Dicey Was Not Diceyan
Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 62, p. 474, 2003
21 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2011 Last revised: 7 Jan 2022
Date Written: 2003
There is an apparent paradox between Dicey’s treatment of parliamentary sovereignty as the central premise of the British constitution and his advocacy of the referendum, a tool of popular sovereignty. Cosgrove, who wrote an authoritative biography on Dicey, explained that Dicey turned to the referendum in his search for a device that would prevent Home Rule. Home Rule distorted his judgment.
However, this Article asserts that Dicey’s advocacy of the referendum was consistent with his constitutional theory. It represented a personal evolutionary process that followed closely the evolution of the British constitution. Most importantly, the referendum was compatible with the British constitution, as Dicey perceived it. He believed the constitution was in practice, though not in theory, based on popular and not parliamentary sovereignty.
Keywords: Dicey, Referendum, Parliamentary Sovereignty, Popular Sovereignty, Parliament Act 1911, Reform Act 1832, Home Rule
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