Fresh Start campaign. In case you are wondering, CAER is not (yet) the most popular wing of the Conservative party, which is still steadfastly first-past-the-post.
Our Welsh colleagues are considering the single transferable vote for local government. They have recognised that the devolved system has worked for them after their wipe-out in 1997. (This is one reason why the Lib Dems do not want to form a Rainbow Alliance - because of a resurgent Tory party.) Scotland is intellectually behind in these discussions. Having visited Scotland before the May elections my colleagues agreed that electoral reform had worked for them and yes, it did enable them to re-form after their 1997 wipeout even if they are still backing FPTP.
Alexandra Runswick (London, Unlock Democracy): When the House of Commons voted in March for a fully elected second chamber it was heralded as a historic moment for democratic reform in the UK. But where are we now on Lords reform? Jack Straw, who will take responsibility for it as the new head of the Ministry of Justice and Lord Chancellor, gave evidence to the Commons Select Committee on 19th June. He told them he was "absolutely determined" to proceed with reform but thought it was unlikely to happen in this Parliament. A cross-party group of MPs is meeting to discuss a way forward but Jack was hazy about the exact process. There may be a draft Bill, or sections of a Bill or another white paper. One thing was clear; proposals would be brought forward for both an 80% elected and a fully elected second chamber. The relevant minister (him?) will make a statement to Parliament before it goes into recess on the 26th July.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): As 10 Downing Street announces a special Friday cabinet meeting to discuss the constitution and distributing power to the citizen (watch this space) an entirely modern constitutional question arises for which - hold onto the banisters - there is no precedent. Can Her Majesty's Foreign Secretary have a blog and if so can he conduct his meetings with other dignitaries in Second Life?
Jon Bright (London, OK): A lot is being written about devolving power, local democracy, and citizen's referendums. As blogged in these pages, Islington council recently balloted its residents on a "green parking" scheme, linking the cost of on-street parking to the fuel efficiency of cars. On Tuesday they announced the results: 56% voting yes in a 28.8% turnout (36,000 out of 127,500).