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The New British Constitution

By: Vernon Bogdanor
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Published: 03-06-2009
Format: EPUB eBook (?)
Edition: 1st
Extent: 334
ISBN: 9781847317148
Imprint: Hart Publishing
RRP: £26.09
Online price : £20.87
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About The New British Constitution

The last decade has seen radical changes in the way we are governed. Reforms such as the Human Rights Act and devolution have led to the replacement of one constitutional order by another. This book is the first to describe and analyse Britain's new constitution, asking why it was that the old system, seemingly hallowed by time, came under challenge, and why it is being replaced.

The Human Rights Act and the devolution legislation have the character of fundamental law. They in practice limit the rights of Westminster as a sovereign parliament, and establish a constitution which is quasi-federal in nature. The old constitution emphasised the sovereignty of Parliament. The new constitution, by contrast, emphasises the separation of powers, both territorially and at the centre of government.

The aim of constitutional reformers has been to improve the quality of government. But the main weakness of the new constitution is that it does little to secure more popular involvement in politics. We are in the process of becoming a constitutional state, but not a popular constitutional state. The next phase of constitutional reform, therefore, is likely to involve the creation of new forms of democratic engagement, so that our constitutional forms come to be more congruent with the social and political forces of the age. The end-point of this piecemeal process might well be a fully codified or written constitution which declares that power stems not from the Queen-in Parliament, but, instead, as in so many constitutions, from `We, the People'.

The old British constitution was analysed by Bagehot and Dicey. In this book Vernon Bogdanor charts the significance of what is coming to replace it.

The expenses scandal shows up grave defects in the British constitution. Vernon Bogdanor shows how the constitution can be reformed and the political system opened up in`The New British Constitution'.

Table Of Contents

1 A Peculiar Constitution
2 The Old Constitution Under Strain
3 The Human Rights Act: Cornerstone of the New Constitution
4 Devolution
5 Hung Parliaments: Governing without a Majority
6 A Reformed House of Lords
7 The Referendum
8 The New Government of London
9 Towards a Written Constitution?
10 A New Localism?
11 The Constitutional State
12 Towards a Popular Constitutional State: Democracy and Participation


“In explaining how this new British constitution has emerged in the space of a political generation, Bogdanor is not only an insightful but also a congenial companion. His mastery of the subject is conveyed in a conversational style which makes the book a pleasure to read and for this reason The New British Constitution will appeal to the widest possible readership.
I am reluctant to end a review of such a valuable book with a cliché but in this case it is warranted. It is a 'must read' for anyone interested in British politics.
” –  Arthur Aughey, The Journal of Legislative Studies, Volume 15, No. 4

“This is a beautifully written book, the language as clear as the thinking, and it could not be more timely.” –  The Economist

“This book is written with a vigorous clarity, with easy expertise and with quiet wit. Bogdanor is himself a part of the constitution, an unacknowledged legislator: the book is a revelation. More, it is a reproach to journalism, that we have not more clearly explained a great shift of the past decade. He has.” –  John Lloyd, The Financial Times

“…[Vernon Bogdanor] is well informed, subtle and immensely thorough. This is not just a book to read, it is one to keep on the shelf for reference. Anyone remotely interested in the constitution, including all the main party leaders, should certainly acquire a copy...The New British Constitution is a formidable and invaluable achievement…” –  Anthony King, Times Higher Education

“...provides a fresh and reflective account of democratic change...despite the efforts of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown public opinion polls and attitudinal surveys reveal declining levels of public trust in politicians and confidence in the political system. It is exactly in explaining, understanding and responding to this puzzle – major constitutional reform combined with the erosion of public support – that The New British Constitution provides a provocative and original answer.” –  Matthew Flinders,

“Vernon Bogdanor offers a fresh insight into the substantial, and still largely underappreciated, changes to the British constitution. He combines the approaches of the political historian, the constitutional lawyer and the political scientist to put the changes into a wider context. It is a must read for anyone interested in British politics.” –  Peter Riddell, The Times

“This masterly survey charts the rise of the 'New' constitution and expertly explains both how it works and why it matters. Bogdanor is Dicey and Bagehot rolled into one for the twenty-first century” –  Guy Lodge, Institute for Public Policy Research

