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British Constitution College - Essay Example

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It has been argued that the UK does not have a codified constitution, because its population lacks interest in such a radical constitutional reform. But it has also been argued that the UK population lacks interest in constitutional matters because it does not have a codified constitution…
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British Constitution College

Download file to see previous pages... The advocates of a written constitution argue that if it's a written document, every citizen will have access to it instead of only constitutional experts who can interpret it to suit their own convenience .
There are two basic principles to the British Constitution: The Rule of Law and the Supremacy of Parliament. The development of U.K's uncodified constitution has been quite haphazard , taking inputs from experts like Walter Bagehot and A.V Dicey, Magna Carta, Act of Settlement of 1701, common law, case law, historical documents, Acts of Parliament and European legislation.
There are various opinions on why the U.K does not have a written constitution. Some observers feel that the U.K does not have a codified constitution because it has been politically stable for too long. The royal families in other European countries like France and Germany have had to step down and draw up constitutions as a result of revolt by the masses. In contrast, Great Britain never faced any revolt or rebellion against the crown during the 19th century. Instead, it has transformed itself into democracy over the years. [Nigel Morris,2008]
In the process of drafting a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities outlining citizens' rights and codifying the political system last year, Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Justice remarked that "The constitution of the United Kingdom exists in hearts and minds and habits as much as it does in law." This statement provides a good enough reason as to why there is no codified constitution on the U.K. He also points out that the passing of this Bill could bring U.K in line with the most progressive democracies in the world. [Nigel Morris,2008].
Morris however argues in favour of a written constitution stating that British democracy is in a crisis as citizens eye politicians with cynicism and the turnout in general elections has been falling over the years. This could be due to a lack of interest on the part of citizens as there is no written code of law stating their rights and responsibilities.
The true essence of a democracy is the manner in which its elections are held. Since democracy is the rule by representatives of the people, a larger voter turnout could mean an active interest on the part of citizens in the affairs of the State. An alarming trend has been observed in the turnout in elections in Britain in recent times. Each time, the number of voters keeps decreasing from the previous one. Other than the general elections in 2001, where the turnout was 59.2%, only a miserable 23% of the population of U.K voted in the European elections in 1999.This was the lowest turnout among all European countries. The following table shows the voter turnout over time in British elections. While the turnout in local elections saw regular fluctuations between 1979 to 1992, it seemed to follow a downtrend from 1992 onwards. The General Elections saw a marginal decline in turnout from 1979 to 1983 , though it was a respectable 75% till 1992, after which it appears to have declined to 70% in 1997 and crashed to below 60% in 2001.Similarly, while the turnout in bye-elctions was almost 55% in 1979, it had declined to almost 40% in 2001.The European elections saw the response improving from around 30% in 1979 to 38% in1992 and falling to around 23% in 2001. The results show a steady decline in the participation of citizens in the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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