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This year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Following the independence referendum in Scotland, calls for a constitutional convention are widespread and growing. The Oxford University Politics Blog, together with OurKingdom, IPPR and the Department of Politics at the University of Southampton, are hosting the Great Charter Convention – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it. What would a new Magna Carta say, and what could a new constitutional settlement for Britain look like?

Devolution. City Deals. Northern Powerhouse. What does this even mean to the average person on the street? Devolution probably reminds most people of Charles Darwin. If not, then it’s something to do with Scotland. City Deals just sound like business as usual. The Northern Powerhouse may be a funk band. If somehow all these big words are about the future of Northern England’s society and economy, about its transport and education and health system, about power and control vis-à-vis Whitehall bureaucracy and the whims of national government, about jobs and infrastructure and other areas where we are spending and raise …

In an unheralded committee room at the House of Lords on Wednesday a group of politicians from across the political spectrum came together with the participants and organisers of two recent pilot Citizens’ Assemblies on constitutional reform. It was heartening to hear the genuine appetite for new approaches to involving members of the public in politics. Politicians from the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SNP and UKIP all sang the praises of the Citizens’ Assemblies and called for more public participation in politics. Nevertheless, belying this consensus was a little less agreement than apparent at first sight. The …

In October and November, two citizens’ assemblies will be taking place in Sheffield and Southampton. Organised by a coalition of academics and civil society organisations under the banner Democracy Matters, Assembly North and Assembly South represent significant interventions in contemporary British politics. First, the assemblies will be dealing with a fundamental constitutional question: how should we be governed? The main focus of the assemblies will be devolution and decentralisation of power to English regions. The Devolution Deals that are current government policy are piecemeal reforms. And as the term ‘Deal’ suggests, they are stitched together by local and national elites: …

This year, we celebrate the eight-hundredth anniversary of one of the most revered documents in English history. On 15 June 1215 at Runnymede (a small meadow outside of London, marking the midpoint between two armies locked in civil war) King John set his seal on Magna Carta – the ‘great charter’ that has become synonymous throughout the world with opposition to arbitrary rule, and with the protection of individual rights and liberties. But what, exactly, was Magna Carta? Few of John’s contemporaries could have guessed at its enduring and universal significance. Magna Carta was the product of a specific breakdown …

The institutions, technologies and practices of British democracy are, for the most part, inventions from before the time of universal suffrage.  In the fluidity and fracture of the 21st century, it is clear this democratic inheritance has become increasingly inadequate. Sharp, sustained differences in participation and voice by age, class, ethnicity and region have become entrenched. Politics has professionalised, class identities have weakened, and political parties have drifted from their anchors in civil society, left ‘ruling the void’. Reinforcing the post-democratic drift, the evolution of the UK’s political economy has shrunk the potential scope for and influence of collective political action and …

In this Q&A, I discuss the prospects for ‘unfreezing’ the draft new constitution with Hordur Torfason, the award-winning human rights activist credited with starting Iceland’s ‘pots and pans revolution’. You’re credited as the person who started the “pots and pans revolution” in Iceland. How did the protests start? I’m 70 years old this year. I started becoming an activist around 20 years old. Not that I wanted to become an activist, not at all. But I’m gay and it tells you a story that I’m the first gay man in the history of Iceland who steps forward. When I was 30 …