Electoral reform would provide the public with choice, help to end the monopolies some parties have in constituencies, and help to change our political culture — to create a new spirit of collaboration

Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy



Putney Debates 2018 - Session II

Putney Debates 2018 questions need for electoral reform and a Federal UK at historic St Mary's Church

06 February 2018

The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, in association with the Oxford Faculty of Law, last week staged the second in its series of modern-day constitutional conventions at St Marys Church, Putney, the home of the original debates of 1647. You can now catch up on the debates in full on the FLJS Video page and YouTube channel. 

Watch Videos of the Debate on YouTube:

Session 1: A Federal UK? The Pros and Cons

Session 2: The Electoral System: Is it Time for Reform?

Over 100 people attended the Putney Debates 2018, which addressed the constitutional challenges raised by Brexit, focusing on the case for a federal system to address the pressures on the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the need for electoral reform.

The debates were chaired by Denis Galligan, Emeritus Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford, and were opened by Margaret Kelly, former public servant in the Cabinet of Australia, and Robert Hazell CBE, founder of the Independent Commission on Proportional Representation and the Constitution Unit at UCL.  

The debaters assessed the implications of recent developments that have raised fundamental questions about our democracy – including government efforts to invoke prerogative powers, Anglo-Irish relations and the border question, and the impact of external interference and ‘fake news’ on democratically held elections.

The Debates were conceived by Professor Denis Galligan, Director of Programmes at the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, who was struck by the parallels between the constitutional uncertainties posed by the result of the EU Referendum, and those faced in 1647, when the original Putney Debates were convened in the wake of the English Civil War, and gave rise to many of the civil liberties we value today.

Common themes to be consistently raised throughout the debates included:

  • How to weigh the disproportionate populations and centres of wealth, and the competing national interests, of each member state of the United Kingdom;
  • The need to encourage more diverse representation and popular participation in our democratic process;
  • The prerequisites for and criteria by which to judge any changes to the nature of relations between the nations or electoral system; and
  • How to incorporate the rapid technological developments that enable a greater voice, and alternative means of political expression, especially for younger generations of voters.

Catch Up Now:

Video of Putney Debates 2018 Session 1: A Federal UK? The Pros and Cons

Video of Putney Debates 2018 Session 2: The Electoral System: Is it Time for Reform?