Britain has been the victim of a conspiracy. Our sovereignty has been signed away in a undercover deal, which most people in Britain still don’t fully understand. This could not have happened if it were not for profound defect in our modern constitution.
In the eighteenth century, the British constitution was an example to the world. When the US Constitution was planned, the British constitution was taken as a model. Britain had a hereditary king, who was responsible for defence and foreign affairs. Taxation and legislation were the responsibility of two houses of Parliament, one of them elected (The House of Commons), the other hereditary (the House of Lords). The king could veto new laws. Equally the two houses of Parliament had a degree of control over royal policy, through the power of the purse. Armies and navies cost money, which must come from taxation.
The US wished to replace the hereditary principle by election, but attached great importance to maintaining the balance of powers. The role of the king would be performed by a president; the functions of the House of Lords would be performed by a senate, elected by the constituent states of the Union. The elected House of Commons became the House of Representatives. The result has been durable and remains comparatively unchanged to this day.
In Britain too, the hereditary principle was abandoned, but the change happened gradually, without any consideration being given to the need to avoid concentrating too much power in any single institution. The power of the hereditary parts of the constitution gradually declined, until almost all power came into the hands of the only body which was elected – the House of Commons. In 1780, the monarch was already less powerful than he had been a century earlier. Over the next hundred years, he/she lost all real power and become a figurehead. The hereditary House of Lords continued but also lost most of its powers and new Lords were increasingly appointed by the Government, for life only.
The decline of the power of the monarchy and of the hereditary House of Lords placed all real power in Britain in the hands of the elected House of Commons. There were no constitutional restraints. Britain had no written constitution, there was no constitutional court to permit or prohibit far-reaching legislation and no legal requirement for a referendum to be held before any major constitutional change.
In practice all political power was concentrated in the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Elections occurred every few years but they were fought between two disciplined political parties; and the leaders of the winning party were then in a position of uncontrolled near-absolute power. The leader of the majority party became Prime Minister. The Prime Minister chose his cabinet from among supporters in his own party. The Prime Minister and his cabinet determined all policies, initiated almost all legislation and saw it successfully through Parliament, by the power they held over their party’s MPs in the Commons. There were occasional revolts, but MPs knew that rebels very seldom become ministers and might lose the endorsement of their party at the next election, meaning almost certainly the end of a political career.
That is how things were in the 1970s. Meanwhile, from being a world power, Britain had declined to the role of “sick man of Europe”. Britain was the only country in Western Europe which didn’t seem to have recovered economically from the World War II. Inflation was at levels previously unheard of. Internationally, Britain’s reputation was lower than at any previous time. Governments cast around for a solution and (with American encouragement) resolved to jump on to the European bandwagon. This involved giving up much of Britain’s national sovereignty.
When Britain joined the European Economic Community (later to be rebranded as the European Union) in 1973, laws were passed which transferred much political power into the hands of an unelected European Commission and made British law subordinate to European law. This profound constitutional change was carried through solely by Acts of Parliament, essentially on the basis of “whipped” votes in the House of Commons. Perhaps even more significantly, this cession of power to a foreign institution took place without the Government or the media honestly informing the electorate of what was happening.
Could this have happened in America? Could it have happened if the old British constitutional arrangements had remained unchanged? In both cases, the answer is No. Such an outrageous piece of legislation could never have been approved by two houses of Parliament and by a monarch or president. Does that mean that our old constitution was better than the one we have now? What about democracy? Well, democracy is good, but only if it takes a constitutional form which actually expresses the will of the people. Our present constitution does not.