The Strengths and Weaknesses of the British Constitution
The inability of constitutional commentators to isolate the British constitution, to dissect it, and duly hold up the parts for inspection, is often a source of insular satisfaction. The constitution of Britain is unknowable, like its weather, and the pride taken in both has a similar quality. It may be that there is merit in a constitutional flexibility which makes Governments continuously responsive to the wishes of the people, and it is still possible to take this optimistic view of the working of the British system of government. But flexibility carries with it dangers too. In a constitution resting ultimately on the intangible factor of public opinion the guarantees of individual freedom are extremely fragile. Habits of thought change. The degree of State control which has become commonplace now would have seemed an outrageous intrusion on private rights one hundred years ago, and there is good reason to believe that the strengthening of the Executive in the modern state is a process which has by no means reached its culmination. The speed and ease with which the traditionally slow-moving British democracy can transform itself into an authoritarian state in war-time, without any need to diverge from normal constitutional usage, is a sharp reminder that governmental methods in Britain can easily be akin to those of dictatorship.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.