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Landmark UK constitution crowdsourcing carnival at LSE

Peter Tatchell, the human rights activist, and Martin Lewis, the campaigning consumer journalist, are among the high profile speakers at a landmark crowdsourcing carnival to engage the public in drafting a new UK constitution.

The event, on Thursday June 26, 4-8pm, is the culmination of Constitution UK, a trailblazing project at the London School of Economics and Political Science that invites members of the public to participate in, offer advice on and eventually to draft a new UK constitution.tatchell

Other speakers include Graham Allen MP, Ian Roberts of the Monarchist League, Graham Smith of Republic, Melanie Strickland of Occupy, Baroness Quinn, the Labour peer, Alasdair Cochrane, the political theorist and ethicist, LSE’s Conor Gearty and Purna Sen, and University College London’s Robert Hazell and Dawn Oliver.

Professor Conor Gearty, Director of LSE's Institute of Public Affairs and Professor of Human Rights Law, explains the reasoning behind the event:

"The UK has no written constitution which is problematic as well as peculiar. The country reels from crisis to crisis. Failing banks, economic collapse, controversial wars, MPs’ expenses scandals and there is no clear idea of what the country stands for, what principles and values matter to it, and therefore how best to tackle the various problems that it confronts.

"Many experts have tried to draft a constitution. We have had the great and the good going after this holy grail for centuries, meeting in their ancient college rooms, talking to themselves, reporting to their peers, dividing on this and that, invariably cancelling each other out. Where they have managed to agree (usually on something pretty small) they have floundered on a special interest or insuperable institutional barrier.

“Meanwhile Europe, which has a constitution to all intents and purposes, takes more and more from Westminster, while Scotland threatens to grab its bit of land and wander into independence. Some parts of England agitate for their own regional assemblies. Where does all this leave Wales? Not to mention the once endemically violent Northern Ireland?

“The status quo is no longer an option. As we approach the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, surely we can do better than a bunch of medieval barons in Runnymede in June 1215?”

The doors of LSE’s award-winning new Saw Swee Hock Student Centre will be thrown open for the evening of constitutional celebration which will include refreshments and even a bouncy castle. Some of the gaping holes that will be addressed at the carnival will be: What kind of head of state should we have? Who runs Britain? Should we be equal? How should we decide which rights to protect? Can the constitution protect the economy? Where should judges fit in a written constitution?

Professor Gearty added: “Join us for an evening of interactive activities where you can learn about the UK’s existing constitution and have your say on what could be included in a new one. Debate with experts in round table discussions, stand up on our soapbox to voice your opinions or write your views on our ‘Equality and Diversity Wall’. There will be experts on hand to help, and guidance from past discussions on the website, but this is the day when the general public takes its stand and has its say.”

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact IPA Communications Officer Jack Bailey ipa@lse.ac.uk or 0207 107 5195

Constitution UK is led by LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and Department of Law, together with the LSE Public Policy Group (PPG) and Democratic Audit. It builds on the IPA’s successful and ongoing Imagining One Nation Britain programme, on the Department of Law’s academic knowledge and the specialist excellence of PPG and Democratic Audit.

3 June 2014