'Oh no, you're joking - not another constitution blog!' As Brenda from Bristol might say
As I echo the famous quote of a fellow Bristolian, I sit at my PC amazed at the ongoing constitutional questions which keep arising under this Administration.
THE INTEGRITY of The UK & NI. Differing approaches to the relaxation of rules regarding lockdown in all four Home Countries raises serious constitutional issues for the future. Although I have touched upon this in an earlier blog the situation seems to be veering away from the UK Government's control. For the first time in 800 years or so there is a border between England and Wales policed on the Welsh side. As a child a standard family joke when driving into Wales from Bristol was, 'Do you have your passport?' We are not perhaps at that stage yet, although in terms of The English-Scottish border it seems to becoming more into the realms of possibility. As for Northern Ireland, add in Brexit and the Government's failure to find an answer to the border acceptable to The Republic and The EU, then a united Ireland becomes not only more likely but actually more economically necessary for the Northern Irish economy
THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Her support of Dominic Cummings, as asked for apparently by The Whips Office, is an unconstitutional act. The Office requires the Attorney not to make statements in support of the government. In fact in saying that no crime was committed she has also in effect ridden a coach and horses through the principle of The Rule Of Law, making it difficult for a prosecution to be brought. If you think these are my extreme views, take a look at what a previous Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has written.
DOMINIC CUMMINGS. He, and therefore the PM who sanctioned his Press Conference, broke the rules pertaining to SPADs: 'Special Advisers must not take public part in political controversy, through any form of statement whether in speeches or letters to the press, or in books, social media, articles or leaflets. They must observe discretion and express comment with moderation, avoiding personal attacks, and would not normally speak in public for their Minister or the Department.' Moreover, as far as I can tell no one other than Prime Ministers and visiting dignitaries (plus Nick Clegg as Deputy PM at the setting up of the Coalition Government) have spoken form No 10's Rose Garden.
The first issue re the integrity of the United Kingdom & NI is one that will have to be clarified after the crisis is over. In that sense we can park it, whatever our individual views may be. The issue around the cavalier approach to constitutional matters is, however, more urgent and in many ways more serious. More serious because the longer the Government acts in these and similar ways the more it will feel free to do so and the more it will undermine our democracy. I know full well that we are not in a Hungary or Poland situation with our Government, but we do seem to be on a path that leads to the disregard of constitutional rules which we observe from afar in Trump's America. This slow erosion of constitutional norms is to me, and lawyers of my generation brought up on Blackstone, Bagehot, Dicey etc, dangerous. If you are not a lawyer ask your legal friends their views, as long as they are in the maturer age group!