The idea of a
codified constitution is a popular one, especially one modelled on the Swiss
constitution, which enshrines limited direct democracy. However, that document,
which runs to 76 pages, does not necessarily provide a model for us. It is a
composite document that comprises only in part a constitution. Mainly, it is a
Bill of Rights. A constitution
should be directed primarily at governments and state agencies. Strictly
speaking, it should be limited to defining the extent of their powers and the
manner in which they shall be exercised. It can read alongside a Bill of
Rights, and individual rights can be enshrined in a constitution, although
separate documents might be preferable.
From the outset,
though, it was clearly evident that the task of codifying every part of our
constitution (or even starting from scratch) was not one which any single group could or should manage.
Even to attempt to do so would change the tenor of our demands.
we are to have our own constitution, it must be produced by “we the people”.
This is not something government can do for us. Those who frame a constitution
– or who commission the task to be done - have to be the sovereign entity. And
the very fact that the people lay down the rules under which governments must
operate is de facto recognition of
experience of the US Supreme Court, and its tinkering with the US constitution,
does not inspire confidence. Arguably, the ultimate court should be the people,
who should be able to strike out any law or impost – such as a treaty – which
they deem to be unconstitutional. If a law with constitutional effect is
accepted by the people, it becomes part of, and thereby changes, the
constitution. The same should also apply
to court judgements.
As to the problem
of how to frame a demand in the context of our Harrogate Agenda, we could not
call for a constitution, as such. This would be a demand addressed to
ourselves, as the people. On reflection, the best option might be to address a separate demand to a reformed Parliament, one from which the
executive had been excluded. It would be required to convene and then host a
convention with a view to framing our document. A draft constitution should
then be published, discussed, modified as necessary and ratified by referendum.
As to the content
of this constitution, its shape or form, we do not offer any opinions as to its
final shape. We note only that our demands involve very substantial amendments
to the existing constitution. We would expect these to be incorporated in any
new constitution. For the rest, we merely call for a properly constituted
convention, one that is capable of deliberating relevant issues in an inclusive
manner, and which will put the fruits of its deliberations to the people for approval.