openDemocracyUK

Gordon's reply to Anthony

Thomas Ash
4 February 2010

In a post yesterday, Anthony Barnett assessed the Prime Minister's speech calling for a written constitution by 2015 and an immediate referendum on changing the voting system. Anthony also signals a new direction for OurKingdom. He asked a question after the speech. We can't run this in full as the sound recording was too poor but ippr have captured Gordon Brown's answer:

ANTHONY BARNETT: Prime Minister - isn't it a bit too late...

GORDON BROWN: Anthony, when I took over the job in 2007, I said that I wanted to look at everything including a written constitution and we started with the ending of the royal prerogatives – the right to declare peace and war. We then looked at how we could reform, er, have a bill of rights and responsibilities which should be an essential part of a written constitution, I thought. And we've always been both publishing documentation and going around the country and asking people their views about this.

But I've got to accept that the business of writing a written constitution is unusal. It never happens usually in any country outside war or revolution. There are very few examples of any country just sitting down and writing a constitution without the pressure of events or something that is broken down in a big way - violence or revolution making that happen. And to persuade people that this is a important thing to do, as you yourself know as a believer in this, is incredible difficult, so I have started a debate, which wasn't really happening before 2007.

I do believe we can move that forward in the next few months and years, but I do believe that there has got to be a popular demand to be part of this for this to be effective, so this is not about electioneering. There will come a time for a electioneering... It is about saying what is right for the future of this country. We have now seen exposed flaws in our democracy, which as a country that prides itself in both liberty and democracy we have a duty to correct.

To say that we want change is not enough. We've got to prove that we are prepared to do it. To move things along, as I am doing today, in a number of key areas with announcements about what we will to do, is the right thing to do. But then we have to build a consensus amongst people like yourselves here.. and right across the country that political decissions matter to them, and therefore the way they are taken are important, is something we all got to do together. And I am confident that over these next few years, but particularly in the context of a debate about a written constitution, we can move the arguments that you have been pushing so many times forward.

I gave a Charter 88 lecture, er, not in '88...(Laughter) but around 2000

BARNETT: '92

BROWN: 92? Was it 92? I think I gave another one in 2000, and I said
that these were the points we have to address. And you know we've donefreedom of information, we have made changes through devolution. We got, if you like, the House of Lords half way there to big changes, but we have not yet done enough, and that's what I'm accepting today. But we need more than a few politicians for it to happen.

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