The Rules of British Democracy under Duress: Has the British Constitution Proved Resilient or in Need of Reform?

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The UK constitution appears to lurch from crisis to crisis. The last seven years have seen the UK negotiate Brexit, a global pandemic, threats to the Union, and a series of political crises that saw three Prime Ministers in one year. These events tempt calls for reform. Surely the UK’s constitution is more populist than democratic and will remain so without long-lasting constitutional form, perhaps even moving to a codified constitution with strong, legal protections of federalism, democracy, and human rights? Yet, how can we criticise a constitution whose very flexibility enables it to bend under pressure, but not break, where we see strong checks from parliamentary committees that can even hold Prime Minister’s to account for their actions, and courts that can quash unlawful prorogations of Parliament? Professor Young will argue that, whilst the British constitution may weather storms valiantly, with effective checks and balance in extreme circumstances, the unwritten constitutional guardrails are being slowly eroded. If there is a need for reform, it is in these more hidden elements of our constitution.