The government’s contentious legislation to reduce the number of MPs and introduce a new system for drawing parliamentary boundaries was passed in February 2011. It set out an ambitious timetable for final recommendations to be voted on by the House of Commons in October 2013, which required some fast work by theBoundary Commission for England (BCE) in particular, which has 502 new constituencies to design. The BCE staff has been hard at work all spring and summer and the Commission publishes its eagerly-awaited ‘initial proposals’ next Tuesday, 13 September 2011. Recommendations for Scotland and Northern Ireland will also be published this autumn, while those for Wales are held up until January 2012.
Late last year, the Cabinet Office published in draft form a document called the Cabinet Manual. Subtitled ‘A guide to laws, conventions, and rules on the operation of government’, it was initially intended by Gordon Brown, when instigating it as Prime Minister, as a possible first step towards a written constitution for the UK. This plan has subsequently been dropped, but the manual has survived.
In a pamphlet co-authored by Peter Hennessy and myself, published this week by the Institute for Public Policy Research, we analyse the significance and content of this document, and come to the conclusion that it is the fullest publicly available, official statement of the UK constitution ever to have been produced, but it should not be confused with a full codified constitution. Continue reading
Despite sweeping reform by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act in 2000, the UK system of party funding regulation remains bedeviled by periodic scandal and pervasive public distrust. The case for further reform to detoxify the issue is now widely-accepted within all the major political parties, and has been echoed by a succession of official reviews.
Yet cross-party agreement on the precise structure of a new financial regime has thus far proven stubbornly elusive. In the recent past, this lack of consensus has acted as a block on reform, as all parties have tended to agree that no solution to the vexed question of party funding should be implemented before first arriving at a full and comprehensive agreement.