Former UN and World Bank advisor proposes modern-day UK Constitution based on consent and fairness

08 March 2018

Last night, LSE Visiting Fellow Frank Vibert, a former advisor and fellow to the United Nations and World Bank, set out a concise yet comprehensive vision for a written UK Constitution at a FLJS lecture at Wolfson College.

Mr Vibert applied to the UK the principles developed in his forthcoming book, Making a 21st Century Constitution, in which he argues that the stresses that democracies are facing in the modern age are not adequately catered for in constitutions owing to inherent weaknesses in constitutional structures.

He found that politicians and civil servants in the UK do not have the necessary constitutional mindset, relying instead on an informal series of rules and conventions, often described as a form of pragmatism, but which, Mr Vibert argued, was in fact a failure to think clearly about the problems confronting us, “and it has not served us well”.

Instead, what is needed is a written constitution, which derives its authority from the consent of the people; is short, clear and web connected; and which addresses crucial issues of increasing importance in the twenty-first century such as privacy, gender equality, and intergenerational equity. 

Other key provisions set out in the proposed text include limits on both the size of the House of Parliament and on the number of terms that MPs can serve, as well as – crucially – that the people not Parliament shall be sovereign.

The lecture was delivered in response to Professor AC Grayling’s lecture on a UK Constitution in December last year, at which Mr Vibert acted as commentator.

Professor Nick Barber gave comments on the lecture, questioning exactly how popular consent across a diverse demos can be secured. He cited the incompatibility of referendums with current constitutional structures, and the ill thought-out devolution settlement, which he foresaw as the source of considerable challenges over the next 20 years. 

A copy of the proposed constitutional text can be downloaded below, along with a podcast of the lecture.