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Crowdsourcing a new UK Constitution

13_0778-ConstitutionUK_Logo_140-pixelsShould the UK have a monarch, abolish the House of Lords, or repeal the Human Rights Act?

These questions and more will be the focus of a unique project being launched by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on Tuesday 8 October to give the public a direct say in writing a proposed new UK Constitution.

The two year project, co-ordinated by LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs, will seek input from ordinary English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland residents on how their country should be governed.

Human rights lawyer and IPA Director, Professor Conor Gearty, said the lack of a formal Constitution in the UK was the basis for the crowdsourcing project.

Conor Gearty“The United Kingdom is an odd country in many ways. It is constructed of a lot of different nations and does not even have a written Constitution. It gets by on laws and conventions and this doesn’t seem to work; many think that it’s becoming untenable,” Professor Gearty said.

The project launch will outline how the British public can get involved in drafting a formal new Constitution, including contributing essays, voting online, and deciding what values and principles should underpin the new document.

A panel of legal experts and political specialists, including former Home Secretary David Blunkett, well-known barrister Richard Gordon and LSE Emeritus Professor of Law, Carol Harlow, will address the launch, chaired by Professor Gearty.

“These people have knowledge of the law and experience in exercising power, but their main role will be to help me to encourage ordinary people to drive this debate. Normally these issues are left in the hands of professors, judges, ex-civil servants, the ‘well-educated’ and elite members of society. This project is going about this in a slightly different way,” Professor Gearty said.

Debates will centre on the merits or otherwise of many issues, including the following: the monarchy, House of Lords, bishops, judges and the Bill of Rights.

“Do we need all of these and what is the basis for their existence in the UK? Should parliament be given the power to decide whether or not to send the country to war? These are the kinds of issues we hope to unpick in the course of the next six months,” Professor Gearty said.

LSE plans to hold a Constitutional Carnival in Spring 2014 to complete the drafting of the Constitution before finalising the document and launching it on the eve of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. 

“Our aim is to come up with something better – or different - than the medieval barons did in this country in 1215 that led to the rule of constitutional law,” Professor Gearty said.

The public event will be launched at 6.30pm, Tuesday 8 October in the Sheik Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building at LSE. For more information visit http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/constitutionuk/

Notes for editors

To interview Professor Gearty, please email him at c.a.gearty@lse.ac.uk or contact Candy Gibson, LSE Press Office, c.gibson@lse.ac.uk or 020 7849 4624.|

4 October 2013