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Da5id Weatherwax

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In fairness, the role of speaker requires a certain level of pomposity and self-importance, they have to play nanny to the nursery squabbles taking place in the house, after all, and need to be more Nanny McPhee than Mary Poppins!

It was once said that if Satan were to take over Heaven, he would have to also assume the attributes of divinity. The speaker's role is a bit like that, you've got to at least be able to be a bit of an arsehole to do the job.
 

Innula Zenovka

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I dislike John Bercow; he's a pompous, self-important windbag. But for once I agree with him, if Boris intends to hold on until October, Bercow should stay on to steer and defend (and annoy) the Commons through a really crappy time. He has the experience and he's the sort of bully who will stand up to other bullies like Boris. After that he can retire and I never want to hear of him again :p
You might like John Crace's typically acerbic account of the event -- he praises Speaker Bercow's many strengths and good qualities, but is unsparing of his less attractive ones.

It begins
It was all too much for Sally Bercow. After more than an hour spent sitting listening to MPs eulogise her husband and no sign of anyone letting up, the Speaker’s wife slipped out of the Commons gallery. Things to do, places to go. She’d heard it all before. Most frequently from him.

The lovefest had begun as a series of points of order, immediately after the Speaker had announced his intention to stand down at the end of parliamentary proceedings on 31 October – a statement that had not been well received on the government benches. Partly because it was clear John Bercow was planning on going out on a personal high by working flat out to prevent Boris Johnson from disobeying the law by taking the UK out of the EU with a no-deal Brexit. But mainly because the Tories’ own cunning plan to remove the Speaker by breaking with convention and putting up a candidate against him at the next election was now toast. Classic Dom.
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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Well it was quite clear that Bercow does not intend to be the speaker so much longer anyway; he was quite unpopular since Brexit in his own party, and some even wanted to decrease the pension he might get as speaker at last if I do remember that correct.

On the brighter side the voice of the constituency of Buckingham quite sure is finally getting heared in parliamentary votes again after Bercow stepped down as speaker.

Another interesting detail:

 
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Kara Spengler

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I dislike John Bercow; he's a pompous, self-important windbag. But for once I agree with him, if Boris intends to hold on until October, Bercow should stay on to steer and defend (and annoy) the Commons through a really crappy time. He has the experience and he's the sort of bully who will stand up to other bullies like Boris. After that he can retire and I never want to hear of him again :p
Ord-ahhh! Ordah.
 
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Tigger

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As John Bercow began proceedings to prorogue parliament, a group of opposition MPs carrying signs reading “silenced” drowned out Black Rod as she tried to address the Speaker, a ritual that initiates the suspension.
...
Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, said the action “echoes the action of members to try and prevent the speaker proroguing at the request of Charles I”, referring to an incident in 1629 when MPs, furious at the closure of parliament left their seats and sat on the Speaker, preventing him from rising and closing the house, allowing MPs to pass a number of motions condemning the king.

Bercow was not sat on
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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Coalitions are fine, but I am talking about if your coalition is not a majority anymore, which a government has to form (a majority coalition or just a majority party) of the party that won the election.
In most democracies it is an unwritten rule that the party that won the election should form the government, but it is not a requirement by the constitution. For example in Germany that's exactly the case, the reasoning behind it is this: let's say our new right extremist party AfD would be getting the majority in the next federal election, the other parties could still build a normal government. Otherwise if constitution would enforce that the party that won must be in the government the new right extremists would be in charge, and that's exactly what our founding fathers wanted to avoid when they crafted in 1949 our constitution.

So if let's the party A has 36% of the votes, B 20%, C has 16% and D has 15%, either A can build the government with B, C or D - probably they would take either C or D, because those parties had more worse results than B, so they are going to have less influence on the government and demands.

Or B in coalation with C and D - both would be perfectly fine. At the end it depends on how the parties are standing on each other. The parties are normally entirely free in their choice with whom they want to build a coalition, and with whom not.
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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Well, that's the problem if you got a constitution in action which is not codified. Far too much is left in the muddy water, written down between too many laws anybody can remember, too many previous events which might matter reaching back for centuries, stuff which can be interpreted differently and might be unclear when necessary.
 

Innula Zenovka

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Well, that's the problem if you got a constitution in action which is not codified. Far too much is left in the muddy water, written down between too many laws anybody can remember, too many previous events which might matter reaching back for centuries, stuff which can be interpreted differently and might be unclear when necessary.
The problem is, though, that a codified constitution is useful only to the extent it anticipates particular potential issues and provides rules and mechanisms for resolving them.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act provides a good example of this.

