POLITICS (2) State of the UK Constitution
                      NandaThe UK narrowly escaped a constitutional crisis in July 2022, which was only averted by the resignation of Boris Johnson. These events occurred as the Bite Size Group on ‘The Moral Foundations of Politics’ was in discussion about its next topic. The resulting decision for our next Group is to focus on ‘The state of the UK Constitution’, based on recordings from a two day conference on this theme organised by The Constitution Unit at UCL in June 2022

Group Coordinator: Vivek Nanda (please click this link to contact)

At 2:30pm on 16 September; 21 October, 18 November, 16 December, then in 2023: 20 January, 17 February, 17 March, 21 April.

In-person session from 2:30 pm at a public venue in Islington on 16 September to get to know each other followed by discussions on Zoom on the third Fridays of the next 6 months.

Schedule of Video Lectures for Discussion

16 September:
is the initial in-person getting to know each other session.

21 October:
to discuss the recording of the panel on Constitutional Standards
The Johnson premiership has sparked numerous concerns about constitutional standards – from respect for checks and balances and the rule of law, to standards of behaviour among ministers, officials, and parliamentarians. A major review by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 2021 proposed significant change. These debates take place within a wider framework of concern about ‘democratic backsliding’. How can constitutional and democratic standards best be upheld, and norms of good behaviour be maintained?
Sir Jeremy Wright QC MP – Conservative MP for Kenilworth and Southam, and member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life
Professor Elizabeth David-Barrett – Director of the Centre for the Study of Corruption, University of Sussex
Sir Peter Riddell – former Commissioner for Public Appointments and Honorary Professor at UCL
Professor Petra Schleiter – Joint Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford
Chair: Professor Meg Russell FBA – Director of the Constitution Unit, UCL

18 November:
to discuss the recording of the panel on Northern Ireland: how can power-sharing be revived?
Northern Ireland finds itself again without a functioning Executive or Assembly. All mainstream voices agree that the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement offers the only viable framework for politics in Northern Ireland in the coming years, but the risk of breakdown is severe. How can Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangements be restored in the coming months? How far are solutions to be found in changes to the Protocol or to the 1998 Agreement? And what role should the government in London play in seeking a healthy outcome?
Julian Smith MP – Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, and former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Dr Mary Murphy – Department of Government and Politics, University College Cork
Dr Clare Rice – Research Associate, Department of Politics, University of Liverpool
Alan Whysall – Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Constitution Unit and former civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office
Chair: Professor Alan Renwick – Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit, UCL

16 December:
to discuss the recording of the panel on The Future of the Union and Devolution
The UK’s ‘devolution settlement
’ is unsettled. Alternative visions abound for how to achieve stability: through ‘muscular unionism’; by reforming intergovernmental relations; through wholesale federalisation; or by breaking up the Union. What is the current state of each of these options? How are they likely to develop in the foreseeable future? In so far as they are implemented, what impacts are they likely to have?
Lord (Andrew) Dunlop – Conservative peer, and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scotland Office and Northern Ireland Office
Professor Laura McAllister – Wales Governance Centre, University of Cardiff, and co-chair of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales
Sarah Sackman – Public and environmental lawyer, Matrix Chambers
Professor Michael Keating – Emeritus Professor of Politics, University of Aberdeen, and Fellow of the Centre on Constitutional Change
Chair: Professor Alan Renwick – Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit, UCL

20 January:
to discuss the recording of the panel on The Role of the Courts
The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised to review the relationship between government, parliament and the courts. In particular, ministers had concerns about the growth of judicial review. Since then, there have been consultations on judicial review and the Human Rights Act, the Judicial Review and Courts Act has reached the statute book, and the government has proposed a new Bill of Rights. Simultaneously, some detect a ‘chilling’ effect on the courts. So, in the third year of the Johnson premiership, how much rebalancing has taken place, and what might still lie ahead?
Joanna Cherry QC MP – Scottish National Party MP for Edinburgh South West and former party spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs
Sir Bob Neill MP – Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, and Chair of the Commons Justice Committee
Helen Mountfield QC – barrister and Principal of Mansfield College, University of Oxford
Martha Spurrier, Director, Liberty
Chair: Joshua Rozenberg QC (Hon) – legal commentator and journalist

17 February:
to discuss the recording of the panel on Parliament: the decline of scrutiny?
Johnson’s premiership has been marked by various controversies about parliament. On COVID-19, the government was accused of overusing delegated powers – adding to already long-standing concerns in this area. Subsequently, some primary legislation has been rushed, and the relationship between whips and backbenchers often difficult. Most recently, the proposed fast-track procedures for amending Retained EU Law and on human rights risk further sidelining parliamentarians. How concerned should we be about these developments, and how best can parliament respond?
Baroness (Angela) Smith of Basildon – Labour peer, and Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
William Wragg MP – Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, and Chair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
Dr Ruth Fox – Director of the Hansard Society
Dr Hannah White – Deputy Director of the Institute for Government
Chair: Dr Tom Fleming – Constitution Unit, UCL

17 March:
to discuss the recording of the Keynote Speech by Rory Stewart
Rory Stewart was Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border between 2010 and 2019. He served in government under David Cameron and Theresa May, including as a Home Office minister and Secretary of State for International Development. As a former diplomat, he served on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees, the latter of which he chaired from 2014 to 2015. In 2019, he contested the Conservative Party leadership against Boris Johnson, before being stripped of the party whip over Johnson’s approach to Brexit, and then stepping down from parliament. Among other things he is currently the co-host, with Alastair Campbell, of the popular podcast 'The Rest is Politics'.

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