Britain's Political Constitution: A Normative Turn
21 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2009
Date Written: February 15, 2009
On one reading at least, the British constitution is slowly evolving towards, even if it does not yet fully embrace, a model of a 'legal constitution' - that is to say, a constitution distinguished by a framework of fundamental laws that generates judicially enforceable constraints on the legislature. Britain's seeming shift towards a model of a legal constitution is welcomed by many, but not by all. Political constitutionalists of late have been engaging in a normative defence of Britain's political constitution, both as a reaction against and attempt to move beyond the descriptivism often associated with JAG Griffith's model but also to resist appeals to the model of a legal constitution. One objective of Richard Bellamy's latest monograph, Political Constitutionalism: A Republican Defence of the Constitutionality of Democracy, is to challenge the view currently fashionable in Britain and elsewhere that a model of a legal constitution is superior, normatively and empirically, to that of a political constitution. In this article-length review essay, we reflect critically on Bellamy's model as we welcome the explicitly, self-consciously normative approach to thinking and talking about the idea of the political constitution.
Keywords: Political constitution, legal constitution, Richard Bellamy, JAG Griffith, Adam Tomkins, legislature
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