Does Britain need a written constitution and, if it does, will it get one?

We have managed without one for 800 years and we are in a tiny select group of nations – including Israel and New Zealand – that does not have one. A recent article in the “Washington Post” appears to suggest that the time has come for us to codify and up-date our unwritten constitution into a single agreed document.

I’m not convinced that Britain needs a written constitution: although it would presumably make matters neater and clearer, it would reduce the flexibility that arguably is the genius of out current arrangements.

What I am sure of is that we are not going to get a written constitution any time soon: it is not a priority in these challenging economic times and there is just no way that we could achieve the necessary consensus.

Constitutions usually emerge from moments of historical discontinuity like a revolution or civil war or decolonisation. Since the notion of written constitutions emerged some two and a half centuries ago, Britain has never experienced such historical incidents which explains why we do not have a written constitution and will not agree to one.

Meanwhile, if you would like to understand better the British political system, you can check out my short guide here.


  • Peter Clark

    Roger – Suggest the Washington Post would benefit if you were to email the above to them 🙂

  • Max Bancroft

    If we had had a written constitution would it have been so simple to deal with the issue of Scots independence once the SNP won a majority in the Scottish Parliament?

    I guess not since a written UK constitution would have something in it like the Spanish constitution about the indivisible nation: The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.

    So we would have had to have a UK wide referendum to change the UK constitution to allow a Scottish referendum and the process of getting this UK change would have caused endless chaos and general ill-will.

    At the end of the day it was a simple process showing the flexibility of an unwritten constitution.


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