It was passed in 2011 at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats when they went into coalition with David Cameron's Conservatives to remove the power of the PM to call an election at the point she or he considers most favourable for the government, and seems, on the face of it, simple enough -- one election every 5 years.

It worked once as intended, in that we had the 2015 General Election on the appointed day, but in 2017 it proved completely effective at stopping the very thing it was supposed to prevent -- Theresa May calling a snap General Election because she mistakenly thought she would it win by a landslide -- and since then has been pretty much of a nuisance to both Government and the Opposition because we're now in a situation no one dreamed of back in 2010 when the Bill was first drafted, and which would have seemed completely fanciful if anyone had suggested them.

I have two huge fears about trying to codify the British Constitution, which isn't unwritten -- it's written down in lots of separate Acts of Parliament, legal judgments and Erskine May's book in Parliamentary Procedure.

The first is that, inevitably, any attempt to update and codify the constitution will be massively influenced by the government of the day's understandable desire to make life as simple as possible for the Executive, at the cost of diminishing the power of Parliament and the Courts.

The second is that, no matter how carefully the document were drafted, it wouldn't take long for real life to throw up a set of circumstances that were never anticipated by the original legislators and to which it was completely inapplicable, in the sense that the outcome dictated by the rules was one no one in their right mind would think was appropriate or proper.

We've seen this so many times over the last 20 years when Parliament has decided it knows more about sentencing in criminal cases than do judges and has therefore tried to micromanage sentencing in particular cases by directing what the judge must do in a particular set of circumstances.

Invariably, real people in real situations being far more varied and complex than the hypothetical people in hypothetical circumstances that the original legislators had in mind, it's never taken long to judges to find themselves forced, by law, to pass sentences they, and everyone else in the courtroom, consider manifestly unfair (I can give several examples if you'd like, but I won't right now since it would take too long).

So I am going to be hugely sceptical of any attempt to codify and re-write the British constitution since I'm pretty sure that anything, no matter how well-intended, is more likely than not to end up concentrating far too much power in the hands of the executive and will also inevitably prove unfit for purpose the first time something particularly unexpected happens.
 

Innula Zenovka

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Bartholomew Gallacher

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I have two huge fears about trying to codify the British Constitution, which isn't unwritten -- it's written down in lots of separate Acts of Parliament, legal judgments and Erskine May's book in Parliamentary Procedure.
I never said that it is unwritten - the problem is that what must be considered as the constitution is spread between way too many documents a human possible could handle and remember.

But a constitution is such an important document and pillar to its nation, that you should really don't need a degree in law to be able to understand what's in it, or at least lots of time to figure out all the important bits and pieces up together.
 

Innula Zenovka

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I never said that it is unwritten - the problem is that what must be considered as the constitution is spread between way too many documents a human possible could handle and remember.

But a constitution is such an important document and pillar to its nation, that you should really don't need a degree in law to be able to understand what's in it, or at least lots of time to figure out all the important bits and pieces up together.
Since a constitution is, by definition, a legal document that attempts to provide rules and mechanisms to resolve potentially complex issues of governance, I would have thought it's inevitable that you'll need specialist legal advice to interpret it.

Look at the difficulties caused by the attempt to give legal force to the proposition that, under normal circumstances, there should be a General Election in the UK once every five years, but it's possible to hold them earlier than that under certain circumstances -- simple enough, but it's now having to be used in a situation no one envisaged when it was written, less than 10 years ago.

And that's something that would be only one clause of one section of a codified constitution, dealing with something that's apparently very simple and non-contentious.
 
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Tigger

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So I am going to be hugely sceptical of any attempt to codify and re-write the British constitution since I'm pretty sure that anything, no matter how well-intended, is more likely than not to end up concentrating far too much power in the hands of the executive and will also inevitably prove unfit for purpose the first time something particularly unexpected happens.
Why should that be the case? It isn't even written yet, it would need to face some sort of approval and re-drafting process. The kind of document that comes out of any such process would depend a lot on who works on it and of course if it proves to be impossible to draft one that can be agreed by all concerned parties then there is no need to adopt it. We can try again another time.

But to say that an unwritten document must inevitably be unbalanced and unfit is an unreasonable statement. Surely if that is the case then it must be true of every constitution ever written, or is it a unique failing of the UK that we are unable to draft one?