“Vernon Bogdanor's The New British Constitution is a timely work…Bogdanor has set himself an ambitious target in writing this book; he is inviting comparison with the great late Victorian analysts – and advocates – of the old constitution of untrammelled parliamentary sovereignty, Bagehot and Dicey. He is worthy of the comparison. The book is an illuminating guide to quite how much of what we used to know about the British constitution has ceased to be applicable in a comparatively short time...One of Bogdanor's similarities with Bagehot (although he is a better scholar by far) is that he writes with an unusual clarity.” –  Lewis Baston, Progress

“The British Constitution is a mysterious, ramshackle and amorphous beast. Because much of it has never been written down, some people even claim that it doesn't exist. But in hunting this Snark through the thickets of legislation and tradition, there can be no more doughty guide than Vernon Bogdanor…[a] timely and indeed prescient book.” –  Alison Thomas, Public Servant

“If David Cameron becomes Prime Minister... he should read the thoughts of the Oxford tutor who explained it all to him when he was a student twenty years ago.” –  The Times Literary Supplement

“The scholarship and clarity is impressive.You will look long and hard for as complete a résumé of what has been done... as an analysis of changes which may or may not have a direction but which have certainly changed Bagehot's settlement, this is an important book.” –  Total Politics

“...this work provides a thorough dissection of contemporary political and constitutional issues that merit careful consideration...the book will interest scholars in the field of British constitutional history: past, present, and future.” –  Richard A. Cosgrove, The Law and Politics Book Review, Vol 19, Issue 10

“Bogdanor's book provides a fascinating insight into the constitution that many of us may have thought we didn't have. What makes it successful is Bogdanor's easy ability to make these issues interesting, real and relevant…The clarity Bogdanor brings to the UK's current constitutional halfway house will, for many, be a political and social revelation. The New British Constitution also undoubtedly provides a strong basis for discussion of future change.” –  Simon Moore, Public Service Magazine

The New British Constitution is written with the rare combination of erudition and elegance that places it firmly in the tradition of Dicey and Bagehot.

After four decades of observing and writing about constitutional affairs, Bogdanor has become part of the constitutional furniture. Baroness Helena Kennedy QC once noted that "laws are the autobiography of the nation." If so, then they have a fine biographer in Professor Bogdanor.

” –  Thom Dyke, Pupil Barrister, Hardwicke Building, Judicial Review

“...this is an impressive work which informed and interested people on both sides of the Atlantic should read with care, because it will give them a greater understanding of the issues now facing the united Kingdom as it faces up to a major systemic crisis in her politics and government.” –  Harold Elcock, The British Politics Group Quarterly, No 138

“Vernon Bogdanor is one of our most astute commentators on constitutional issues. From the discipline of government, he fully engages in legal matters and brings a freshness to public law. This book is written with admirable clarity and is unusually accessible to expert and layman. It is also one of the few works that seek to make sense of contemporary developments in the context of our constitutional history.

This book has already received deservedly wide attention and will continue to do so.

” –  Jeffrey Jowell, Public Law

“Bogdanor's background as a political scientist shows in the keen insight he brings into the interplay of politics with constitutional principle that colour the context within which the constitutional reforms he discusses take place. His conclusions are bold and ... this is a compelling book on a topical subject.” –  Yvonne Tew, Cambridge Law Journal, Volume 69, Part 2

“Vernon Bogdanor is an acknowledged expert in political science and constitutional law. He also writes very well in a style which engages the reader. He offers fresh insights into both the changes which have taken place since 1997 and into the unknown future. The New British Constitution will be of value to everyone with an interest in politics or public law and is highly recommended.” –  Jean McFadden, SCOLAG Legal Journal, Issue 394

“Bogdanor...magisterially lays out the formal-legal details of recent constitutional change in Britain that lead him to see a "new British constitution" in the making... he does that with admirable clarity and precision.

It is a must-read for anyone concerned with the constitutional ferment in Britain.

” –  E. A. Goerner, The Journal of the Review of Politics, Volume 73

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