The Constitution Unit


Press Release: Senior academic figures specify standards for a post-election constitutional convention

30 April 2015

press release

Today a group of senior academics publish a statement setting out the minimum standards for a post-election constitutional convention. Several of the political parties are now committed to establishing such a body, to discuss the constitutional options for the UK following the Scottish referendum. The Labour Party manifesto promises 'a people-led Constitutional Convention', the Liberal Democrat manifesto 'a UK Constitutional Convention' and the Greens' manifesto 'a Constitutional Convention led by citizens'. The other parties either support or are prepared to contemplate establishment of such a body. In the expectation that this topic could form part of interparty negotiations following the election, the day's document sets out eight basic standards that a constitutional convention should meet.

The signatories to the document include senior figures from law and politics in British universities, alongside academics who have acted as senior advisers to constitutional conventions overseas - in the Netherlands, Canada and Ireland. The standards set out in the document include the appropriate membership of the convention, its working methods, timetable, and support for citizen members. It is published jointly by two specialist nonpartisan research institutes: the Constitution Unit (University College London) and the Constitution Society.

Commenting on publication of the document Professor Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitution Unit, said: "A constitutional convention is a bold and ambitious idea.  It's crucial that it doesn't fail, for the future of our democracy, devolution and the Union.  The eight key requirements we have set out today should maximise its chances of success"

Andrew Blick of King's College London said: "A constitutional convention is now turning from a good idea into something that could actually happen, and could change both the substance of our constitution, and the way we approach alterations to it. For all these reasons, it is important that we get the way we do it right."

Dr Alan Renwick, who published an influential report for the Constitution Society on lessons from overseas constitutional conventions, and joins the Constitution Unit in September, said: "The current momentum behind creation of a citizen-led constitutional convention offers a great opportunity - not only to improve decision-making about key constitutional issues, but also to introduce new ways of doing politics that could help break down the debilitating divide between citizens and politicians.  But such a convention can be expected to work only if it is designed well.  The decisions that are made about a convention in the coming months therefore have big implications for the future health of our democracy."

Notes for Editors

  • The Constitution Unit is an independent, non-partisan research centre based in the Department of Political Science at University College London.
  • The Constitution Society (ConSoc) is an independent, non-party educational foundation. It promotes public understanding of the British Constitution and works to encourage informed debate between legislators, academics and the public about proposals for constitutional change.
  • The statement on standards for a constitutional convention can be found here
  • Alan Renwick's report on overseas lessons for a constitutional convention can be found here.
  • A blog by Alan Renwick on Designing a Constitutional Convention for the UK: Getting details right really matters is available here
  • For interviews with Robert Hazell and Alan Renwick please contact Ben Webb on ben.webb@ucl.ac.uk/ 020 7679 4977.