Political

Nick Clegg calls for a British Constitutional Convention

Writing on the party’s official website, Nick Clegg has challenged Gordon Brown and David Cameron to live up to their words on cooperation:

Shortly after I was elected as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Prime Minister phoned me to offer his congratulations and express his wish that we should work together on the issues that unite our country. Similarly, shortly before I was elected as Lib Dem Leader, the Conservative Leader made a posting on his website seeking support from the Liberal Democrats to build a “progressive alliance”. His approach was a little less personal and a bit preemptive, but I shall not hold that against him.

I would like to think that my opponents’ apparent wish to cooperate is a sign of a new age dawning in British politics – an era of political civility in which parties set aside narrow self-interest for the good of the country. More likely, it is the latest wheeze by Labour and the Tories to take the best of Liberal Democrat ideas and call them their own. That risk is well-known to my party. But I am prepared to take risks in working with others to address one of the greatest crises facing us today: Britain’s broken political system…

So, if Gordon Brown and David Cameron are serious when they say that they want to cooperate, here is the litmus test. They should join the Liberal Democrats in establishing an independent British Constitutional Convention that would bring together representatives from all political parties and from every corner of British society. Its remit would be the construction of a consensus on the reforms needed to reopen the political system and revitalise public trust.

The Convention would be inspired by its predecessor in Scotland, in which Labour and the Liberal Democrats were joined by voices from the trade unions, churches and other civil society organisations. By bringing together a cross-section of society, the Scottish Constitutional Convention was able to obtain widespread endorsement for what became the blueprint for devolved government in Scotland: the settled will of the Scottish people. I believe that the same can be achieved for reform at Westminster too.

UPDATE: The Observer has covered the story here:

Clegg has taken the initiative on constitutional reform by writing to Brown to propose the establishment of a new British Constitutional Convention, with members of all the main parties and non-political figures, to examine the country’s ‘broken’ political system. The convention, which would be modelled on the Scottish Constitutional Convention that paved the way for devolution, would look at electoral reform and at relations between Westminster and the devolved bodies.

Clegg wrote to the Prime Minister: ‘I believe that our politics is broken. A centralised, ossified Westminster system has, for years, simply failed to deliver the change and the empowerment of citizens that the British people deserve.’

Downing Street sources indicated that Brown would study the Clegg proposal with care. The Prime Minister may not accept his exact proposal for a new convention, but he will work with Clegg in the spirit of the constitutional reform statement he made to Parliament in July. In this, Brown pledged to work with other parties to examine issues such as the right of No 10 to declare war and to sign treaties through the royal prerogative powers.

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