Campaign for Direct Democracy GB
Invitation to Debate UK Democracy
and State Constitution

        1. Opener:
Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution
           Plus replies
        2. Human dignity as a basic principle in constitution making and law?
           Plus discussion about this.
  3. Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution (continued):
     Second vital principle, an idea almost unknown in UK – state power belongs to the citizens!

  Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution:
     Your Right to Take Part in Conduct of Government and Public Affairs

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution

Below we quote text from a presentation by Unlock Democracy (UK)**. The original, colourful version may be found here
We invite our readers to consider if we, residents of Britain and Northern Ireland, have a satisfactory constitution of state. If you consider that reforms are needed, what should these be?
What’s a Constitution?
A constitution is a set of rules governing a state. It is a tool that can define the relationship between citizen and state, organise and constrain government power, and set out rights and freedoms

What kind of constitutions are there?

There are two main types: codified and uncodified

A codified constitution - or a written constitution, is usually a single document with all the dos and don’ts of the social contract between the state and the citizens

An uncodified constitution - or an unwritten constitution, is made up by a set of rules, some can be written down and others can be agreed as conventions (which aren't {Ed.: may not be} legally enforceable)

What’s the role of the constitution in a democracy?

Constitutions can define the shape of a state:

Federal or Unitary
In a federal system each state, province or region has significant authority; in a unitary system, the national government is supreme

Parliamentary or Presidential

In a parliamentary system, voters elect a legislative branch who elect a prime minister; in a presidential system, voters elect both a legislative branch and a president

Unicameral or Bicameral
A bicameral legislature has two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses; in a unicameral legislature, members vote as a single group

Power rotation

Establishes how long a candidate or party can hold power

Judges’ role
Defines what a judge can do and for how long - this could be tenure for life or for a limited period of time

Constitutional amendments
Sets out how to make constitutional changes - like referenda with the public’s participation

Every constitution is different, but they can include:

A BILL OF RIGHTS to define what the rights of citizens are
Socio-economic rights to guarantee rights like access to adequate housing and education
Judicial review to determine whether a supreme court can or cannot review the lawfulness of a decision made by a public body

What can a c
onstitution do?

Define the role of power - how are laws made, who by and who for
Protect our rights and freedoms
Make it clear what to do when power is abused

Constitutions can... {Ed: Arguably, should...}

Reflect the values of the people
Come from a consensus among those who are subject to its limits and afforded its protections.


** Unlock Democracy was formed some years ago in a fusion of two organisations, Charter 88 and New Politics.

Circulated by , where you can find further texts about democracy and constitution

You can debate or comment at
UK.POLITICS.MISC (not for the faint hearted ...) or

Contributions may be sent to us by e-mail to <> and will be considered for publication at the INIREF web site


Neal Ascherson (bio-sketch below*) 21.06.2020 wrote:

There's a fundamental error in this summary. In a unified state,  the national parliament is NOT the supreme authority. The Constitution is. That's the whole point.
Neal Ascherson

* Neal Ascherson is a journalist and writer. For many years he was foreign correspondent and then columnist for the (London) Observer. Among his books are The King Incorporated: Leopold the Second and the Congo (1963; Granta, 1999); The Struggles for Poland (Random House, 1988); Black Sea (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1996); and Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland (Granta, 2003)

Iniref replies to Neal Ascherson:

We agree that the elected (or other) parliament should NOT be regarded as supreme or "sovereign" in the state.
In a democracy that must be the people, the "demos", acting through the electorate.

To be fair to the Unlock Democracy authors of "What's a constitution" (above) – they do not mention who or which body or organ is supposed to be "supreme".

Good that Neal Ascherson has made this point because the question,  "In a democracy, who holds and who should hold ultimate authority to make law or constitution and to decide state policy?" is of central importance.

Compare the article "
Citizen-led democracy is essential for sustainable constitutional reform" linked on the web page

Regards to all

2. Human dignity as a basic principle in constitution making and law?

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution 2

Request for comments, suggestions and debate

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
 towards a
New Bill of Rights OR Magna Carta Nova

Constitution of state should ideally be an agreement among a "super"majority of the population rather than a set of principles and rules imposed by authority such as a government, a dictator or a deity.

Seeking ways to realise this ideal, we ask

how can we citizens of GB and N. Ireland progress towards agreement on basic principles? Such agreement would be aimed, over time, to lead to some development of new constitutional consensus, law and/or practice, whether written, "codified" or unwritten.

We will pose some questions – say one at a time –  and we invite people to suggest others.

