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On The Constitution

As libertarians, we talk a lot about freedom and liberty. Be that the free-market in which high quality goods and services are made available at low prices from an abundance of providers to choose from, or individual liberty whereby we are free to speak our minds, bear arms or do as we please with our own bodies: the foundation of our movement is grounded in a fundamental appreciation for the importance of freedom.

But know that the form and structure of Britain’s constitution is not conducive to the realisation of these freedoms in any way. Therefore, it must undergo radical reformation if we wish to ensure the attainment, and then protection of, liberty. Know that much of the British constitution actually facilitates and legitimizes overreach in government, rather than safeguard against it.

Take, for example, the overlap between the House of Commons and Cabinet: the executive holds an in-built legislative majority allowing the Prime Minister to pursue their agenda free of any real checks or balances. I often point to the fact that Tony Blair only suffered 4 defeats in the Commons during his 10-year premiership as evidence of this alarming imbalance of power across the government branches. But never mind Blair, we’re seeing this happen every day under the current administration, with bills such as The Police, Courts, Crime and Sentencing Act passing through Parliament with ease.

And not only does this fusion make of our government a swingeing goliath of un-bridled power which can revoke our rights at any given moment, but the voices of any parliamentarians outside Cabinet can simply be repressed when not in-line with the government’s agenda. I point to public bill committees reflecting the party makeup in the House of Commons, I point to the ineffectiveness of Private Members’ Bills, and I point to the House of Lords wholly lacking the capacity to halt over-reach in the government’s legislative agenda. And while – for the latter – some may argue that that’s good thing given that the Lords are unelected, it still doesn’t change the fact that a restrained government demands a bicameral legislature, which we do not properly have at the moment.

It is evident that Parliament is not sovereign, but instead, Number 10. But neither should be true: The Individual should be sovereign. We are in dire need of a written constitution that places emphasis on individual liberty and ensures the distinct separation of powers in the general (federal) government while devolving most policy making power to state governments.

Therefore, I would argue that if we are serious about securing liberty and freedom, we ought to start focusing our critique on the structural roots of authoritarianism in Britain a lot more.

Oliver Barrett-Adams

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