Rebuilding and renewing the constitution

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Meg Russell; Dr Hannah White; Lisa James

July 19, 2023

This report from UK think tanks the Institute for Government and the Constitution Unit looks at constitutional reforms available to political parties.

This joint report by the Institute for Government and UCL’s Constitution Unit sets out a menu of constitutional reforms available to political parties to strengthen the UK’s constitution and governing institutions. It is designed to inform manifesto preparations for all political parties ahead of the next general election – as well as putting forward proposals that the Sunak government could implement immediately – and sets out how these constitutional reforms could be achieved. Political parties are under pressure to respond to increasing public concern about the health of democracy. A tumultuous period in UK politics has led to increased tensions between parliament and the executive, a deteriorating relationship between ministers and the civil service, friction between government, parliament and the courts, and questions being asked about electoral integrity. The report draws together achievable proposals – most of which are already carefully thought through and supported by multiple organisations – that could alleviate constitutional concerns and pressures. These include “quick wins” which could be delivered by the government now or by government within the first 100 days of a new parliament, alongside moderate changes which require consultation or legislation, and larger more controversial reforms which could meet political resistance. While “quick wins” would require limited coordination or resources, political parties should use the run-up to the next election to plan carefully how to deliver larger changes. This would include prioritisation, and thinking through timing. In government, a cabinet committee chaired by a senior figure, who could be designated as minister for the constitution, might help ensure coordination. On many measures it is also desirable to prioritise building both public and cross-party support.