First, can we agree on the following principle, which may be found, variously formulated, as a basic principle, in constitutions of other states? –

The dignity of the human person shall not be violated

GB campaign for better democracy

comments by e-mail to
or to Twitter @yourballot


Jim Fisher replied, July 2020 (part)
That seems to me to be a statement on which agreement would be easy to obtain, but unfortunately it is so wide open to various interpretations as to be of no practical use. For example, would it ban abortions on the grounds of violating the dignity of the foetus? On the other hnad, would it ban laws restricting abortion as violating the dignity of the reluctant mother? How do you define "dignity" for this purpose? I'm sure many other such questions could be raised. Constitutional provisions need to be carefully worded so as to legally water-tight.
INIREF wrote:

  Looking at a few constitutions and similar it seems that the
principle of protecting human dignity is seen as fundamental and
basic to having other rights such as health, education and

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 the first
pre-amble paragraph reads, "Whereas recognition of the inherent
dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members
of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and
peace in the world." An explanation of this is offered: "The
dignity of the human person is not only a fundamental right in
itself but constitutes the real basis of fundamental rights." (1)
1. Explanation by FRA European Union Agency for Fundamental

An example of a state constitution Sweden: The principal content
of the fundamental laws and the Riksdag Act..
The Instrument of Government
Chapter 1. Basic principles of the form of government
Art. 2. Public power shall be exercised with respect for the
equal worth of all and the liberty and dignity of the individual.
The personal, economic and cultural welfare of the individual
shall be fundamental aims of public activity. In particular, the
public institutions shall secure the right to employment,
housing and education, and shall promote social care and social
security, as well as favourable conditions for good health.
(Etc.) (2016, Sverige Riksdag)

I think that "dignity" can be one important foundation stone for
building a good constitution of the people.

<snipped related topic to be discussed later>

Good wishes

Campaigning for better democracy and state constitution
in the UK and its countries
Jim Fisher wrote 17 07 2020
Hi Michael,

Thanks for the reply. Yes, I am aware that many written constitutions make
reference to preserving human dignity, but I have yet to see one which
actually defines what it is, and without that I don't see how any guarantee
can be legally enforceable (which is the point of any constitutional provision
as I see it. Such a definition could undoubtedly be produced and included, and
I would then be happy with that.


The campaign for better democracy GB

3. Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution (continued): Second vital principle, an idea almost unknown in UK – state power belongs to the citizens!

A fundamental principle of democracy, to be found in state constitutions, determines where ultimate political power of the state lies:

All power in the state belongs to and can be effectively used by the people.

Beyond voting for politicians at elections, commonly very infrequent, how can effective democratic participation of citizens be guaranteed?

Constitutional law like the following has been used with success in some countries:

People can exercise their political power using effective democracy which includes:

a. ballots about public issues and legally binding referenda both instigated by citizens

b. electing and dismissing delegates and representatives

c. standing for election by their fellow citizens.

This above formula provides a legal base, for governance and law-making, which enables citizen-powered direct democracy to be combined and integrated with the commoner institutions of elected parliaments, parties and government.

Record of Debate

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution (2020 on-going)

Contents logged at

1. Opener: Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution Plus replies

2. Human dignity as a basic principle in constitution making and law? Plus discussion about this.    


Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R ~ GB Terms and aims defined The basic idea explained in brief


4. Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution:
Your Right to Take Part in Conduct of Government and Public Affairs

The campaign for better democracy GB&NI 
Contact: E-mail

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution (selected values and principles, continued):

The human, civil right to TAKE PART meaningfully in the public affairs
and government of your town, country and state.
For effective high-quality democracy.
A principle found in state constitutions (see examples in Notes 1, 2, 3) :

Every person has the right to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

We suggest that this principle should be formally regulated by Parliament and put into practice by the UK and its countries.

How can his principle be expressed in 21st century democracies? Surely voting for an MP once every few years is NOT an effective way to take part in running our country!

The right to elect deputies, often members of a parliament or council ("representatives") is well established (although often abused – Note 5). But there is widespread public judgement that their infrequent chance to vote for a candidate, with no means to influence policy until the next election, is NOT an adequate way to "take part in the government of (one's) country".

What of the other suggested method – to take part ... directly?

To "take part" must go beyond merely asking or advising – such as signing a petition, joining a "citizens' jury",  writing or talking to your MP, telephoning into a political "talk show" or exchanging via facebook & co.. Taking part must be meaningful and effective – if not, people will see it as a waste of time. Taking part in democracy – with many fellow citizens –  must mean having real influence and ultimate control of public affairs, policy and law-making (legislation).

What do UK citizens reading this think?  How can improvements and reforms of this sort be achieved and put into practice?

Invitation to Debate UK Democracy and State Constitution – record and discussion


1. United Nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights    See related Note 4.

2. Proposal for a UK British Constitution (book)
The Constitution of the United Kingdom
Institute for public policy research IPPR 1991    ISBN 1 87452 42 6 

3. Switzerland. Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (Status as of 1 January 2020, translated into english)     See "Art. 136 Political rights"

4. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, legally binding on countries which have ratified)
Adopted by United Nations General Assembly December 1966, entry into force 23 March 1976.
Article 25: Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions: (a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
United Nations source:

5. See manipulation of voter registration in the USA or blatant abuse of vote counting in Belarus; and in UK the contempt shown by some governments for our elected parliament.