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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?

The gathering heard from the historian David Marquand whose latest book Mammon’s Kingdom explores the history and values of the public realm and its relationship to democracy. The public realm is an elusive term, noted Marquand, which denotes a sphere of human life that is not the market, but not the private realm of family and friendship either. It is the belief that we are mutually inter-dependent, with perhaps the best definition given by John Donne when he noted that ‘No man is an island, entire of himself’. The public realm includes the public sector, but is not reducible to …

Young people are disadvantaged economically yet politically marginalised and demonised. Are youth quotas in parliament part of the answer? It is now widely acknowledged that young generations are faring particularly badly in Britain.[i] There is growing concern for a ‘jilted generation’ burdened with debts and structural unemployment. In 1992, the unemployment rate of the young was twice as high as for the rest of the population; two decades later, it is up to four times higher.[ii] Even when they do have jobs, young people are disproportionately likely to be in precarious positions such as zero-hour contracts, temporary contracts and unpaid …

Anthony Barnett, founder of openDemocracy, opened the discussion on digital freedoms on an optimistic note by predicting that the UK will have a codified constitution in the next 25 years and can therefore become the first major democracy to harness the participatory potential of the web to found a new constitutional settlement. He laid out three pressing issues for democracy in the digital age: i) What does it mean to be a person? ii) How do we address the corporate power of tech companies? iii) How do we define what we have in common? There is no need to reinvent …

We are in a curious and uncertain period for the British state, its antiquated constitution and ways of doing politics. A number of serious challenges are on the horizon and it is unclear how much longer the political framework of the Westminster system can remain intact. The traditional attitude of the British elite has been to ‘muddle through’, introducing reform in a piecemeal manner in response to popular demands for change, while doing its best to preserve the core features of a monarchical system based on executive dominance of a ‘sovereign’ parliament via royally acquired prerogatives and patronage. A huge …

The main argument against the Directly-Elected Executive Mayor (DEEM) model outlined by George Osborne is its concentration of power in a single person. The assumption of the advocates of DEEMs is there must be individual leadership rather than collegial team leadership. But the advantage of collective leadership is it enables exploration of policy from different perspectives. Colleagues can consider possible impacts of policy in a variety of contexts, spotting pitfalls ahead and the consequences for different people and groups. A single person is unlikely to represent the diverse complexities of a large urban, metropolitan or county region area better than …

Within hours of the general election Whitehall started making new MPs irrelevant. Even before the new parliament has heard the Queen’s Speech, Whitehall has begun to treat the legitimate and elected part of our political settlement with contempt by abolishing an effective part of parliamentary scrutiny, the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee. New MPs will of course know of the battle between parties, but there is also an historic, never ending democratic battle – regardless of party – between the executive (government) and legislature (parliament). It is an uneven battle which – while not covered in new MPs’  induction …