openDemocracyUK

What you can do for your democracy

Last week saw the launch of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee’s The UK Constitution – a pocket-sized, written constitution for the UK. Here's what you can do.

Graham Allen
25 March 2015

Our democracy is not fit for purpose and voter disengagement is at its highest with more people not voting at the last election than voted for the two main parties. A radical package of reform is essential, including letting electors know the Rule Book of our democracy. Last week saw the launch of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee’s The UK Constitution – a pocket-sized, written constitution for the UK.

The launch of the pocket UK constitution marks a further opportunity for you to tell Parliament about your views on our democracy and its future. The document briefly sets out our current democratic arrangements, and provides options for possible reform including devolution to independent local government in England, the election of the Second Chamber, and letting people vote directly for the Prime Minister.

This work follows on from our major project which examined whether or not the UK constitution should be codified and, if so, what it might contain. This inquiry ran for four years, and was informed by a unique collaboration with a team from King’s College London lead by Professor Robert Blackburn.

Our report A new Magna Carta? was published in June 2014. It set out three alternative blueprints for possible codification of our constitution: a constitutional code, a consolidation statute, and a written constitution.

A major consultation exercise followed publication of the report and during the six months between June 2014 and 1 January 2015 we received over 3,000 responses in a variety of forms ranging from traditional written submissions to the Committee, to survey responses, to social media. We recently published a summary of our consultation, which identifies the main themes emerging from the consultation.

The response to the consultation was impressive and a clear demonstration that the public care deeply about our current and future democratic arrangements, and A new Magna Carta? remains an invaluable tool for examining and discussing whether and how we might adopt a written constitution for the UK. But the conversation cannot stop there.

In the year of both the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and an unpredictable and uncertain general election, the launch of our pocket UK constitution marks an opportunity to tell Parliament what you think and to get your views on record.

There is now cross-party commitment to the establishment of a Constitutional Convention in the new Parliament. We don’t yet know what form that will take, or what its terms of reference may be. But we do know that these issues need to be discussed, and this is an opportunity to help shape the agenda for the future.

Constitutions are about power: where it is located, who can exercise it, and how it is controlled. We cannot be complacent about our democratic arrangements, and it’s vital that we think about and discuss where we are now and where we might be going.

Here’s how you can take part in this conversation:

If we are to continue to be a democracy we need to radically reshape our institutions so that power rests with a plurality of elected institutions not with an over centralised, unelected power elite in Whitehall, the media and the Prime ministership.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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