The Constitution in Review 4

Authors:

The United Kingdom Constitution Monitoring Group (UKCMG) has warned that 2022 exposed tensions and weaknesses within the UK and devolved systems of government. It said it also feared that ministers had demonstrated a propensity to exploit and aggravate these problems, to the detriment of the public interest.  

The Group released its biannual report on Friday 24th March tracking important changes in the UK’s uncodified constitution. The group is composed of leading constitutional experts including former permanent secretaries of the Civil Service, professors of public law and a former lord chief justice of England and Wales.

From August to December, 2022, the UK constitution saw transitions at the highest levels of office. One head of state succeeded another; and – either side of this event – the office of Prime Minister twice changed hands. 

The report highlights the continuing degradation of constitutional standards under the Truss and Sunak administrations. Worryingly, the Group suggests this decline in constitutional standards may indicate that the constitutional abuses witnessed under the Johnson premiership marked only part of a wider and continuing trend. 

Across seven areas, the UKCMG highlighted almost 100 incidents of concern. These included the sacking of Tom Scholar, the rapid reappointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary following transgressions in the handling of confidential information, issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol, issues surrounding the selection of Prime Ministers, inappropriate behaviour by the UK executive towards the House of Commons, and the behaviour of Cabinet Ministers in office. 

Editor of the report, Professor Andrew Blick said: 

‘The United Kingdom Constitution Group has identified ongoing problems with adherence to key constitutional standards in the UK. We rely on holders of public office to know what the rules are, to follow them, and to encourage others to do the same. Some hoped that the removal of Boris Johnson would signal a return to more acceptable behaviour, but so far the signs are not encouraging.’


This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.