The British Constitution

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Overview


In the latter part of the nineteenth century Walter Bagehot wrote a classic account of the British constitution as it had developed during Queen Victoria's reign. He argued that the late Victorian constitution was not at all what people thought it was. Anthony King argues that the same is true at the beginning of this century. Most people are aware that a series of major constitutional changes has taken place, but few recognize that their cumulative effect has been to change entirely the nature of Britain's constitutional structure. The old constitution has gone. The author insists that the new constitution is a mess, but one that we can make the best of.

The British Constitution is neither a reference book nor a textbook. Like Bagehot's classic, it is written with wit and mordant humor--by someone who is a journalist and political commentator as well as a distinguished academic. The author maintains that, while the new British constitution is a mess, there is no going back now. "As always", he says, "nostalgia is a good companion but a bad guide." Far from shying away from the thorniest issues facing the British polity today, the author grapples with them head on. He offers a trenchant analysis of the increasingly divergent relationship between England, Scotland and Wales in the light of devolution and a devastating critique of the reformed House of Lords, whose benches, the author fears, risk being adorned by "a miscellaneous assemblage of party hacks, political careerists, clapped-out retired or defeated MPs, has-beens, never-were's and never-could-possibly-be's."

The book is a Bagehot for the 21st Century--the product of a lifetime's reflection on the topic, and essential reading for anyone with an interest in the nature and future of British political life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"...[an] admirable book...an addition to the great canon of learned commentaries on the British constitution" --Stein Ringen, Times Literary Supplement

"readable and illuminating" --David Runciman, London Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199232321
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 428
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony King has been Professor of Government at the University of Essex since 1969 and has also taught at Princeton and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a member of the Academia Europaea, a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary life fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Professor King writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph and broadcasts frequently on politics and elections for the BBC.

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Table of Contents

What Is a 'Constitution'?     1
The Canonical Sextet     15
Britain's Traditional Constitution     39
The Impetus to Change     63
Britain's Near Abroad     91
The Judges Come Out     115
The Ghost of Local Government     151
John Bull's Other Lands     179
Mandarins as Managers     215
Democracy Rampant     249
References to the People     277
Their Lordships     297
Great British Icons     313
Britain's New Constitution     345
Notes     367
Bibliography     387
Index     415
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