The Constitution Unit


Constitutional Principles and the Health of Democracy

Government despatch box

This project seeks to inform debate about UK democracy and constitutional change, and to promote the importance of maintaining constitutional and democratic standards.  

It uses high-quality analysis to inform policymakers and the public about the health of the UK’s constitutional and democratic system, assessing both long-term trends and specific political developments or reform proposals as they arise.  

The project focuses on the UK, but draws on international evidence. It is particularly informed by academic work on the global phenomenon of ‘democratic backsliding’.  This growing body of analysis explores how the vital ingredients for healthy democracies to function  effective checks and balances, strong democratic institutions, and respect for norms – are increasingly being undermined within many well-established democracies. 

The project champions high constitutional and democratic standards, and may therefore sound appropriate warnings where these are threatened. Like all of the Constitution Unit’s work, however, it is politically neutral. The researchers will work closely with practitioners from across the political spectrum, and with other independent groups and individual experts on a wide range of constitutional topics. 


Our new briefing series is designed to inform policy-makers and the public about key constitutional issues and democratic debates. Our briefings draw on international evidence and examine both long-term trends and current developments in the UK.

Sign up to our mailing list below and recieve an email when each new briefing is published. 



Constitution Unit Briefings
DateOn the Constitution Unit blogPDF version
27 April 2023Constitutional regulators: what are they and how do they work?PDF
29 March 2023Standards in public life: what are they and why do they matter?PDF
19 January 2023Checks and balances: what are they and why do they matter?PDF
15 December 2022The rule of law: what is it and why does it matter?PDF
27 October 2022

How can Rishi Sunak demonstrate integrity, professionalism and accountability?

11 October 2022

Protecting constitutional principles: what are they and why do they matter?

8 July 2022

Rebuilding constitutional standards: five questions for the next Conservative leader

1 July 2022

What is democratic backsliding and is the UK at risk?


Sign up here to receive notification of new briefings in this series

Project information 

The project is led by Professor Meg Russell, in collaboration with Professor Alan Renwick. The staff on the project are Lisa James, Sophie Andrews-McCarroll and Tom Fieldhouse. 

The project is funded by The Legal Education Foundation.

The Legal Education Foundation logo

Government Dispatch box image credit: Herry Lawford, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons