inc Explanatory Note 8

(8) Parliamentary Sovereignty   Our current system of government is one where Parliament enjoys an absolute and unfettered right to make and unmake laws.  It is based on an uncodified and largely informal constitutional settlement in which, following power struggles between a monarchy claiming absolute power and Parliament, all the spoils of victory went to Parliament.  The people were left with little or no part to play.  That situation has prevailed to this day, in spite of the advent of universal suffrage and the post-war establishment of the welfare state when the interests of the people began to be represented and taken seriously into account.  In recent decades, however, citizen participation in governance has become increasingly confined to voting in local and general elections at distant intervals.  The simple truth is that Parliamentary Sovereignty is of undemocratic origin in that the people of Britain have never been invited to vote on whether we should be ruled by a parliament which claims absolute sovereignty, let alone by a parliament which has become an arena where two major parties are engaged not in representative politics but in an adversarial power struggle, leaving the minority parties squeezed out and deprived of any representative influence.  Electoral reform, which enjoys the overwhelming support of the people of the UK and which might be a step towards addressing this state of affairs, is one of its more obvious casualties. The choice at general elections has long ceased to be between the pluralism of two or more different sets of policy options.  It has now become a choice between electing a party that wants to retain power and a party that wants to gain it.  But power, since all other considerations appear to be irrelevant, to what end?  The people, the only estate with a legitimate and democratic right to answer that question, has seen its voice and vote progressively confined to participating in what, not without reason, has been dubbed an elective dictatorship.  The Brexit referendum and its muddled aftermath illustrate the depth of our current constitutional crisis and just how confused people are about the sovereignty issue. Constitutionalists believe that a paradigm shift is now necessary and clarification long overdue:  the unfinished business of wresting sovereignty from an absolute Monarch and transferring it to what has become an increasingly unrepresentative and backward-looking Parliament of undemocratic origin must now be completed.  A forward-looking principle of People Sovereignty must now be constitutionally established and Parliament restored to its proper representative function.