Most countries of the world seem to have a written constitution and our informal one doesn't seem to be fairing very well under strain. I would say it is very much worth our while to try and draft a constitution, it doesn't need to be perfect but it does need to be better than what we have.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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Since a constitution is, by definition, a legal document that attempts to provide rules and mechanisms to resolve potentially complex issues of governance, I would have thought it's inevitable that you'll need specialist legal advice to interpret it.
And here you got it wrong for me. A constitution provides the skeleton, the framework all other laws are build upon. So for providing the framework you don't need much nor complicated words nor fancy sentences. It can be kept quite lean and simple instead, the finer details then are part of a law.

This here for example is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany translated in English; this constitution was crafted with the possibiltiy in mind, that another right wing takeover of the state could happen quite soon like in the Weimar Republic, so it has features against such a thing in it.

It's clearly structured, and for example if you want to get the grasps on which human rights you've got just read Article 1 up to 19. If the UK had a consitution like the linked one, the prorogation would be impossible, because in that case only the parliament and its president decide upon when to held a debate, and when not. The government can't directly shut down parliament down like in the UK, it has not that power, which is clearly written in the constitution and federal law about how the parliament operates.
 

Kara Spengler

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Since a constitution is, by definition, a legal document that attempts to provide rules and mechanisms to resolve potentially complex issues of governance, I would have thought it's inevitable that you'll need specialist legal advice to interpret it.

Look at the difficulties caused by the attempt to give legal force to the proposition that, under normal circumstances, there should be a General Election in the UK once every five years, but it's possible to hold them earlier than that under certain circumstances -- simple enough, but it's now having to be used in a situation no one envisaged when it was written, less than 10 years ago.

And that's something that would be only one clause of one section of a codified constitution, dealing with something that's apparently very simple and non-contentious.
You would want a specialist in most cases, yes, however that is not always possible.

For example, I keep a copy of the US constitution on my kindle that is annotated with all relevant SC cases. If a cop at a protest were to say 'the constitution says X' I could pull out the text that disagrees with them to make sure I was in the right while we waited for a lime hat (legal observer) to arrive.

Meanwhile the legal situation here is interesting to say the least. DC, as you can imagine, is a mess of jurisdictions. Plus Since DC, Maryland, and Virginia are so close (DC is small so you can consider them all coming to a point) cops are allowed to enforce the laws of all 3 areas. So when protesters did something during Occupy every lawyer on the ground thought they were in the right as the cops huddled over several lawbooks. Eventually the cops arrested them and it took the lawyers COMPLETELY by surprise! In one of them they found a law from post-WW1. The section the law was in was routinely renewed several decades ago but I doubt anyone had read that particular law, after all, who cares about vagrancy as it pertains to the Bonus Army?

I will take something I can fit with other books on my kindle over multiple tomes any day.

Edit: In other words, a non-lawyer at least has a fighting chance with something like a coherent constitution. Yes there are supporting documents in the form of SC decisions but they do not change the actual text of the main document. Meanwhile even lawyers can get lost when multiple law books are in play.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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Why should that be the case? It isn't even written yet, it would need to face some sort of approval and re-drafting process. The kind of document that comes out of any such process would depend a lot on who works on it and of course if it proves to be impossible to draft one that can be agreed by all concerned parties then there is no need to adopt it. We can try again another time.

But to say that an unwritten document must inevitably be unbalanced and unfit is an unreasonable statement. Surely if that is the case then it must be true of every constitution ever written, or is it a unique failing of the UK that we are unable to draft one?

Most countries of the world seem to have a written constitution and our informal one doesn't seem to be fairing very well under strain. I would say it is very much worth our while to try and draft a constitution, it doesn't need to be perfect but it does need to be better than what we have.
Most other countries have adopted their constitutions under very different circumstances from any the UK faces or is likely to face in the foreseeable future, at least I hope so -- after a revolution or war or independence, for example.

Maybe it's going to be a lot easier than I thought, but just consider some pretty basic questions those people drafting a possible new constitution for the UK will have to answer -- "Who should be head of state, what should their powers be, and how should that person be chosen? Who should be Head of Government, and with what powers, how chosen and who can dismiss them, and how? Should we have a second chamber and, if so, how should its members be chosen and what should their powers be? How should members of the House of Commons be elected. How can they be dismissed?"

Those are all pretty basic questions. You and I probably have very different answers to some of them, and others will have their own answers. How long should we allow for drafting the document, who should draw it up, and how do we agree to accept it?

I don't see it as capable of being implemented in anything like a reasonable timescale, and I pretty much guarantee that it's going to be next to impossible to reach any sort of agreement.
 

Tirellia

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It looks like Harriet Harman is going to stand for the position as Speaker. I think she would make an excellent choice. I don't think she'll be a pompous windbag or an arsehole :) The only downside to having her as Speaker is the loss of an honest, plain speaking MP.